Happy New Year’s! As I sit and write this on the morn of New Year’s Eve, I see my Facebook feed flooding with “resolutions.”
We know the drill. Every year, people make the same promises to themselves. To get a better job. To stop smoking. Spend less. Spend more time with family. Get fit. And the topmost popular goal for New Year’s across the board: Lose weight.
The sad thing is, most people never make it past the first week of the new year in pursuit of their lofty, well-meaning goal. And it’s not our fault, generally.
Because the odds are stacked against us from the start.
Why you might not lose weight this winter
Eating for the season
Winter time. It’s the time of year that our bodies naturally hold onto fat, and make us seek the comfort of warm, hearty meals. Salads and cold smoothies aren’t going to cut it. While we can eat healthy as a general rule, we still may be unconsciously consuming more calories to build up our fat reserves. Because fat isn’t actually our biggest enemy. It’s what insulates every mammal from the cold in the lean winter months. We use those extra calories to burn when we shiver! At least that’s what millions of years of evolution has taught our bodies. So trying to start dieting or losing weight in the dead of winter is only going to set you up for failure. Or at least a very, very difficult uphill battle. So if we have a few extra pounds, I recommend waiting until spring to try shedding that weight. Our bodies are naturally made to work this way.
We’re not motivated
I’m just going to put it out there – it’s dark, it’s cold, and we don’t even want to climb out of our warm beds when we have to. It usually takes a lot of steely willpower to leave our warm cocoons a half hour earlier to fit in yoga, a walk, or weights before work. And if you’re anything like me (I like my sleep), this is often a hurdle. Like most mammals, the darker season makes us want to sleep more and “hibernate.” Our circadian rhythms naturally want to wake up when the sun comes up, which is a lot later than our alarm clocks in this modern age. So trying to force ourselves to get going in winter time is like fighting our biology. Especially when we go to work in the dark and often come home in the dark. That doesn’t leave us much time, nor energy, to fit in physical activity.
Ugh. It’s freezing cold. It’s either icy, rainy, or snowy outside. The idea of having to gear up with five layers and clunky boots to take a walk, or de-ice the car or shovel out the driveway to head out early to the gym doesn’t appeal to us (although shoveling can be a pretty good cardio workout!). And let’s face it, it can be downright dangerous to go out in nasty inclement weather. We are often shut in, and the winter weather can work against us – no matter how determined we are in following through on our resolutions.
Poor goal setting
One of the biggest challenges right out of the gate is that “losing weight” isn’t a strong enough goal. It’s watery, with no substance. What does that mean, exactly? That is the most common challenge I support my clients with. Losing weight can mean a lot of things, but it doesn’t actually give you a clear step to take toward your goal. Goals have to be specific.
Making goals is like setting appointments with yourself. Knowing the what, when and where helps you focus on achieving any goal. So ask yourself:
- What specific action am I going to do?
- What time of day?
- For how long?
- How many days? Which days?
Bad resolution choice
To be honest, weight loss is a poor choice for a health goal.
Yes! I think all my clients are confused when I tell them that. If weight loss is a goal, you don’t care how you go about it. Using dieting pills, deprivation or starving yourself, trying out the most recent weight loss fad to hit the Internet… and then the weight comes pouncing back, faster and meaner than before.
But if you make your goal to get healthy and make healthier choices, that is a complete game changer. Instead of using all the tips and tricks that help you lose weight but not keep it off, you slowly and steadily make more sustainable, successful changes that become a habit. Weight loss is a really nifty byproduct of making healthy choices.
So what do I do?
This year, try making a more specific lifestyle goal change rather than a weight loss number. Like eating more vegetables, using the stairs instead of an elevator, cooking at home more, or switching out that candy for fruit you like. In the end, you’ll feel more accomplished, and will make you feel much more confident and motivated to make more healthy changes.