It’s January, and many of you have probably made life-improving resolutions for 2017. Good for you! You understand that positive change is needed are ready to start the journey. Now for the bad news . . . Forbes cited a research study suggesting that just 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals.
Why is it so hard to follow through, and what can we do to be a part of the successful 8%? When you decided to make changes to your ingrained habits, you taunted the enemy, so understanding it, and preparing countermeasures in preparation for the attack is vital to your success.
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier and/or lose weight. Whether you’re trying to give up or limit your favorite foods or cut back on portion sizes, the battle has begun!
Let me introduce you to the enemy known as dopamine.
Our brains are designed to influence our behavior in ways that will keep us alive, such as getting enough fuel for our bodies. The chemical, dopamine, is a part of the reward pathway in the brain. When we think about or eat our favorite foods, dopamine is secreted. As a reward, we instantly feel happy and content. The more we give in to the food cravings, the more we receive this reward and the stronger the cravings become.
How do we fight an enemy this powerful? One very successful tactic is known as Positive Procrastination. When a craving strikes, and dopamine spikes, force yourself to wait ten minutes before satisfying your craving. This allows the chemical to dissipate, and the craving to subside. Also, plan ahead in anticipation of a possible dopamine attack. For example, decide well before dinner time that you will ask for half portions, and/or skip dessert.
As you apply these tactics, you may find that there is a weak area in your defense. Willpower will be your greatest asset during your fight to eat healthier.
A great way to strengthen your willpower muscle is to create and meet self-imposed deadlines. In the morning, make a short to-do list but include deadlines. Add exercise to your list and conquer another New Year’s resolution!
Be specific about your goals for the day, and break it down into steps, such as:
1. Put on walking shoes by 9:45 a.m.
2. Put on jacket by 9:55 a.m.
3. Walk out the door at 10:00 a.m. and take a ten-minute walk.
By accomplishing these small, doable goals, you will strengthen your willpower, and set yourself up for victory! Keep your resolutions simple and attainable. Write them down and be specific. Understand the barriers you are up against, and use the suggestions listed above to help you overcome them. The best reward of being a healthier, stronger you is yet to come!