For many people, January is the month for making resolutions…and then giving up on them.
Weight loss/healthier eating is perhaps in the top of most people’s resolutions. The new year comes around, and people begin to workout and eat lettuce, but only for a short time. Fewer than half of these resolutions make it past six months — leaving folks with a fridge full of kale and a wasted gym membership.
What causes people to abandon their health goals?
Research published in JAMA in 1999 identified a number of reasons.
One is lack of structure. Those who participated in random physical fitness activities were less determined than those on a rigid physical plan, the researchers found.
A German study published in Scientific Research Publishing, an open-access journal, in 2015 sheds some additional light on motivation. If you actually enjoy what you’re doing, you’re more likely to continue doing it. This means that instead of doing 100 crunches before dinner everyday, you might have better success playing soccer with friends.
Scott Grafton, owner of Ironbound Gym in New Town, points to another potential obstacle: discouragement.
“You set your goals at going from zero days a week in the gym to working out six days, and then when you can’t make it, you’ll be disappointed,” Grafton said.
Getting healthy isn’t all about hitting the weights, though.
Lifestyle changes are also necessary, said Elizabeth Mitchell, a certified lifestyle therapist and personal trainer at the Nutrition and Wellness Center in Williamsburg.
“We definitely see a spike in people interested in nutrition and health in January,” Mitchell said. “And while a lot of people are super diligent, some get off track.”
Mitchell listed a number of reasons why that happens, but the main cause is lack of time. The culture is one of constant movement, Mitchell said, and people don’t have time for food preparation. So they choose fast food on-the-go or other quick, unhealthy options.
And while it’s great to be excited about your resolution, if you want to keep it, it might be best to stay quiet about it, Mitchell said.
That way, you can feel even better about your progress when someone notices it, according to Mitchell.
Also, both Grafton and Mitchell agreed that resolutions work best when they’re implemented as a long-term commitment, not something intended to last a few months.
“When people decide to make a change, they like to tell so many people,” Mitchell said. “And then if people get disappointed, if they mess up, they’ll just throw in the towel instead of being confident in their change.”
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in January 2019.