Motivation Articles

The Worst New Year's Resolutions You Can Make

Start Strong by Starting with the Right Goals

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As December comes to a close, people all over the globe are preparing for New Year's festivities and chatting with friends about their goals and dreams for the coming year. I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with New Year's resolutions. While a commitment to a change can be a great way to jump-start your healthy lifestyle, sometimes people are so brazen about boasting their goals that detailed plans and effective strategies for reaching them can get glossed over.

Below is a list of the most common New Year's resolutions that are almost destined to be dumped by early February. Are you guilty of setting vague and ineffective resolutions like these? Don't worry: We'll show you how to create goals that will motivate you to succeed long after the confetti has fallen.
Resolution #1:  I will completely cut out [insert unhealthy vice here]!
After a holiday season of excessive indulgence, many people decide to quit smoking cold turkey, swear off alcohol altogether, or ban all sweets forever. How many times have you said, "If I never see another Christmas cookie/hot toddy/pumpkin pie, it will be too soon"? While it can initially feel empowering to "just say no" to unhealthy habits, parting ways with a longtime vice is likely to leave you feeling deprived and desperate in the long run. Some research shows that swearing off certain foods actually makes you think about them more and feel powerless in their presence!
Resolution Revamp:  Forget about nixing your caffeine, nicotine or sugar fix for good. Instead, set a goal to add something healthy to your daily routine. When you're trying to boost wellness, behavior science has proven that it is much easier to increase a healthy new behavior than to get rid of an old one. So a better goal than banning soda might be to focus on drinking eight cups of water every day. Or, if you feel powerless around sugar, rather than focusing on avoiding the office candy jar, you could plan to add an extra serving of fresh fruit to your lunch box. Adding healthy habits will give you a reason to pat yourself on the back (instead of punishing yourself for those guilty pleasures). And once you start to meet your new targets and build momentum, you'll be surprised how quickly those unhealthy behaviors will start to fall away.
Resolution #2:  I will reach my goal weight by this summer!
Maybe you didn't overindulge this season, but you're still struggling with some unhappy thoughts about your current weight, dress size or body shape. Losing weight is the number one New Year's resolution. But, if you go about setting your weight loss goals the wrong way, you're likely to quit or—even worse—gain it all back and then some! The problem with a resolution to simply "lose weight" is that the results are too far off to keep you motivated.
Resolution Revamp: Instead of setting a goal to shed pounds, set more specific goals that account for all of the other small, measurable achievements you'll reach along the way. Skip the scale and find measures besides body weight and clothing size to track your progress. Whether you count salad lunches per week, pull-ups per minute, time on the stationary bike, or heart rate on your morning hike, monitoring other metrics can help you realize that losing weight isn't the only benefit for your focus on nutrition and exercise. And because your stats for muscular strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness tend to improve more quickly than the number on the scale, you'll be able to boast about your results in no time (and losing weight will be a bonus by-product for your efforts). Continued ›
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About The Author

Megan Coatley Megan Coatley
Megan is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a masterís degree in applied behavior analysis from Western Michigan University. As a health and wellness coach, she combines her passion for nutrition and fitness with her professional talents to help others creative positive, lasting change and live healthier lives.

Member Comments

  • I resolve NOT to make silly resolutions I CANNOT keep and to do things NOT because I feel I HAVE to to lose weight but because I want and because I enjoy them. - 12/28/2013 9:38:45 PM
  • I started a rule for myself that for every bad thing I eat, I need to eat 2 good things, like a vegetable and fruit. That way, I am eating healthy, but I also can get my peanut butter cup in there once in a while! - 12/27/2013 11:46:20 AM
  • ! E X C E L L E N T !
    I especially like the one about NOT forbiding bad food

    THANKS ! - 2/4/2013 10:42:07 PM
  • This year, my resolutions were all "Do"s - Do drink 8 glasses of water, eat 9 cups of produce (3 cups leafy veggies, 3 cups fruit, 3 cups other veg), and get 7 hours of sleep per night. So far so good, but the sleep is turning out to be the hard part. - 1/8/2013 7:09:09 PM
    My only "resolution" this year was to come at this from a completely different angle. I'm not doing this to lose weight, I'm doing it to get healthy.....if I lose weight along the way GREAT! But I am not going to put myself in a position and get "manic" every Friday morning because I weigh in! It works for me because the pressure of "losing" is off. - 1/8/2013 11:42:30 AM
  • Excellent re-focusing. It's particularly good because you target some of the 'good' things we resolve to increase as well as challenging ways of eliminating 'bad' behavior strategies.

    Thank you. - 1/8/2013 8:05:38 AM
    This is a really positive article that works because it is based on how our minds work. The human mind cannot process negatives, which by saying I am going to stop doing something is is telling your mind exactly the opposite. If I asked you not to think of a pink elephant you cannot do it as your mind has to create the image first for you then to attempt to ignore it. People often ask me how long have been stopped smoking, I tell them I haven't, its just been 2 years since my last one. This way I do not feel like I have given up or lost anything. The other mistake I used to make was to tell people I was going to try to lose weight/ stop smoking etc. I have since learnt this is not a positive way to look at things. You can not try to do something you even do it or you don't.
    Keep positive and acheive your goals through 2013. - 1/8/2013 7:42:27 AM
  • This article hit home for me and I really appreciate it. After years of making a resolution to lose "x" pounds by "y" date, I've modified my goals this year. And reading this article confirms that I'm on the right track. Thank you, SparkPeople!
    - 1/8/2013 6:51:19 AM
  • Excellent recommendations! - 1/8/2013 6:37:35 AM
  • I saw this article title and all I immediately thought was:

    *No Resolution*

    If you don't have hope and actually set a resolution, then how can you reach your goal, your dreams, your BEST YOU.
    - 1/8/2013 1:58:35 AM
  • I at age 57 have decided never to make resolutions because I don't want to open myself up to ye ole guilt if and, because I'm human, when I fail. Forgiving myself and getting back on the horse after the fall is much better than never getting back on at all which I have done several times so far this past year. I'm just continuing on my journey at my own pace without the pressure of any pesky "resolution" lingering in the back of my mind. I know what I need to do, and I'm doing it, albeit at a more leisurely and pressureless (is that a word?) pace. I believe that coincides with the point made to incorporate small changes or expanding on already healthy changes made and, hopefully, eventually leaving the unhealthy habits by the wayside.

    That said, I hope everybody has a Happy New Year!! - 12/31/2012 1:58:01 PM
  • MARTY32M
    Good but not good enough. The example "Eat 3 servings of veggies each day" is not really specific and behavior-focused. When are you going to eat those veggie? What will you eat? If you don't figure that out in advance you could reach the end of the day without eating those three servings.

    I take this as the message: be specific, be realistic, be committed. I broke rule 1 in the article when I quit smoking. I took the big jump to quit cold turkey. But I was specific: I gave my last pack to my wife. I was realistic: I told her to give me one more if I really, really needed it. And I was committed: I had failed three times before and I wasn't going to fail again. And it worked.

    I see a lot of wisdom in the article but also some nonsense. I would say just know yourself, know your weaknesses, your strengths, and your responsibilities, and if there's something you want to change, be specific, be realistic, and be committed.

    Rules (my father used to tell me) were made to be broken. But you have to know why you break them. - 12/31/2012 1:08:18 PM
    This article helped me. I like the positive twist. The best thing I did for myself this holiday was to give myself permission to get my Christmas cards out late. I had a flurry of work and home commitments, and I got my cards out late. But every day until i finally got them out, I was so happy that I was pacing myself and not going crazy, feeling that I must pushpushpush beyond reason to get them out on "time". I did it when it was reasonable to do so, and left the guilt at the door. - 12/31/2012 9:20:51 AM
    I hate, hate, hate reading Spark People everyday, yet I have to. The stories and advice is timely and easy-to-understan
    d. I am pissed off that at 53 years old, I still need advice. Deep down inside, I am confident that I know what I should and should not be doing and I am annoyed that I need a cruch like Spark People. The bottom line is that Spark People works. Thank you! - 12/31/2012 8:47:37 AM
    Thank you Megan for such an excellent article. I really appreciate the tips for getting started and staying on track just by making simple changes and substitutions in my diet. You've given me some very good ideas for getting motivated and for moving ahead in my journey towards better health. - 1/6/2012 6:55:44 PM

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