Every January 1st, I made the resolution to go to the gym, eat healthier and give up smoking.
I saw other women eat well, go to the gym and they seemed so freaking happy. I wanted to be happy and healthy too.
Yet every year, I’d stop going to the gym, and the moment I strayed off the healthy eating, I would throw in the towel on all the resolutions. I was frustrated that I just could not become this person or force myself to make the choices I knew “should” be better for me.
I was almost too embarrassed to admit these bad habits publicly until I read different statistics on people who try to change habits. For example, there are millions of us that make resolutions each year. According to Statistic Brain Research Institute only eight percent actually follow through.
Eight percent is not many.
I struggled in the 92 percent for a long time. The obvious point this overwhelming majority is missing is this: Health is supposed to feel good.
Health may mean getting used to new habits, but the changes need to feel authentic and rewarding if we are to maintain them. By finding ways to be active I enjoyed and adding new healthy meals little by little, I could try out different combinations to find the ones that felt right to me.
I spent years learning how (and not succeeding) to make effective changes in my lifestyle that last. Here’s the top five ways I was doomed to remain in the 92 percent and my fixes for finding success.
1. I wasn’t prepared mentally.
I made the choice, picked a date and forgot about it until then. If I haven’t prepared my mindset for the challenges and the successes before my start date, I fold pretty early in the game.
My fix: I prepare ahead of time by researching how others did it. I make a back-up plan for how I will handle making the choices when I am tempted. I make a list of things that I can do encourage myself to make wise choices instead of returning to the bad habit or craving.
2. I changed too much at once.
I tried to become another person overnight by changing too many habits at once. When I tried to change more than a couple habits at once, there was too much focus and when I failed at one, I gave up on all.
My fix: I took small steps consistently. Healthy changes are maintained by focusing on small things and changing them little by little, often one at a time. Big results come from many small changes, not becoming a different person overnight.
3. I shamed myself.
Shame is the opposite of a motivator. It’s a way we bully ourselves to do something we think we should. Telling myself I was weak, fat, stupid or deserved bad things, didn’t help me follow my resolutions and does not motivate most people. It ends in giving up and relinquishing our power. It may get us to our goal, but we don’t enjoy the journey or the accomplishment.
My fix: I was kinder to myself and had more self-compassion. I acknowledged and celebrated all the wins and temptations turned down. I had dance parties and found new ways to reward myself that included self-care, not sweet treats. I focused on the “Yay me!” moments, not the slip-ups. I loved myself like I would my best friend.
4. I expected perfection.
I expected to make 100 percent of the shots I took. That’s what perfection is. Humans are not made to be perfect. We have emotions and cravings and impractical thoughts. It’s the beauty and the beast of being human. When I aimed for perfection, I failed and gave up. I felt bad and b-lined right back to shaming myself.
My fix: I learned to brush it off and keep showing up. I learned not to throw all of my good work down the drain just because I make a few bad choices. I remind myself to learn from it, let it go and keep showing up.
5. I picked habits I thought I should do.
We’ve all heard so many healthy or personal habits that are great for the general population, yet they aren’t necessarily good for everyone, especially if you don’t enjoy it. In my imagination, running is awesome. Feet hitting the ground and an internal connection with myself. This has never been my reality no matter how many running programs and tips I follow. It just isn’t for me. So I stopped forcing myself to run and found other ways of getting my cardio. I still walk with the dog and even jog when her legs allow it, but I am not a marathoner and that’s okay.
My fix: I look for the path to the goal that feels authentic to me. I try new things and if they don’t feel good to me, I stop. There are so many ways to a goal; I just find a new path. No one sticks to habits they don’t enjoy or benefit from, so find what calls to you.
My biggest lesson was that new habits can actually feel really good. Real health isn’t about restrictions or calorie counting. It’s really much simpler than that. It’s about having compassion for myself and finding beneficial habits I enjoy. I take it slow and keep showing up. And really, isn’t that all there is to life?
Author: Christina Smith
Editor: Travis May