Out with the old, in with the new

“2016 will be different.” “This is the year I’ll stop smoking.” “This is the year I will get fit.” 

Sound all too familiar? Then make sure you don’t end up repeating the same resolutions in 12 months’ time. 

Sticking to resolutions is often easier said than done, but success is possible if you’re prepared.

“Changing habits is extremely difficult, and just because it is a new year does not mean it is any easier to do than at any other time,” says psychologist Ilse Terblanche. 

“You should take a look at where those bad habits are coming from and what function they have in your life. Unless you deal with these issues, there’s no hope of success. A lifestyle change entails a behavioural change. You cannot expect a different result from doing things the same way.”

Recognising unrealistic New Year's resolutions is easy, says Terblanche. 

“They are the ones that entail drastic behavioural changes over a very short space of time. If you have never managed to get to the gym more than once a week, you are not now going to be in the front row of the 6am aerobics class six days a week. Get real!"

Here’s how to do just that: 

Old resolution: I will lose weight
How to get there: Be specific 

What is it that you really want? To get rid of belly fat, firm up those thighs, or tone your arms? Once you know your exact goal, you are in a better position to customise your workout and diet plan. If it is overall weight loss, hone in closer here too. Do you want to lose five kilos or do you want to fit into two sizes smaller? With this information, take the necessary steps to get there. Losing overall weight may mean regular cardio, while toning and firming may involve weight training and a protein-rich diet.

Old resolution: I will exercise every single day
How to get there: Be realistic 

You cannot possibly exercise every single day without wearing yourself out – or worse, getting bored with the relentless repetition. Break days are necessary to allow muscles to recuperate, says Cape Town fitness coach, Paul Hammacott. “You could theoretically exercise every day, but your body needs rest from resistance training so the muscles can repair.” 

Old resolution: No more sweets, chocolates and bread, ever!
How to get there: No cheat days, but cheat meals 

Denying yourself any food, especially treats like sweets and chocolates, is a recipe for disaster. Research shows that cutting out things we like simply results in excess consumption. The trick? Forget the idea of cheat days and go for “cheat meals” – small and manageable, rather than big and calorific. Realistically, a cheat day could involve a lot of heavy eating which might undo a week’s worth of work, whereas a small cheat meal scattered over a couple of days is more manageable. Remember, says Hammacott, “reaching your goal is about 70% quality food and the rest is training. Reducing sugar and carbs is a great start.” 

Old resolution: This is the year I quit smoking
How to get there: One stub at a time

British author, Allen Carr, a former 100-a-day chain-smoker wrote a definitive guide on how to quit smoking. Here are three of his tips: 

1. Set a date and time to quit. This should be in the near future. The important thing is to NOT cut down beforehand because this simply focuses more attention on the fact that you are quitting – making cigarettes seem more valuable. 
2. Make the connection that cigarettes do nothing for you. In his book Carr writes: “The habit provides no genuine pleasure. You are giving up nothing and simultaneously making a tremendously positive change to your health and lifestyle.” 
3. Do NOT use nicotine substitutes. “Substitutes encourage you to think in terms of sacrifice. You are not making a sacrifice by giving up nicotine but rather respecting yourself and your body.” 

It’s important to set a time limit: a specific date, i.e. race-day for which you are preparing, and work your goal from that day backwards to where you are today. Re-evaluate your goals when you reach your target date. Reward yourself for reaching a goal. Rewards could include a trip to the movies, a weekend away or the new pair of jeans you’ve been eyeing. 

Review your progress every few months and keep setting new goals for yourself. 

References
• Quit Smoking. (Online) Available at: http://www.allencarr.com/category/blog/ Accessed: w/c 4 January 2016 
• Are you ready for weight loss? (Online) Available at: http://www.health24.com/Diet-and-nutrition/Tools/Are-you-ready-for-weightloss-20130205 Accessed: w/c 4 January 2016 
• New Year’s resolutions statistics (Online) Available at: http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/ Accessed: 8 January 2016 
• Experts interviewed: Ilse Terblanche and Paul Hammacott
• Allen Carr’s easy way to stop smoking (Online) Available at: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20151227005015/en/Allen-Carrs-Easyway-Stop-Smoking-Alcohol-Drugs Accessed: 8 January 2016 
• 5 ways cheat meals can improve your body (Online) Available at: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/5-ways-cheat-meals-can-improve-your-body.html Accessed: 8 January 2016 

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