January 1st will soon be upon us, and the never-ending cycle of New Year’s resolutions will begin once again.
Odds are, you’ve experienced it at least once in your life…
- Overindulge during the holidays
- Feel miserable
- Make a resolution
- Tell yourself this year will be different
- Enjoy the motivation for 2-3 months
- Eventually resort back to your usual habits
- Repeat the next year
Marketing loves to push dieting products at the start of each year in the hopes of capitalizing on people’s desperation. Despite these cycles year after year, most people never catch on or break the trend.
We are continually focused on the next pill, potion, powder, or product that will supposedly solve all our dieting woes. But it’s doubtful the answer will be found in a fancy supplement or high-intensity training program.
The solution to this problem actually starts with yourself, and no one can solve it for you.
The Biology of Belief
When it comes to behavior change, we often (incorrectly) assume that information is the strongest driver of habit formation. The famous Nike slogan, “Just Do It,” has become the fitness community’s motto.
This methodology seems based on the belief that the solutions to resolutions lie in the strength of one’s iron will. The supposed lack of self-discipline is the reason why you aren’t where you want to be.
While this attitude is certainly commendable, it’s not always accurate or helpful. Having worked at the highest level of sport, I’ll be the first to say that someone’s lack of self-discipline is likely why they will never compete at the professional or Olympic level. However, that level of discipline isn’t required to stay healthy and reach your fitness goals. That’s primarily reserved for the highest levels of competition.
Simply put, discipline and willpower are important, but we need other pieces in place to be successful.
4 Key Principles for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions
1. A Lack of Community
When thinking about the evolution of humans, we find a common theme. Humans have generally existed in tribes with shared common goals, universal struggles, and similar geography.
Each individual had their place in society and served a very specific role. As we’ve become more isolated within our culture, this tribal mentality has somewhat dissolved.
The military uses this ideology to build comradery among recruits experiencing a shared struggle. Similarly, CrossFit has heavily capitalized on this mindset with the invention of the WOD (workout of the day) coupled with the CrossFit games. Their community is one of the strongest drivers behind the brand’s success, and it’s evident that this is not by accident.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, the strength of your “community” will either enhance or detract from your behavior change. While Facebook and other social media platforms help generate a partial sense of community, they will never replace the real thing.
So, what does that look like in real life?
- Find a training partner.
- Join a serious gym that matches your training style – powerlifting, strongman, bodybuilding, athletics, physique.
- Attend conferences, seminars, and webinars with others who share similar interests.
- Network and reach out to those like you – everyone else is likely feeling the same way you are, but they’re just too scared to ask.
- Host training events and invite others to join – get your local gym involved and host an “athletic combine” with a variety of events to generate competition and form new friendships.
Takeaway: Build your community, and surround yourself with like-minded people who share similar goals and lifestyles. As the saying goes, “You are the result of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
2. Failing to Know Your Ikigai
What’s your goal?
Okay, now what’s the point of your goal?
Why does it matter in the grand scheme of life?
There’s always a motive behind someone’s actions, and New Year’s resolutions are no different. Maybe it’s simply to look better naked, or maybe you want to fit into that old pair of jeans you used to wear. Whatever your goal, understand where you’re coming from.
I would argue that unless your goal for improvement fits into your life’s purpose and passion, you’re going to burn out and veer off track.
The Japanese commonly refer to this concept of life as ‘Ikigai’ or “a reason for being.”
While not all New Year’s resolutions and goals need to have a metaphysical origin, it’s important to take the time to consider how fitness fits into the bigger picture of your life.
Takeaway: Is fitness really part of who you are and what you’re about? Or, are you simply using it to fill a void, while striving after the “new year, new me” philosophy? If you’re using fitness as a means to an end, that’s perfectly fine as well. However, examine the why behind the what so that you won’t lose your motivation along the way.
3. Poor Intuition
If you ask most people about the biggest dangers to our current society, they’ll likely respond with something along the lines of: politicians, social media, inflation, division, and a whole host of other trendy topics.
While they’re likely not wrong, I would say that one of the biggest threats in our current day and age is the speed of life.
Everything is getting faster – 5G, Amazon Prime, drive-throughs, 4K streaming, and the list goes on. In America, our attitude is, “I want it, and I want it NOW.”
However, the biggest drawback of this mentality is that it deprives people of slowing down and paying attention to their bodies. When you lack intuition, you can’t really sense what your body actually needs.
As such, you tend to throttle through life at a breakneck pace. That is until something happens that forces you to slow down.
Before you know it, 10 years is behind you, and you’ve added 25 pounds. You lost track of weekly workouts, time for grocery shopping, and home-cooked meals.
The speed of life overtook you.
You never took the time to slow down and see what life was doing to you. Instead, you just let it happen as you were along for the ride.
Takeaway: When it comes to actually making a change in your life, slow down and focus on what your body needs. More sleep, more real food, more movement, and more time in nature. In the end, rest and recovery are often the missing pieces for sustaining New Year’s resolutions throughout the year.
4. Unrealistic Expectations From Society
If you spend any time on social media, you’ve likely seen numerous ads for weight loss programs. Before and after photos boast life-changing results in 30 days or less.
While the body is certainly capable of producing massive changes, it doesn’t always work with simple calorie counting and bodyweight home workouts.
I’ve had the opportunity to direct professional photoshoots with fitness models for online marketing and magazine ads. While most people have an idea of what they’re “dream body” should look like, I’ll let you in on a few secrets used by everyone in the industry:
- What you see is not what you get
This should be obvious, but if not, let me remind you. Every single photo you see online or in a magazine has been heavily Photoshopped. Most of the pictures I dealt with went through multiple rounds of edits.
- Short-term physique modification
Models don’t maintain stage-condition year-round. Most of them only keep that ‘look’ for 1-2 weeks. They have photos taken and then slowly add calories, walking their body weight back up. They physically can’t maintain that level of leanness throughout the year without significant hormonal consequences.
- The big secret no one wants to talk about
DIURETICS. Some athletes I worked with refused to have a single photo taken until they were provided a diuretic. Others had already been taking them for days or weeks to make themselves appear leaner. The images you see are literally mirages, a fleeting glimpse of what the human body is capable of.
This goes without saying. Once someone gets to a high enough level and their job depends on the way they look, steroids become a very real part of the conversation. BUT you need to have this in the back of your mind when you’re trying to determine realistic standards of what the human body should look like. Many athletes and competitive bodybuilders continue to use steroids, despite the fact they’re illegal. So, don’t compare your progress to theirs, either online or in person.
Your body does not want to support large amounts of muscle mass with exceedingly low amounts of fat mass. That’s metabolically costly (aka steals your energy from other biological processes). It’s also not something your body cares about when it’s #1 goal is survival.
Therefore, we must take a careful and calculated approach to weight loss with realistic standards. Haphazard dieting is a surefire way to lose muscle and make yourself miserable in the process.
Takeaway: Most dieters should expect to lose 0.5-1% of total bodyweight per week. However, weight loss is never linear, so don’t be discouraged if one week is slower than the next.
Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions
So, this year really can be different if you keep these 4 principles in mind. Sometimes, you have to slow down and reflect to move forward. Here’s to making 2021 your year of success!