Here we are in February and many of the most well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. How do you respond when your New Year’s resolution fails?
For people who made a resolution to target weight loss, daily gym outings often become an afterthought as life gets busy. New running shoes stare longingly at the front door. That diet you promised yourself you’d stick to this year now consists of cheese fries as a legitimate food group.
So what happened? Many of us feel disappointed when our New Year’s resolution fails, leaving us feeling like we’re the least disciplined, most pathetic individuals alive today?
Fill in the blank: __________ isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Marriage, parenthood, school, life – we hear the quote time after time, but have you really thought about it?
As a sprinter, I was able to manage a 4.4 second 40 yard dash (though that’s quite a bit further back in my past than I’d like to think). As a long distance runner, that speed reduces to about an 8-minute mile at marathon distances.
The difference is that sprints are anaerobic; they don’t require oxygen. You can run full out for about a quarter mile before your heart rate maxes out and forces you to stop. On the other hand, distance running requires that you manage an aerobic pace. Your body is able to keep up with the oxygen demands so you can go for an hour, three hours, or even longer without stopping.
How to Respond When Your New Year’s Resolution Fails
Many times, we resolve to lose weight with exercise, diet, or a combination of the two and go out sprinting. We go from zero days a week at the gym to six. The occasional walk is now running 30 minutes four times a week. We will ourselves to keep the calorie count down below 2000 a day when we were eating something closer to 3000 just last week.
And it works for a while, but quickly you find life gets in the way. You miss a day at the gym, then another, then another. Work piles up along with household chores, and you’re suddenly too tired to fit all of it in. The stress sends you straight back to the pantry for a bag of chips and some gooey cheese dip. You’ve been sprinting when you need to prepare for a marathon.
The good news is you’re not a failure and you’re certainly not alone. Forget the date on the calendar let’s think through this a little more rationally.
Long Term Sustainability
If exercise is part of your plan, start simple. What do you actually have time for?
Maybe it’s a 15 minute walk after dinner instead of turning on Netflix right away. That’s progress and most importantly, it’s sustainable progress. A 15 minute walk after dinner each evening will net you an extra hour and 45 minutes of exercise each week that you weren’t getting before!
As the first simple change begins to be a part of your lifestyle (it takes about three weeks to make something a habit by the way), you can add 5 minutes to your routine once a week, then twice, then three times. In a couple of months, that little bit of exercise will be a part of your daily routine and you’ll actually miss it on the days you can’t get out.
Add some light jogging on the days you have more time (check out our article on Couch to 5K for tips on starting in a sustainable way). It’ll take a few months, but you’ll be out running three or four times a week as part of your normal routine.
The same key goes for dieting. Rather than slash your calorie intake by 1000 each day, start with 150 – 200. For many of us, that’s a matter of forgoing one sugary drink for a bottle of water a day. Combined with some calorie burn from the exercise you’re getting, you’ll be cutting back by 250 – 300 calories a day.
Using a calorie counter app is a great way to keep yourself accountable (I use My Fitness Pal). Once you get used to tracking your calories, aim to drop another 100 per day every couple of weeks until you hit the goal you’re aiming for. As you increase your activity level and decrease your calorie intake, you’ll work your way into a happy medium quicker than you may think.
Why it Works
The reason this works – and it works in any facet of lifestyle change you’re trying to make – is that you’re not shocking your body and mind into a complete 180. Like a massive ship, you have to make that turn gradually. Try to do too much too soon and you’ll burn out or pick up an injury.
Where discipline comes into play is simply to sticking to the plan and keeping in mind you’re in this for the long haul. Making one or two simple choices each day is much easier. That feeling of being a failure you’ve tied your self worth to will become a feeling of success when you have attainable mile markers on your way to the goal.
Make it Stick
There are a couple of extra ways to improve your chances of success. First, be in prayer about it. Yeah, pray about exercise and eating. Being more disciplined and improving your health is certainly something a loving God can get behind:
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor 6:19-20)
It’ll help you train for a whole lot more in life than just your waistline.
Second, find a buddy that’s in the same boat or someone that’s willing to walk beside you. A parent, sibling, girlfriend, good friend, or spouse would likely love to have an extra 15 minutes to go for a walk with you in the evening. The conversation will make the time go by faster and likely reduce your stress levels some.
Finally, realize that you’re going to plateau or even gain weight from time to time. You’ll burn fat and replace it with more dense muscle as your activity levels increase. This is certainly normal. Take encouragement from the battles you win by making healthy food choices, exercising longer, or running faster in addition to weight loss.