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Sunday, 1 January 2017

How to start a New Year

By Pete Ryan

Many of us have resolutions.  We think that from 1st January we can suddenly go from our sedentary selves, to introducing a new diet, and a new training short begin a completely new lifestyle. I am sure there is a person out there that can do that, but for most of us that goal is unrealistic. There are several reasons for this, but the main reasons are the influence of willpower and habit.


I see willpower like a bucket.  When you need to do something novel, new or you do not want to do, you have to take a ‘scoop’ of willpower from the bucket.  There is one bucket of willpower every day.  You dip into it to get up early, to wash-up, to get stuff done.  The trouble is the bucket varies in size daily and you need to use that willpower for everything that you need to get done throughout the day. Once that bucket of willpower is used up you will not get much more done that day.  The more stressful the day, the smaller the bucket and the more things you have to do that day, the faster the bucket is emptied, so if you rely purely on willpower, some days you will fail to workout or make good dietary choices simply because the bucket is empty.  Willpower can get you places, but you shouldn’t rely only on that or you will eventually fail.


Habit is the minds way of getting the body to do things that it needs to do.  So, if you always wake up at 7, you will tend to continue to wake up at 7. The trouble is, if you have always eaten badly, the force of habit can drive you to continue to exercise that habit.  If you always eat a burger and fries at 11AM, you will always want a burger and fries at 11AM. 

Putting them together

If you add together the power of habit and the limited reserves of willpower, you can see how and why you fail.  You actually have to use willpower to fight against old habits, as well as try to introduce new exercise and eating habits.
In the end after a couple of weeks of struggling you will find that your run out of willpower, old habits reassert themselves and you are back to your old habits not even understanding why you failed...again?

Making change

People forget that any positive change is a positive, and that you can accumulate changes over time. I believe that making one or 2 changes a month is the best way to introduce your New Years health plan.
Suppose you decide to work out once per week, but stick at it every Wed evening, and have a healthy lunch, every day.  Keep everything else the same this month, but stick at that.  I guarantee that after a month you will look and feel better than you have in years (assuming you have done no exercise and your diet isn’t that great).
Also, you only have to dip into the willpower bucket at lunchtimes, and Wednesday evenings.  Everything else is going with the flow.  After a month, you will see that working-out and healthy lunch eating has become a habit. If you want to make further changes, then you can, but keep those changes small; add an extra workout (say Monday evening), and add a healthy breakfast, then stick at that for at least another month before any more changes are made.

Adding it all up

People forget that changes are cumulative. If you make one change, then add another in a month they will begin to work together.  Very few people can rewrite their entire lifestyle and succeed, but many people can make a succession of small changes and keep those changes happening over the course of years.  Just little things, say you have a soda in the morning and you drop that for an unsweetened herbal tea, you will save almost 1,000Kcal per week! That alone will change your body composition. So, my advice is to plan this New Year as the beginning of a process.  You do not have to succeed 100% from 1st January think of it more in terms of you will still be improving on 1st June, as you keep introducing new ways to improve yourself.
So consider this isn’t a race. In fact it is the opposite. The faster you introduce new things, the more likely you are to overload yourself and fail. Add in things slowly one change at a time and watch the improvements slowly accumulate.
Make this year, the year you break the cycle of New Year failure and start on the road to exercise and dietary success. 

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