Blog 19 January 2018
by health and nutrition expert Soile Käkönen
The beginning of the year often brings promises and resolutions. For many, the turn of the year marks a turning point, turning your back on habits of old: some become hell-bent on fitness, others on resisting the charms of sugar, others on weight loss, or on turning their life around in some other way, making themselves a better person. You would think that with this method, there would be no need to make any New Year’s resolutions the following year! After all, if this year’s work out, then when you look in the mirror at the end of this year, there’ll be nothing less than a better you gleaming back.
But... Most New Year’s resolutions run out of wind not far from the starting block. The more black and white a goal is, the less it can withstand the real world. “I’ll never eat sweets again” is a poor resolution, since it’s too radical to last – too much of a break with the past. “Never again” thinking turns a problem you face into a forbidden fruit, making it all the more irresistible. Like an overly uncompromising promise, too vague a resolution is also unlikely to get you far. Resolving simply to start exercising means you can always just keep putting it off.
People certainly should make good decisions about their lifestyle. Small actions can grow into big achievements, just as long as we repeat them frequently and over the long term. The kinds of resolutions that are most likely to hold up are realistic (you don’t have to turn your whole life around), are scheduled (this week I’ll get to bed by 11 pm at the latest), measurable (getting off the bus three stops earlier, walking for 15 minutes), and concrete (I’ll choose a smaller plate for my lunch).
Making changes is easier if the resolution is rewarded. For this reason, positive decisions work better than prohibitions: “I’ll eat more vegetables” is a more effective pledge than “I’ll eat less” (and eating more vegetables often helps in achieving the latter goal). When it comes to promises, selfishness also works: a goal that brings about something good for yourself is easier to reach. Although an unrealistic goal often remains out of reach, no goal should be too easy. There needs to be effort involved. In addition to setting yourself a genuine challenge, breaking large goals into smaller ones also helps with motivation. This allows you to experience success more often, which inspires you to keep going.
I never make New Year’s resolutions. After all, you can get a grip on your own life any day of the year, or even every day of the year. I avoid major dietary disasters by following the food plate model, and I mark both lunchtimes and exercise times in my calendar. These vows are important to your health, and you shouldn’t let yourself down.