Every New Year you’re bombarded with messages of change and told to make New Year’s resolutions to improve your health. Setting long-term diet and exercise goals or committing to a healthy action plan can be beneficial, but researchers have found that thinking of health and fitness goals as “New Year’s resolutions” can actually harm your health. Here’s why.
New Year’s resolutions mess with your emotions
From anxiety to depression, making New Year’s resolutions can result in nasty emotional side effects. Why? Because two-thirds of people end up ditching their New Year’s goals within weeks of starting them. In fact, less than 20 percent of people will stay with their resolutions for more than six months. less than 10 percent will keep them all year. This inability to stay on track, psychologists believe, can lead to feelings of failure and inadequacy. Experiencing setbacks (like digging into two slices of cheesecake when you’re trying to lose 10 pounds) amplify those feelings. The result could be a downward spiral that can easily lead you back into old habits faster than if you hadn’t made resolutions in the first place.
New Year’s resolutions often equal deprivation
While cutting back on certain foods can be good for your health, completely depriving yourself of them is never a good thing. Yet most New Year’s resolutions revolve around the idea of deprivation: eliminate fat, stop eating potato chips, give up salt and the list goes on. The problem is fat, treats and salt all have a place in your diet (in moderation, of course). The only time quitting a habit completely is really good for you is if it is dangerous to your health, like smoking or binge drinking. Even then, quitting cold turkey can be hard; it can take months to wean yourself off of bad habits. The key is moderation, not deprivation.
Diet and fitness targets may be hard to hit
Unless you consult your family physician or another medical professional before setting your New Year’s resolutions, the diet and fitness targets you choose could be unrealistic. The result? You either won’t reach your goals or, if you do, you’ll be more likely to slip back into old habits. You could also do harm to your health if you crash diet or over-exercise. The key is to improve your health habits gradually so your changes become a part of your lifestyle.
Staying healthy should not feel like work
Feeding and fueling your body mentally, physically and spiritually should be fun. You should never feel like taking care of yourself is arduous work. New Year’s resolutions more often than not take all of the enjoyment out of the process of change. Improving yourself is not just about the end goal, it’s about overcoming obstacles in between and becoming more confident and aware of who you are. Like changing your hair color, it’s supposed to be fun. Yes, the destination matters, but so does the journey. And often, with New Year’s resolutions, you can lose sight of that.