Another year, another resolution.
The resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, quit smoking or any number of ambitions can be an uphill or short-lived battle.
Studies have shown that about 80 percent of people will fail to keep that Jan. 1 promise to themselves, said Michael Sessions, a Forsyth County psychologist.
“The odds are not good,” Sessions said. “It’s a testament to how powerful habits are.”
The upside is that the tradition of New Year’s resolutions gives people the opportunity for an “annual do-over” in a period of reflection, he said.
“It’s a chance for everyone to look at, ‘What was I doing this past year that I’m really not that happy about?’” he said. “You get another chance.”
The most important keys in setting that goal are to make it realistic and meaningful, he said.
Forsyth County-based life and health coach Carolyn Porter said a resolution needs to be a desire or intention that a person is making for him or herself and not others.
“The first thing is to create the vision,” Porter said. “Then, you have to keep it alive. … If you don’t feel it, keep picturing it or envisioning it, you’re going to lose faith in it.”
For example, she suggested someone seeking to lose weight put a photo of himself at the desired goal in a place to view each day.
Keeping a continued desire toward reaching that goal combined with faith and perseverance will help someone succeed, Porter said.
She added that keeping faith in a higher power, whatever a person believes, will help someone be patient.
“Things don’t happen quick enough for us sometimes,” Porter said.
For someone trying to lose weight, if the first effort doesn’t lead to results, Porter said researching other methods or seeking professional guidance can help.
Weight-loss or other health or nutrition resolutions are some of the top choices for people at the start of a new year.
Michele Melton, Forsyth County extension agent, said statistics show that more than one-third of American adults are obese and nearly two-thirds overweight, which make weight loss a particularly common goal.
As for the timing at the start of a year, Melton said the “overindulgence” during the holidays can cause people to make a weight-loss resolution.
“It’s just kind of on the heels of putting on an extra pound or two,” she said. “Whether it has to do with losing weight, or being more healthy, the bottom line is lifestyle changes.”
Deals or promotions from health-related industries often pop up at the new year, which Melton said can also be a cause of people seeking to make those Jan. 1 fitness or diet plans.
She said the “tried and true” method of losing weight with diet and exercise is the only way to truly attain that goal in a healthy way.
A resolution, Sessions said, could also be considered an “effort to change habits,” and it’s well known that old habits die hard.
“Remind yourself why you’re doing this, why this is the goal, and why this is important,” he said.
It’s also important to share that information with someone else who will keep you accountable.
Whether it’s a Web site community, a friend or a professional coach, that group or person is designed to keep a goal-seeker on track.
Measuring progress instead of failures will keep someone from relapsing on a goal.
Any counter-productivity in reaching a goal, Sessions said, needs to be viewed as a learning experience.
If someone who resolves to quit smoking lights up, for example, he said that presents an opportunity to review what triggered that habit and how to prevent it in the future.
“Instead of beating yourself up … know that that’s going to happen,” he said. “The important fact is to remember it’s a slip. It’s not back to square one.”