Achieve Your Goals: How to Stick to Your Resolutions
Resolution 1: "I Vow to Lose 20 Pounds"
If you've held firm to your New Year's resolutions for a month and a half or so, give yourself a high five -- you're about halfway to sticking to them for good. The reason: It takes roughly 90 days to make or break a habit, according to addiction-behavior researcher Alan Marlatt, PhD, professor and director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington. The bad news: "Temptation grows, not decreases, as you begin to change your behavior," says psychiatrist Balasa Prasad, MD, chairman of the anesthesia department at the Mount Vernon Hospital in Mount Vernon, New York, and author of Stop Smoking for Good.
Knowing that the next few months will require more commitment than ever, FITNESS gathered an arsenal of strategies to help reel you in from the brink of relapse.You're most likely to relapse...
...in one to three months. Ironically, "lapses tend to occur once people start seeing improvement," says Daniel Kirschenbaum, PhD, director of the Center for Behavioral Medicine and Sport Psychology in Chicago and author of The Healthy Obsession Program. Your pants fit you better, and suddenly you think that you can afford to indulge in Nutella. That is, until your pants start to fit like shrink-wrap again.Relapse-Buster 1
Keep a food journal. You've heard it before: Committing pen to paper each time you commit fork to mouth encourages good habits. "You stay more focused because you're aware of your long-term goal of weight loss every time you use it," says Kirschenbaum. These days, self-monitoring devices can do the math for you -- and then some. The Bodybugg, available at bodybugg.com, is an armband that uses sensors to gauge your every move. It's expensive -- $399 for the armband plus a three-month online subscription; $14.95 a month after that -- but Kara Gallagher, PhD, an exercise physiologist in Louisville, Kentucky, likes it because it takes the guesswork out of dieting. A less expensive option is the Pocket Diet Tracker, $24.95, which can be downloaded to your PDA. As slick as these gadgets are, Kirschenbaum says the most effective self-monitoring device is still ink and parchment, for the simple reason "you don't have to worry about paper crashing or freezing."Relapse-Buster 2
Have your cake, but just one small piece. Relying solely on willpower is the quickest road to ruin, says addiction-behavior researcher John C. Norcross, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. In fact, those who try to withstand the forbidden fruit (or pizza or tiramisu) through steely nerves alone are actually three times more likely to chuck the entire diet once they give in to the siren song of the dessert tray. Instead, allow for the occasional slice of cake or order of cheese fries, and treat it as an indulgence, not an excuse to fall off the wagon.Relapse-Buster 3
Think ahead. For some, the family dinner on Sunday may be the scene of the crime. For others, it's the local Starbucks, with its surplus of muffins, dollops of whipped cream, and drizzles of caramel syrup. Know your poison, and avoid it if possible. At your mom's, stay out of the kitchen to prevent predinner grazing. Steer clear of places where "plain coffee" is an anomaly. Or plan for extra exercise to make up for any munching malfunctions. "Know when setbacks are likely to occur, then plan for them strategically," says Kelly Brownell, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.
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