Why It's Time for a New Year's Resolution Revolution

Should you rethink your standard weight loss goals?

Confident sportswoman listening music through in-ear headphones while jogging on bridge in city

There's a certain energy that comes with a new year, a surge of motivation that's so strong, it convinces us that this is the year we're finally going to lose weight, get healthy, become a better person, quit smoking and, of course, save the world.

That motivational tidal wave moves so quickly, we often plunge into our usual New Year's resolutions without stopping to ask ourselves a very important question:

What do I really want for myself this year? And not just this year, but every year?

The next question is just as important:

How do I get it?

Before setting the same old weight loss goals, make this the year you work for real, lasting change.

What Do You Really Want?

There's nothing wrong with having the goal to lose weight. Most of us could stand to lose a few pounds (or 10 or 20) and there's no doubt we would all look and feel better if we did. The problem is, the motivation that drives us to lose weight, whether it's a new year or just a new season, inevitably fades once other things take priority. Suddenly, that intense urge to see the scale go down is replaced by real life and its responsibilities—going to work, getting the kids to school, dealing with the cold you caught over the weekend, and so on.

The idea of losing weight is just that—a lovely idea that lies somewhere in the future. You can do a workout today and you know that contributes to that future goal, but it's hard to think of what that workout is giving you right now. All you know is that you did it and your body still looks pretty much the same as before you did it.

There are some rather irritating truths about weight loss that are difficult to face:

  • The weight loss process is slow. In fact, it's usually slower than we expect and almost always slower than we want it to be. When our results don't measure up to all that hard work, that burst of motivation we felt on January 1 fades fast.
  • You can't make up for lost time. If you've spent the last six months in an exercise coma, coming back with a full week of 2-hour workouts is a recipe for soreness, burnout, injury, and an intense dislike of exercise.
  • You have to exercise more than you think. It's this third truth that is the most important. There's a certain amount of exercise you need to reach your goals and, for most of us, it's more than we think (about 150 - 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week). Even more confusing is the fact that we each need a different amount of exercise based on a variety of factors—like fitness level, age, gender, genetics, body type, body fat, weight, diet, lifestyle, and planetary alignment, to name a few.

These truths are hard to swallow but, once you understand them, it's easier to embrace the weight loss process with less guilt and frustration and more enjoyment as you focus on where you are in the process, not where you want to be or wish you were. Acknowledging these facts means understanding that you have to:

  • Be patient. You need to take your time when easing into exercise. That means setting aside the goal of losing weight fast and focusing more on giving your body, and mind, the time they need to get stronger.
  • Experiment. If you haven't exercised in a long time (or ever), you aren't going to be perfect at it from day one. You may start a program only to realize it isn't working. Maybe the schedule isn't right, maybe the workouts aren't doing it for you, or maybe you're not even sure why they're not working. Allowing this time to experiment, assess your program and make changes can cut into your weight loss progress in the short term, but lead you to a solid program you can do for years to come in the long term.
  • Find a way to keep going. Even when you're not losing weight or life gets busy. Even when you don't feel like it or you start doubting yourself. Whatever's going on in your mind, your life, your body, you have to find ways to keep exercising through it all.

Making the Choice

Sometimes, knowing what you need to do to reach your goal can help you decide if that goal is really right for you. Think of the questions posed at the beginning of this article:

What do I really want for myself and how do I get it?

This year, you have a choice. You can do what you've always done or you can do something different. Whether it's a new year or simply a new day, you always have this choice and, even better, you have the freedom to reevaluate your choices at any time. What works today may not work tomorrow. Recognizing that and responding to it with solutions, rather than kicking yourself over it, is the first step in creating lasting change.

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  1. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.