The science of resolutions: what will you do with 2016?

 

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Hello 2016!

I am lucky enough to have been blessed with the gift of seeing another year go by. Like many people, at this time of year I think about what I want to achieve and what I hope to change in the year ahead.

I just looked back to what I wrote a year ago on January 3, 2015:

Every year it’s the same. I think about several things I don’t like about myself and resolve to change them. I think about all the things I want for my life and resolve to get them. But then, before you know it, another year has rolled by, and I am exactly the same. Same rolls of fat around my middle, same bad habits, same character flaws.

I think maybe I should just save myself the time and grief and not make any resolutions. Because if I don’t make any in the first place, that’s one less thing to fail at, right?

But isn’t the definition of success simply picking yourself up one more time than you fall?… So here I am, 2015, picking myself up, again. This year is the year I really need to make these changes, because it’s amazing how quickly one year turns into five… especially as you get older.

My resolutions involve the three ‘Fs’. No, not ‘Fun’, ‘Funk’ or any other ‘F’ word. It’s the three sensible ‘F’ words: ‘Fitness’, ‘Finance’ and my favourite, ‘Furniture’.

Here’s what I plan to do with these F-words.

Fitness – I’m gonna get me some!

Finance – I’m taking control!

Furniture – I’m moving it to a new location!

As 2016 dawns I’ve almost achieved two out of the three things:

Furniture – Will be moved to a new location in a week’s time.

Finances – I’m starting a new job in a couple of weeks.

It only took me a year!

As for the third ‘F’, Fitness – Got none of that. Tried (sort of, a bit). Failed. Never mind.

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Image: Care2.com

But if I were resolving to improve my fitness (oh let’s face it, I’m talking about fat loss), how would I stick to my resolution?

On New Year’s Eve, right before the midnight fireworks, I happened upon a video on the blog Be Like Water about the science of New Year’s resolutions (I know, such a party animal).

The video post How to commit to your new year goals (from The Science of Success) outlines practical steps for making and sticking to resolutions. I’ll recap them below.

First, some facts:

  • People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behaviour than those who don’t make them.
  • 54% of people give up on their resolutions within 6 months of making them.
  • 8% of people ultimately succeed by the end of the year.

The video explains that there are two types of resolutions that will always fail:

  1. “Pie in the sky” resolutions. My “resolution” from last year of “Fitness – I’m gonna get me some” is a classic example of that. Now that was just silly. There was no actual plan.

Keeping a resolution is not easy. You can’t just say that this year I will lose 20kg, without a strategy for making it happen. And that lack of strategy has always been my problem. As the saying goes, “Hope is not a plan.”

  2. “All over the place” resolutions. When we take on too much at once, our brain chemistry works against us. Resolutions require self-control. This is an exhaustible resource.

So having too many new year’s resolutions is a recipe for not keeping any of them.

So how do we resolve this resolution issue? 

  1. Work on one thing at a time. When it comes to goals, less is more.

Instead of picking several resolutions that you’ll abandon, pick one that will give you the biggest pay off. It doesn’t mean you can’t work on more than one resolution per year, it just means you should only focus on one at a time.

2. Translate your resolution to specific behaviours.

People who change their behaviour achieve what is known as “habitual automaticity.” This is when you perform your new behaviour without even thinking about it.

The idea is to break down your resolution into particular behaviours and put them on a timetable. For example, instead of just saying, “Move more”, actually write in your diary, each week, what movement you’re going to do (e.g. walk to work?) and the day and time you’re going to do it, until it becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth.

3. Practice everyday. This one gives me hope (which is a good thing to have, despite it not being a plan). Daily practice allows people with average talent to achieve extraordinary things. By practicing everyday, you can achieve long-term traction with your new behaviours.

Clearly, I need to decide on realistic and specific actions to take, and work on that “habitual automaticity” thing for my fat loss strategy. And I need to practice those new behaviours. I need to practice a lot.

Then I may just have a chance at living the Vincent van Gogh quote I had stuck to my wall on a Post-it for most of 2014 (it must have fluttered away sometime in 2015):

Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together.

At the moment, I’m just trying to get myself organised for the big changes coming up. 2016 marks the beginning of a whole new chapter of The Alexcellent Life. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it brings.

I will post about my plans in the next day or two.

As I said last January, it’s exciting just thinking about how things could be this time next year… change can be a bit scary, but it also is what’s exciting about life. Even change arising from hardship can mark a turn-around or bring a new opportunity.

What are your plans for 2016? Anything exciting coming up for you?

Image Bridget Jones: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

 

New Year’s Realisations

Happy New Year!

Before I post about new beginnings, resolutions and all that jazz, I would just like to briefly recount my New Year’s Eve.

Spider Boy and I had just returned from Canberra and we were both pretty tired. My offer for us to walk to the end of the street to see the 9pm fireworks, was met with a “No thanks, I don’t like crowds, and I heard on the radio there’s going to be over a million people.” Well, not in our neck of the harbour, but I was just as happy not to go anywhere.

So we settled in for an evening of fireworks and mild (very mild) entertainment on the ABC. Spider Boy was mildly amused to see Jimmy Giggle from Giggle and Hoot as one of the presenters.

After one lot of fireworks, SB went to bed. Then there was the really bad TV, while waiting for the fireworks. “Pub Trivia” on ABC, and Channel Nine trotted out You Can’t Stop the Music again (where was Richard Wilkins? Budget cuts at Nine too?)

Senorita Margarita, who has spent the past two New Year’s Eves with us, with retro music and movies, was at some kind of folk festival in Queensland called “Woodford”, or as my family members call it, “Woodstock” (Mum), “Waynestock” (me), and “That conference in Queensland” (Dad).

I amused myself with Who magazine’s annual HALF THEIR SIZE! issue with freshly-popped champagne and leftover plum pudding with brandy butter.

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The cover line screamed at me excitedly, “Exclusive! Ricki-Lee tells How I lost 30kg (that last bit was in excited yellow ink) with a full length bikini shot of Ricki-Lee looking gorgeous (posing and in makeup as part of Who‘s shoot) and then a smaller paparazzi bikini shot in the corner of the 29-year-old singer looking more well-rounded, particularly around the hips, bottom and thighs. But still gorgeous.

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My first thoughts were, how the hell could someone who doesn’t even look overweight in the first place (well-rounded, but not what I would call fat) lose THIRTY kilos and still be able to stand up (ie not collapsed from malnutrition)? Why does anyone, who already looks good in a bikini, need to lose 30 kilos? Maybe the before picture (taken in Bali in 2010) used was not an illustration of Ricki-Lee at 30kg heavier than the cover shot. But weight can be deceiving, and some people carry it better than others. Ricki-Lee is 180cm tall, so any excess weight can be more discreetly carried. On little 163cm me, there’s simply less surface area for the fat to hide.

I suppose I was a little confronted by the realisation that I aspire to look like the before picture. Because right now, I look fatter than Ricki-Lee’s before picture. So it just seemed silly to me that she felt she needed to lose 30kg. Maybe I’m envious. But I’m not going to get all Judgey Mcjudge about Ricki-Lee’s 30kg weight loss. It’s her choice if she just wants to eat fruit for breakfast, snack on nuts and only partake of fatty carbs once a month, in order to look model thin. I thought there was nothing wrong with the before picture though – she’s wearing a bikini (a bandeau top no less), she’s in the surf with wet hair, in Bali, living life. It’s just a different version of beauty.

The main point of the weight-loss, according to the article, is that Ricki-Lee feels so much better now. She told Who, “I completely transformed the way I used to live, and I feel amazing.” When I read the article, I realised that even though I thought she looked fine before, she didn’t feel fine.

“I was onstage performing… I was walking and singing and gasping for air. I was so unfit and so unhealthy, I’d probably just eaten two pizzas before I went on and skolled a bottle of wine. At that moment I felt like fat Elvis. I made the decision I never wanted to feel like that again.”

Ricki-Lee didn’t feel fine, she felt really bad, made the decision to change, and actually did it. And I commend her for that.

I am overweight. I look fatter than Ricki-Lee’s before picture and I don’t feel good about it. I don’t feel as good physically as I know I can, as I have in the past. I find it inspiring that Ricki-Lee made the decision to change, and actually did it. I hope I can carry this inspiration with me throughout the days, weeks and months ahead, and actually do something about my not-so-little problem.

Did you have any New Year’s Realisations?

New year, new you

Every year around the beginning of January, I think about what goals I want to achieve in the coming year. I usually fleetingly think of a list of lofty goals that I would be hard pressed to achieve in the course of a year. They are often forgotten as I lose track of them, I don’t actually DO the actions that would result in the achievement of these goals. So this year I will set more realistic goals. I will break them down into realistic, manageable, achievable chunks of doability.

Bridget Jone’s Diary, one of my favourite movies, was on TV last night. The movie follows Bridget’s life for the course of a year, beginning on New Year’s Day. Bridget is fed up with certain elements of her life so begins a diary , where she writes down her goals, and takes stock of where she is currently, as a means of tracking change.

I like the idea of beginning each new year fresh, with new plans and new hope, and crisp white pages of a new diary to record them in, so you can keep track of your goals and later look back and see what you’ve achieved.

One of my goals for this year (again) is getting my health and fitness back on track after years of derailment. But instead of attempting extreme measures such as a juice fast that goes for days or weeks (which I know I won’t be able to stick to), I am just going to start with some small changes. Like cutting out the daily butter on my toast. Eating more vegetables. That kind of thing.

What are your goals for the new year?