January rarely sneaks in. Its arrival is met with screams of regret thanks to bottomless cookie tins and far too many holiday parties. Ah yes, January 1st, the day that marks the transition from culinary debauchery to self-induced starvation. People jump from inactivity to training for marathons, triathlons and whatever “thon” will undo months of excess, and relieve the guilt of one’s inability to just say, “No!”

Yet year after year the same resolution of losing weight and getting healthy is set, though it typically ends in failure. It seems that looking to January 1st as the day of redemption doesn’t seem to be working. Most weight loss resolutions have a lifespan of about 6 weeks. So, what prevents millions of people from sticking to their goals and realizing success? Research shows that the downward spiral of good intentions is simply the result of unrealistic goals.

New Year 2013Over 25 years ago, I was one of the millions of folks signing up for a gym membership on January 1st. I truly believed that each attempt would be different. However, year after year, my desire to stay on task with a restricted lifestyle was trumped by real life.

It wasn’t until I made the decision to take a long hard look at what needed changing, that I was able to gradually, patiently make small changes. When I realized that I needed to be more realistic about my lifestyle changes, my 50 pound weight loss goal became a reality. Getting real, allowed me to get a handle on healthy living for good.

So how can you make resolutions that actually stick? How can you shift after years of betting on January to liberate you from sloth and gorging? Well, for starters, stop relying on January as your month of change. Like the other 11 months out of the year, January is full of obligations, commitments and appointments. Yet all of that is forgotten come the traditional resolution month. The pressure is on to eat well 24/7 and exercise 7 days a week in a month that’s just as busy as any other. Relying on January for long-term change, is a direct route to failure.

We know that weight loss (which is one of the most common resolutions) starts with the choice to change your lifestyle. Healthy living is a conscious decision, just like quitting smoking, changing jobs or getting married, you have to not only want it, you have to be ready. You can’t assume that some sort of epiphany is going to hit you on January 1st and you’ll finally be bitten by the healthy living bug, doesn’t work that way, unfortunately.

So, how can you break the habit of relying on one month out of the year to change your attitude about exercise and eating right? Consider the following:

  • Stay away from resolutions and instead look to solutions. A solution is an answer to a problem and for many; unhealthy habits are a real problem. So, think solutions for your unhealthy habits versus resolutions, which tend to be temporary.
  • Get real. Don’t try to overhaul your lifestyle in a week. You have to understand that habits can’t be changed over night, especially those unhealthy habits you’ve spent years perfecting. Stick to one change at a time. Once you’ve mastered one change, move on to another, and so on.
  • Consider paying attention to successes other than weight. Often times, the focus on weight doesn’t necessarily translate to healthy changes. Rely on more practical things that you can be successful with, such as increasing your energy level, eating more veggies, cutting down on portion sizes, sleeping better, etc. After all, weight loss is a byproduct of healthy choices.
  • Don’t buy into the January ads promising 20 pounds in 20 days. The ads are playing to your vulnerabilities, and will not lead to long-term results.

Whether it’s January or July, healthy living should be a year round endeavor. Let 2013 be your healthiest year!