How to keep your New Year’s resolutions

  • Dylan Hewlett

Every Jan. 1, people make a pledge.

Subsequently, Lululemon sells out, gym owners laugh giddily and the supply of protein powders becomes scarce.

Jan. 2 is an iron pumping, spin class taking, sweaty Swiss ball extravaganza.

But come Jan. 3, it’s just sore muscles and shame - not a treadmill to be heard.

This is the tale of the “resolutionist.”

“One of the biggest mistakes is actually making a New Year’s resolution,” says Mike Warkentin, owner of CrossFit 204 and the managing editor of CrossFit Journal.

“If you need a date on a calendar to make a change in your life, it’s probably not going to stick because it’s just an arbitrary thing you’ve decided. You need to decide that now is the time to do it. Putting it off and waiting won’t help. ‘I’ll stop smoking later.’ When’s later?”

As ineffective as New Year’s resolutions might be, there’s nothing stopping one from making a healthy change this time of year.

The (fat) burning question though: How?

Motivation.

Like the American economy, without a stimulus, you’re doomed.

To lose weight, get strong or eat better, one needs motivation. Real motivation.

“After my divorce in 2005, I just looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘What the hell did I do? I can’t live like this,’” Jon Paintin says.

In October 2005, Paintin, a 38-year-old Winnipeg father of one, weighed a whopping 400 pounds.

With his breakup as the driving force, he started going to the gym and changing his eating habits.

By the spring of 2008, Paintin had reached his goal weight - 200 pounds.

Now, he’s an accredited resistance training leader, helping others get fit through his training business LifeChange Fitness.

Paintin also holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Winnipeg and is working on an education degree, with the intent of becoming a physical education teacher.

Paintin is an amazing success story, but he didn’t do it alone.

To help whip himself into shape, Paintin enlisted the services of a personal trainer.

Does that mean you have to shell out big bucks for private lessons? Not necessarily.

“If you just make your goals public, it works a lot better. You have a community of people encouraging you, which makes a world of difference,” Paintin says.

“For myself, I joined a running group and they’ve become great friends, lifelong friends. They’re there to encourage you.’

Aisha Alfa, a Winnipeg motivational speaker and entertainer, agrees.

“Social accountability, putting it out there, telling people about your goals and putting them down on paper, is great. It’s peer pressure in a good way,” Alfa says. “If you bring your goal up with other people, then you’ve thought about it, you’ve written it down and you’ve started to consider the steps of how to accomplish it.”

This brings us to the real nitty gritty: the specifics.

You’ve got a goal, you’ve thought about it, now how do you achieve it?

“It’s best to make a goal as specific as possible, something that’s realistic and meaningful for you,” says Coralee Hill, a registered dietician and head of Dial-a-Dietitian, a free phone service that offers nutrition advice to Manitobans.

“Goals that are vague or not quantifiable, like ‘eating better’ or ‘exercising more,’ don’t work. The secret to success is breaking down those goals into mini, easier, more manageable goals.

Your goals should be specific and measurable like, ‘I’ll bring my lunch from home three days a week instead of eating out at restaurants,’ or ‘I’ll use two per cent milk in my coffee instead of cream.’ Those are small, specific and meaningful goals.”

Hill recommends keeping a journal and logging your progress.

Also, she says it’s a good idea to compare your entries to the Canada Food Guide and Canadian fitness guidelines. She recommends eaTracker, a free online tool created by the Dietitians of Canada that helps you track your food and exercise choices, your successes and your shortfalls.

Yes, even the most diligent dieter or fitness freak is going to make mistakes. The trick is, when you do mess up (and you’re going to), don’t beat yourself up about it.

“‘Mistakes’ is a detrimental word to put on ourselves because health is an evolving journey,” Sara Korsunsky says, a naturopathic doctor at the Centre for Natural Medicine. “Your diet will look different this year from how it will look in five years, but hopefully it will be steadily healthier. Make mistakes and learn from them.”

Also, Korsunsky believes there’s more to good health than eating well and exercising. She recommends adding health-promoting behaviours, like meditation, acupuncture and quiet time.

“Most people are so caught up in such a busy fight or flight lifestyle that they don’t take the time for quiet and good energy-balancing things,” Korsunsky says. “We’re so busy doing, we don’t really do any being.”

With the right motivation, a proper plan, a little help and some stick-to-itiveness, you’re ready to reap the rewards of healthy lifestyle changes.

And guess what? Reward your rewards.

“Always make sure you celebrate each of your milestones, each of your successes, regardless of how big they are,” Paintin says. “If you drop half a pound, celebrate it the same way you would if you dropped 10 pounds.”

Take it from Paintin, who went from morbidly obese to completing the 2012 Fargo Full Marathon.

“Every time I go out and run it amazes me that I can actually do it,” Paintin says. “In 2004, before everything happened, I was smoking a pack a day, eating crappy, going out and partying and then going to fast food joints for burgers and pop. Now it’s completely different.”

“Becoming physically healthy has led to me having a better outlook on life. I was able to go back to school, my relationship with my daughter is better and my relationship with my significant other is better. It turned everything positive.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 16, 2013)

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