issues and experts

Resolution staying power—tips

January 04, 2018

SFU BPK lecturer Stephen Brown on resolution success:

·      Think small. Instead of trying to quit smoking, changing your eating, and starting exercise, pick one of these. Stay with it until the new behaviour has become a regular part of your life, then consider another behaviour change.

·      Solidify the new behaviour as a habit. For example, initially your plan might be to do some kind (ANY kind) of physical activity for 20 minutes three times a week. After you find that you are doing this regularly, then you can refine and extend the behaviour, e.g., increasing duration, intensity, and/or frequency of activity.

·      Ask yourself, “Is this the right time for me to make a change?” I think of a man who asked for advice on training to run a marathon. He was a corporate executive, in an MBA program, and coaching his daughter’s soccer team. I advised him to wait until he had more ‘room on his plate’ before adding anything else.

·      Identify the best times (of the week, of the day) for you to be physically active. Translate your intention into a specific plan: how, what, with whom, how often, when.

·      Focus on behaviour rather than the desired goal. For example, if you want to lose weight, you might choose to drink water instead of wine with dinner on weekdays. Track that behaviour, rather than obsessing over daily check-ins on the scales.

·      Don’t think of past resolutions that you didn’t keep as failures. Instead, think of them as learning experiences: what did you do, what happened, what could you do different next time? For example, many people who quit smoking take multiple attempts before they quit for good. The earlier ‘failed’ attempts may have been part of the process that led to eventual success.

SFU BPK lecturer Diana Bedoya on changing eating patterns and habits:

• If you are trying to eat less, one behaviour that can help is to slow down. It takes the brain approximately 20 minutes to realize it is full, so if we eat too quickly, we may sometimes eat too much.

·      Another trick to potentially help eat less is to be mindful while you are eating – pay attention to how food tastes, what it looks like etc., instead of quickly and/or mindlessly eating it. There is a lot of interesting research on mindless eating, and in most cases, when people eat more mindlessly, they eat more overall. It’s ok - most of us eat mindlessly sometimes - but catch yourself when you are doing it, correct the behaviour and be present while you are eating.

·      The easier you make it for yourself, the more likely you are to stick to a change. For example, if you are trying to change your food choices, it might help to leave tempting food out of the home or out of sight or to place healthier foods in your path so they are easy to choose.

 Another option is to meal prep or plan for the week and grocery shop well in advance so you have plenty of healthy choices that you enjoy ready to go. This is especially important when life gets busy.

There are lots of ways to eat a healthy diet. Take the time to reflect about what it is about your diet that is/is not working. Then try to problem solve with respect to yourself and your lifestyle about how best to make the changes that are right for you. What has worked in the past? What hasn’t? What is easier/more difficult for you to change?

·      There are many trendy diets out there, but I like to stick to the basics as far as food recommendations because they can be applied to a wide range of food and lifestyle preferences: try to eat less processed and more whole foods, include a lot of plants in your diet, specifically vegetables and fruits, and my favorite advice: find the joy in food and cooking. Food is great and a healthy relationship with food can be developed and sustained.