Written by Dr Lynette Mackey, Dietitian and Behavioural Change Consultant to the LifeShape Clinic.

It’s that time of year again, the time when you are preparing to make your New Year’s resolutions! However, before you get too caught up in the thrill of doing so, I would like you to reflect upon last year’s resolutions. How did they go? Were you able to bring them to fruition, or did they fall by the wayside? If you succeeded, congratulations to you! However, you are in the minority. According to a US News & World Report: 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February1. Interestingly, this comment also appears to mirror the Scientific Evidence in the field of weight management, which indicates that for the number of individuals who start a weight management plan, only 20% are able to succeed at keeping their weight off over the longer term 2.  However, this does not mean that all of your hard work to lose weight will end in failure!

The evidence also shows that those who make recommended changes to their energy intake and energy output, by reducing their caloric intake and increasing their levels of physical activity, lose more weight and maintain their losses in comparison to those who don’t make these changes2. So what is going on? Two prominent researchers in the weight management field, Evan Forman and Meghan Butryn, believe that those less successful experience a greater level of conflict between their innate biological drives to enjoy and consume high-fat sweet/salty foods and remain sedentary, to the opposing requirements of their weight management program. Specifically, in response to this conflict, those unable to change appear to struggle more with the discomfort of their thoughts and feelings that naturally arise as part of the behaviour change process2. As outlined in last month’s post, they are describing how the individual might fail if they are unable to manage the clean discomfort that is inherent to the behaviour change process. In other words, they maybe turning their clean discomfort into dirty discomfort.

The clinicians at the LifeShape Clinic are determined to turn these statistics around. They aim to do so by guiding you successfully through this difficult part of the behaviour change process. As part of their commitment to you, they would like to encourage you to take Committed Action at the start of 2020, instead of making a New Year’s resolution, to achieve your long-term weight management goals. Why? Because, they know that the reactive brain is setting you up for failure otherwise! They know that you are walking into a trap simply because the thought of making that resolution feels so good! If you recall from an earlier post, the reactive brain is attracted to short-term rewards: Such as the high energy that the thought of making and achieving your resolution inspires. However, given that only 20% of New Years Resolutions succeed1, it’s apparent that your reactive brain has the balance of power in this relationship. What’s more, it has found a sneaky way to keep you safe!

How is the reactive brain keeping you safe? If you stop and look at the process outlined below, you can see its sneakiness in action!

  1. Setting the New Years Resolution: Involves dreaming big, and then 80% of the time failing, which leads to great disappointment.
  2. The greater the disappointment, the greater the rationalization for quitting and given up.
  3. In the process of giving up, within the middle circle or the discomfort zone, you miss the ladder, slide down the snake and find yourself back in your comfort zone – ah safety!
  4. To turn this process around, the clinicians at LifeShape would like to encourage you to make 2020 the year that you take Committed Action!

What is Committed Action? Committed Action is about doing what it takes – such as practicing the skills you need to navigate the behaviour change process and achieve your goals – even when it is difficult or hard and you believe that things are not working out for you. It is about persisting with or changing behaviours that are no longer working, as opposed to giving up and walking away. It is about taking action that is motivated by values that are deeply meaningful to you, and it is about enabling those behaviorus that will get you there in the end. It is also about celebrating your wins, as you experience them along the way!

When you decide to take Committed Action you get to choose the behaviour that you would like to identify with. It is not a knee-jerk reaction like a New Year’s resolution. Even though taking Committed Action is harder than making a New Year’s resolution. Deep down in your heart, when you consider the choices below, which one would you rather aspire to?

  1. Get on the horse, fall off the horse and never get on again or
  2. Get on the horse, fall off the horse, dust yourself off, learn from the experience, and get back on again?

If you engage with the first choice, you stay within your comfort zone. If you engage with the second, you get to move beyond your comfort zone and step into living your life to its fullest potential. Which behaviour would you prefer to reinforce? As the report above would suggest, making a New Year’s Resolution reinforces behaviour number one. On the other hand, consciously doing what it takes, despite the failures, reinforces the committed action that will lead you to long-term behaviour change and weight management success that you desire.

If you aspire to and are up for the challenge of taking Committed Action in 2020, please speak to your clinician at your next appointment. The LifeShape clinicians want you to break free from your comfort zone! They want you to steer clear of those snakes and climb your own personal ladders to success! Your challenge over the New Year period is to skip the New Year’s resolution and take Committed Action towards lasting change instead. Are you up for it?

  1. Luciani J. Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail. US News and World Report. 2015.
  2. Forman EM, Butryn ML. A new look at the science of weight control: How acceptance and commitment strategies can address the challenge of self-regulation. Appetite. 1/1/ 2015;84:171-180.

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