Let’s face it. Most of us are genuinely sincere about our New Year’s commitments. We truly do want to lose weight or get more fit or eat better. Really. We do. Our heartfelt wish to be in better condition has built a $26 billion health club business. Sixty billion on weight loss supplements, products and schemes.
The sad part of it is that little of it is working. More than a third of American adults are still obese- not just overweight but dangerously so. And we’re trending towards half of Americans by 2030. Including our kids.
Which is superb news for these industries. Because if we were healthy, we wouldn’t need diet products. We wouldn’t need Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and all the rest of the group gropes into our collective psyches. A huge celebration for one measly pound lost in a week (easily attributed to water loss) then gained back the next. A perfect cycle of never getting far enough ahead to feel like a success. But hey, I’ve got friends who understand me — and my regular need to gorm a whole bag of Chips Ahoy. I’m forgiven!
By now, most Americans who made resolutions have bonked on them in one way or another. Actually, by about the middle of January, a great many already had. Some stick it out through Valentines’ Day, but after that it’s tough to find more than ten percent of us who still lace up to run at 5 am or head for the swim class before work.
Each time I see People Magazine do a spread on those people who have lost a hundred pounds or more, my first reaction is, “Talk to them in thirty years.” The simple truth is that anyone can diet off massive amounts of weight. It’s an achievement, but it’s nowhere near as challenging as maintaining a regular exercise and diet program for life. I’ve made it thirty years. Not going back. And it’s hard.
It’s a Business Model
Gyms bank on your inability to stick to a personal training program. It’s their business model. On January 2nd I walked into a a very busy gym. Not for long. We’re back to us regulars and a few wandering souls thinking hard about it.
These industries know who we are and what we are really going to do. As in, pop a Snickers bar “for energy” right after we leave the workout- which didn’t burn anywhere near the calories that we are now happily munching.
If you want a good list for how to be more effective at recommitting to and keeping any of your resolutions, especially those around diet and exercise, Shape Magazine did a fine job of providing ten strategies (see link at the bottom).
Whose Goal is It?
However I would posit that there’s another, more insidious reason that so many of us don’t achieve our health goals.
They’re not our goals.
Getting fit may well be a way to please a spouse, impress a potential mate, get in shape for Valentine’s Day or to fit into that wedding dress (in other words, to please a persnickety mother). Choose your reason.
If that reason doesn’t rise from your deepest soul, then it’s not your goal.
You may even achieve it for a short time. Please your spouse, fit the dress, impress that potential mate. Be svelte for Valentine’s Day, or even Easter, or this year’s 20th (or 45th) high school reunion.
The Long Slide Backwards
Afterwards? The long slide backwards either to your previous setpoint or worse, you are even less fit than before. Why? Because down deep inside you may well have resented feeling as though you had to do all that work in the first place.
This is why most of America’s Biggest Losers gain two-thirds or more of their weight back within a year. They were going for a prize. Win it or lose it, once the program is over, it’s no longer their goal. They have lost their audience and their purpose.
No amount of strategizing, planning, forming a support group or any of the other excellent ideas that Shape presents will work, or more importantly will last, if the goal isn’t yours in the first place.
You may have worked your heart out. Been genuinely proud. Pleased whomever this effort was intended to please.
Then you hand the goal over to that other person. See? I did it. Then promptly do what pleases you instead.
Which may entail eating the entire five-pound box of Valentine’s chocolates in one sitting, or all the bunny ears, or whatever leftover Halloween candy you may still have stashed in the cupboard. Yes, even the mini bars that NOBODY likes. You’ll eat ’em. I know. I have.
In some cases, it just so happens that the end product — a fitter you — does become your own goal. The pleasure you have in your new self fits you, and you are willing to fight to keep it. Unfortunately, not often enough. I recall one year when I attended the first meeting of the National Speaker’s Association Colorado Chapter when a great many women showed up significantly slimmer. We all oohed and aahed and congratulated each other.
It just didn’t last. That’s the hard part. It’s slogging, life-long work and discipline. Not everyone is up for the lifetime commitment.
Is That Resolution/Goal Authentically Yours?
The real trick to making sure we set ourselves up for success is not a list of to-dos and plans. It’s ensuring that we’re committing to an end result that is authentically ours and ours alone. A husband hoodwinked into heading for the gym (which he despises) in order to please a nagging wife is not going to stick with it no matter how well- intentioned his actions. He may know he needs to work out. He just doesn’t want to work out.
The ten percent of those of us who do indeed realize our resolutions have embedded them into our DNA. The results mean everything to us, no matter who else is invested. They don’t count as much as the fact that we passionately, truly want fitness for life. We really do want to bag the biggest fourteener in the State of Colorado. We really do want to run that marathon. Climb Kilimanjaro. That’s a whole body, whole soul commitment. Shape’s strategies most certainly help along the way. It rose out of who we are, not what we’re doing primarily to impress or please someone else.
Ninety Pounds Gone Forever
I didn’t lose ninety pounds forever (gone for thirty years) until it was MY goal. Not to please an abusive father who pinched my leg fat. A mother who constantly harangued me about my weight. I took it off when it came from my heart. For me and my quality of life.
As we approach the end of the first quarter of 2018 and you take stock of whatever promises you made on December 31st, consider which of them really mattered. Then, if you recommit, make sure that when and if you make a decision to do something about your fitness, it’s not about satisfying others.
It’s about loving yourself enough to tackle that titan on your own terms.