One week till quitter’s day! Are you counting down?
Statistically speaking, most people quit their New Year's resolutions by Jan 17th, and yes, there’s a name for that: Quitter’s Day. Every year we make them, and every year we break them. Why are resolutions doomed to fail? And why do we keep setting them? Here’s a look at the why and the how of attaining your health goals for 2020.
The main reason they fail is that New Year's Resolutions are almost never sustainable. A good example is the very common goal to “get in shape”. This is a worthy goal, and I strongly encourage a vibrant, active lifestyle. However, as with all TCM care, you have to meet yourself where you’re at. If you have never exercised before, then buying a gym pass or buying a set of weights and resolving to work out every day is not sustainable. A patient told me she and her partner were starting to work out twice a day. Choose a small attainable goal and reassess every month. If you have a desk job and drive or take transit to work, a reasonable goal will be to walk to work, or get off the bus for a 15 minute walk before and after work; take the stairs; stand during the day rather than sitting; find creative ways to incorporate movement into your day for the month of January. Then maybe in February you’ll be ready to lengthen that walk, or start riding your bike to work instead. Then add a day at the gym or the pool. Once again, at the end of February, reassess and set a new, modest, achievable goal.
Failure reason number two: the resolution itself doesn’t come with specialized knowledge. So when you say “I'm going to eat better”, know that you are undertaking a very large learning project. Proper food prep, eating habits and nutrition are specialized knowledge that don’t come naturally to everyone. It takes research, time, effort and, above all, interest to undertake this kind of learning. Take the time to learn how to plan and prep meals throughout the week that will make this an attainable goal. Here are some great basic guidelines.
The third reason why new year's resolutions generally don’t work is their lack of accountability. There has to be some reason for you to attempt change, and there should be measurable outcomes that help you stay on track. Accountability is another word for personal responsibility. Taking personal responsibility for yourself and your actions ties you to the outcome in a different way. So, for example, if you are able to set an attainable goal (I will start to eat better), endeavour to learn about the goal (I’m thinking ahead and organizing a meal plan for the week), then take responsibility for the moments where you fall down, and don’t let it make you quit. Take the extra cash you saved from not eating lunch out during the week and use it to buy a new cook book or a VitaMix.
Within a New Year’s resolution lies the implication that one size fits all. One of the most fundamental tenets of chinese medicine is the belief in individual care. The conversation about population health versus individualized health is an ongoing discourse in public health care not only in Canada but internationally as well. With TCM care, your goals and your treatment plan will be individualized. It’s fascinating to see how many new studies are starting to show the benefits of individual care. For example recent research shows that your blood type defines your susceptibility to certain viruses. Turns out we’re not all the same!
And, finally, as I always remind my patients again and again: relapse is the norm. You're not going to do this all at once. Try, fail, try, fail and then what? Well, try again. That’s the way it is for everyone. Make an attainable goal; learn about the goal; take responsibility for the small failures, get up, brush yourself off, and continue on.
If you have any questions about your individual health picture, please call and book a 15 minute phone consultaiton. I'm always available for a chat.