One Simple Rule Could Lead to Success

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last week I encouraged you to list 3 New Year's wishes and resolve to make them come true. Now that 2009 is here and time to live out the resolve you made, how are you doing? Did you jump start too fast? Did you bite off more than you can chew and feel like letting your wishes be just that? You're not alone but with one simple rule you can reset your focus and continue to move forward. Want to know the rule?

Adopt habits and routines that you are willing to carry out for the rest of your life! It may sound silly but it is a rule that can help you take small steps forward toward long term lifestyle changes and success.

Let me elaborate with a scenario.

Most of us can do anything for 12 or 16 weeks especially if there is a goal in sight. For example, let's say one of your New Year's wishes was to lose 10 pounds for a trip in 2 months. You start on a 'diet' and exercising faithfully. The eating and exercise plan are restrictive and intrusive to your lifestyle but you stay the course because the goal is in sight and only weeks away. There is no way you would do this forever or even for the rest of the year, but are willing to live this way to reach your goal. You go on the trip and have a great time while falling away from the 'diet' and exercise habits. You return home from the trip and return to your normal lifestyle which includes only a few of the things you did before the trip and only when you feel like it.

Several months later as swim suit season approaches you decide you need to start another 'diet' and exercise plan. Now you have 14 pounds to lose because of the 10 you lost and gained back plus 4 more. The cycle continues throughout the year. At the end of the year you complain because you have tried every 'diet' out there and exercised but nothing works. You end the year with a New Year's resolution of losing weight. Does this sound familiar?

Many of us follow this type of yearly routine by jumping in with New Year's routines that are restrictive. A few days or weeks into the routine it becomes too much and overwhelming and many of us quit. This is why New Year's resolutions are popular on December 31 and abandoned by January 31.

This brings me back to my one simple rule. By adopting habits you are willing to carry out for the rest of your life on December 31, you are focusing on making lifestyle changes. The small changes allow you to learn and incorporate new behaviors and habits to reach short term goals along the way. Although you will likely have set backs or reach plateaus as you go they are less likely to derail you from your new lifestyle. You are better able to see these as normal and something you can work through with simple adjustments to eating or exercise patterns.

Most importantly, you are not in a yo-yo pattern going on and off restrictive diets or strenuous exercise routines. You are slowly moving forward in your daily choices and taking small steps toward healthy habits for life. This allows you to feel happy and pleased with the lifestyle you are creating and proud of your sustained commitment and accomplishments to managing your weight and health. By the end of the year, you have learned to make your life a healthy life for the long term instead of drastic short term changes that you can not continue day in and day out for the rest of your life. As you end the year you are able to celebrate maintaining your resolve all year long. Is this the scenario you would rather follow? Me, too!

So, as you work on the 3 wishes you have resolved to make come true this year, be sure the new things you are doing are realistic. You want your new habits and routines to be things you can do day in and day out most days for the rest of your life (realizing that we all need breaks and vacation days throughout the year). If what you have started is too much and too overwhelming, see if it fits with the rule. If it isn't something that fits in with your lifestyle and can be sustained for the rest of your life, reset and restart with what does so you are still being consistent on January 31.

Share how things have started for you? How can others support you throughout the month?

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I started my journey recently after battling hypothryoidism that went undiagnosed for years. My First doctor kept telling me I was depressed, then said that I was Peri-menapausal. Finally I got a second opinion and the very first visit She looked at my nails and hair and told me she thought the 65 pounds I had gained in a little over 3 years was a thyroid imbalance. I was a 6 in 2004 and 16 in 2010, I finally found a doctor this year who said they could help me lose weight even with the thyroid problem and the office gave me the link to sparkpeople. Thanks SparkPeople, I want to live healthy so I can enjoy grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Report
interesting read. and so very true, im on day 13. im treating it as a lifestyle change not a diet. really enjoying real food, instead of junk. woooohoooo Report
Hmmm....I must say that when I started my N. Y's resolution on Jan 2, 2006, I had this very mindset. In fact I figured I could never live my life having to go to the gym for exercise and so I shouldn't bother doing something that I "could never" do forever. Well, 3 years later, I've lost 143 pounds and am a daily gym goer who now can't envision a life where I stopped exercising daily at this level! Had I maintained my mentality (which was nothing more than more excuses for failure) and just adjusted my diet and walked daily (as I did for the first couple months) I would have been off this program years ago and gained back all the lost weight (as I had done too many times before) and more. What I learned is that changing your lifestyle (which in turn changes your life) means giving up all those built-in excuses that kept me from exercising and eating the right way before. By saying "only do what you think you can keep doing forever", you're basically saying "don't dare to make real change". Let's face it, you need to discard all your past (excuses) chains that kept you from actually doing what you feared most---having to work at losing weight. It takes sweat, lots and lots of sweat, to lose 143 pounds, and I don't want one drop of that to be in vain or wasted. So, I'll keep on sweating and working harder today than yesterday for as many tomorrows as I have left, and because of that work, I won't be tempted to discard my healthy eating/exercise habits because I know I need them forever in order to have a forever! Report
I like this one rule. Report
I vowed many years ago to never make New Years Resolutions. Why wait till the beginning of a new year to start? Why not start tomorrow? But...every New Years Day I vow to better myself somehow. That means writing notes, and stamping them and putting them in the mail....or not being afraid of the doctor or dentist anymore...or stay in touch with my friends more. Something to better myself, not to give up something. If I give up something, then I will want it more and more. Report
I have vowed this year to quit smoking and get back to my military weight of 135lbs by my birthday September 20th. I will be 39 years old, and I have been over weight now for well over 10 years. This week I lost a total of .5 lbs which I think is really good because of not smoking. I haven't gone crazy with the excersize yet because I just want to concentrate on my calorie intake and relaxing. Report
I started my weight lose this year with diet and exercise,which is sometimes hard with having diabetes,so far i have lost 6 pounds since the 1st Report
I stopped making them, I feel better not having them because they can strees you out to. That is more adding to your plate. Report
I very much agree with you!! Report
what a great blog thanks for sharing. I no longer make resolutions I make life changes they seem so much more important to me. again thanks for sharing all your wonderful thoughts with us. Report
After reading some of the comments to this blog, I want to add another comment.


Measuring success by pounds lost is the hallmark and bain of yo-yo dieting mentality. It is arbitrary and useless and a sure prescription for ultimate failure even if you meet the goal.

Instead, make changing habits your goal. And change them one at a time. Once you have done that, weightloss will not only be automatic, it will be sustainable. Report

IMO, this is the most important thing that I learned from SP after I joined a little over 3 years ago. Since then I have lost over 150 pounds and have kept it off for well over a year. I am healthier than I have been for over 25 years!

Please, please, please....for those of you starting or restarting a weight loss journey, take what Tanya said very very seriously. It is so very simple, yet elusive for so many of us that previously spent a lifetime yo-yo dieting. I am 61 years old. For all but the last 3 of those years, I had struggled unsuccessfully with losing and then trying to maintain a weight loss. I won't try to tell you that changing lifelong bad habits is easy but in hindsight, it is way easier than spending your life struggling and not succeeding. These days I don't really have to even give much of any thought to what, when, or how much I eat or exercise because I do it simply out of habit....good habits that replaced the previous bad ones. It is no more effort than any other routine habits like brushing my teeth or getting dressed. Report
I set small goals. Last year wanted to be 139 but did not happen. This jan I want to be 142. I think I can do that. Report
I usually start out fine. When I started with SP last January, I lost 8 lbs fairly quickly. Then I hit a plateau and began to lose motivation. I got into a cycle where I would gain 3, lose them, gain 3, lose them, etc. After 1 year, I have lost 19 lbs. I'm proud that I've lost that but it is discouraging when you read so many "Woo-hoo" comments like one I read on the New You Boot Camp this morning -- "I lost 18 lbs my first week!" Plus the ones you read about how people have lost 50+ lbs the first year. I know everyone should be proud of their successes but sometimes reading those success stories make me feel like something is wrong with me that I can't lose this weight no matter how hard I keep trying. I start to lose motivation when I see so very little success compared to how easy it seems to be for so many others. And, yes, I know I shouldn't compare myself with others but I started reading comments to get some reassurance that what I was experiencing was normal. But I'm not finding those comments. Report
I have made the commitment to exercise 3 times a week.
I have changed the way I eat, and think about food
I have tried to make myself a better person, mind body and spirit
If I have success it is because of my strength of self.
After almost 58 years, I have finally figured this all out, and stuck to it for the past 5 years
Wahoo! Report
I'm going to add another dvd or two to my collection and exercise at home at least 3x a week. The ice and snow outside my apartment complex keep me from walking outside much at this time of year. This lack of exercise and overeating has caused me to gain back 6 of the 30 lbs I lost last year. I've posted this blog entry to my favorites because I know I have to make lifestyle changes that I can live with! Report
This is such great advice for all areas of life. Thanks for posting common sense in your blog. Report
I have changed my mindset to healthy lifestyle change and don't think of my "new" daily routine as a diet or short term change. I also don't want to yoyo with my weight, or activities. I am following my 3 wishes/goals and it is my plan to have them met by Dec. Report
Thanks for the blog it's a great reminder that slow and steady wins the race. Report
This was excellent advice! I believe I have set weight loss goals and personal goals that are consistent with the information provided. So far, everything is going well, and as long as I continue to get the support from my family and the good folks here at SP, I will be able to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Report
Great ideas on this blog, I will start small and see where it goes. Already recommited to my workout schedule for this week and the challenge I'm participating in should keep me motivated! Report
I just added this blog to my favorites. I am off to a good start with my goals; I choose realistic goals...30 minutes of cardio, drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, staying in touch with my support teams.

Thanks for the blog...It is good food for thought. Report
THANKS! Report
I know I can do this with all the support out there. Thank goodness for this site. I belong to a gym and with some determination all of my actions should be HABIT after 3 weeks. I'll be reading as much as possible on this wonderful site. Good luck to us all! Report
Many years ago, I read an article in Reader's Digest: "21 Days to a New Habit," or something like that. The gist was that you can develop a new habit, good or bad, in three weeks.

So, devoting a month to developing a new habit makes a lot of sense. Last month, I got exercising. Now I'm still exercising, and working on a plant-based diet. More fruits and vegs, fewer processed grains and meats. Snacking on apples and peanut butter instead of crackers and cheese. Brown rice or roasted potatoes instead of noodles or
white rice. That sort of thing.

What should I add next month? Report
I knew that I would never be successful if I didn't make changes that I was willing to keep up with! I may not be at the goal weight I originally started out with, but I know I can maintain my current weight loss! Report
I too start out great and then slow down. This year I am taking it one month at a time. I call it my pick 3 plan. for Jan: #1- do not eat after 7( food goal) #2-walk everyday, even if only 5 min.(exercise goal) #3- lose 7 pounds by Jan.31( weight goal). Each month I will pick 3 new ones. These are easily attainable and will give me more motivation as I keep them. So far, so good. Report
I appreciate this blog so much because you are exactly right. I don't make resolutions as they are easily broken. Change has to come from within. I am Day 6 into a healthier lifestyle and doing well so far. Lifestyle is the key word here, so hopefully I can keep on track with God's help. Report
What a great blog! Thanks! Report
This is a great reminder!
I am also trying to make up for getting 'lost' for 6 months of last year. 'if only' I would have stuck with it, I would be at goal. *sigh*.

Apparently I need to take smaller baby steps, to make these changes permanent. Report
I always like the New Year and trying to make New Years Resolutions. And every year I "fall off the wagon." This is a great article. This year I am doing things a little different. I am being more specific with my resolutions and I am telling people so that they can hold me accountable. I really like what ABTBMK says at the bottom of her comment. Report
This is a great article. Report
Great article! Report
I heartily agree. I've told myself it's a live-it, and I'm a work in progress. Small steps and gradual changes has given me a new life, and I'm one third of the way towards where I would like to be maintaining, and all I do, I try to envision doing for the rest of my life. Report
I usually start out fine, but I also have a problem with being consistent. I have heard the 21 times to make a habit rule. But it doesn't seem to take 21 times to break the habit. Maybe this problem comes from growing up in an alcoholic home, sometimes I think therapy would help, but I'm not sure. Report
Thanks. Report
Thanks for the article! I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish this year all week long. Since I just finalized my goals yesterday, I decided to start today. So far, I am doing good! :D I've learned that it's also important to be flexible with your goals and patient with yourself. If you find that you aren't doing so well on one of your goals adjust it, replace it, or break it down into several littler goals. Good luck everyone and happy SparkPeopling! :D Report
Thanks for reminding me of the simple, one step at a time approach. I also tend to overwhelm myself with everything thing at once. Report
I say I'm on a journey for a Healthstyle for the rest of my life. As I reflect on this blog and other's comments, I ask myself am I on a diet? It doesn't feel like a diet. They always make me feel deprived and anxious and irritated, but my Spark Healthstyle makes me feel joyous, confident and inspired to continue making healthy choices in all areas of my life.

Then, I think about my 2009 New Year Promises to myself. And WOW, I am climbing a mountain of challenges. Walk 500 miles in 2009, lose 5% in Jan., New Year New YOU Bootcamp and will be less than 300 by birthday 01/19/2010.

Did I bite off more than I can chew? I'm taking Big Bites, I will agree there. But, in every way I feel motivated and determined to plan according to a Healthstyle of living. It is my priority. Nothing is more important. Nothing feels as good.

Thanks for the food for thought. I know I will be chewing on this for some time to come. In Sparkling Friendship, Paula Report
I have so much fear about becoming one of those people who loose a lot then gain it all back. I've never lost this much and I WILL keep it off. I have to. I've gotten rid of most all my large clothes and never in my life have so many people said so many nice things to me and told me how proud of me they are that I couldn't bear to see the look on their faces if I EVER went back to what I was before. Report
great article! thanks! Report
Get outta my head!!! ;)

Seriously though, you're right. It's an easy trap to fall into. I've heard that it takes 21 consecutive times for something to become a habit. But it won't ever become a habit if we focus on an "end time" for it. Report
Thank you for such a great article. I recently gained back 10# of the 20# I had lost in 2007/2008. I'm so irritated with myself because I know what I did wrong and I can't believe I allowed myself to fall back into my old habits. This post really motivates me to stay on track with what I say all the time and that is - these changes need to be lifestyle changes, not temporary fixes. Thanks for the kick in the pants and the reminder that I very desperately needed as I move forward into 2009. Report
There is no Yo yoing here or even a diet. By having a talk with myself about where I am headed and where i have been it fit in smoothly after 2 months this was no longer ahrd work for me. The meal plans are foods I love and that i know are healthy. I really look foward to and enjoy my meals these days. I know I'm doing something right for my body. Everything else is fitting in smoothly behind that. It's going to be a fine year. Report
Thank you to everyone who is sharing their thoughts and lives here. You are all an inspiration to me. I've been a sparkpeople since September and am working hard on changing my life. Making changes that I can live with for a lifetime is the plan and it is going well. My family is thrilled that I have found a plan that fits in with our lifestyle. is the greatest!! Report
I didn't make any resolutions, but I did set a couple of goals, things that I'm already working towards before the new year started. Like get into a 2 piece with out "muffin top" and lose the last 15lbs.(1 down 14 to go.) Report
I definately appreciated this article! I am taking it small...I am not going to obsess about numbers but just work towards healthy and gradually increasing activity and vegtables....I want to incorporate healthy habits not necessarly dieting so to speak Report
This was soooo the old me. I started really working towards my fitness goals last November and since I have decided to make lifestyle changes instead of dieting I have finally been able stick to it! Report
Thanks for the great information. I think that is why I already feel successful and not overwhelmed. Baby steps.. Report
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