January 28, 2016

Of all times of the year, January would be by far the most common for people making healthy lifestyle changes in an effort to lose weight. Unfortunately with January drawing to a close, many of these people in 2016 will have already given up.

It seems that the main reasons for such short-term adherence to healthy lifestyle change are that the initial motivation was based on appearance, and that people hope for (expect?) rapid results.

How can we make it different? How can January’s resolve make way for longer term change; change that actually benefits the body and allows for the creation of new habits?

Unless the person has a major event approaching, how they look is unlikely to allow for sustained motivation. Looking great at your wedding or high school reunion is a strong motivator, but just looking better for the sake of it sounds good but the desire doesn’t last. The goal is too general.

People need to establish specific goals. “My waist measurement is under 80 cm” or “I weigh 75 kg” or “I have discovered the foods that cause my bloating” are all more specific and provide measurable outcomes. How people go about achieving these goals may not be clear at the start, but at least the goals are clear and they allow for meaningful evaluation about how a chosen strategy might be working.

These specific goals don’t usually have (or even need) a date by which they will be achieved. The goal of reducing waist measurement is easily checked with a tape measure. Similarly, a scale measures whether a weight loss goal is being achieved. If the measurement or weight is reducing, even very slowly, there is evidence that the person’s strategy is helping achieve their goal.

Discovering the foods which cause specific health problems can take a lot longer, although there are some common culprits. For bloating, eliminating specific foods is a great start. This needs to happen for three to four weeks and then reintroduce one or another and see what happens. If bloating returns, the person may have found the cause. Of course, it may not be a quick or simple process, but with a specific goal the outcomes can be assessed.

When improving health or appearance or sense of wellness, the key is to understand that the elimination of unhelpful habits is essential, but that this may take some time. Slipping back into an old habit is easy but not a sign of failure, even if it happens numerous times. Recognise what has happened, forgive the slip, and get on with reinforcing new, healthy habits.

It’s excellent to make a new start in January, so let’s work towards not just a healthy January but a healthy 2016.