By Jess Campbell

If you’re tired of fad diets and failed weight loss attempts, read on to discover a straightforward solution to your New Year’s resolution.

You’ve probably read a headline like that before, and probably more than once. Although headlines like the one above scream at us all year long, they tend to get even louder around the holiday season and especially during the first week (okay, the first month) of the New Year.

Let’s get real.  The diet and fitness industry is set up to exploit New Year’s resolutions and make us feel bad about ourselves.  Instead of building us up, it seems that the purpose of many diet and fitness programs is to help us feel guilty and shameful about the way we look, and drive home the notion that we need to change ourselves.

It all starts with beauty standards that are so narrow, no one can live up to them (yet everyone “should” try). So when we try to live up to these standards and fail, there is, coincidentally, a multi-billion dollar industry waiting to catch us when we fall but pick our pockets at the same time. Oh, that diet didn’t work? Try this one… This catch-and-pick-pocket routine continues again and again until we have wreaked havoc on our bodies and our minds.

But there has been a quiet revolution happening against resolutions, and it’s getting louder.  More and more of the fitness industry is turning away from trends and fads and toward helping you to create the best possible version of yourself, starting from
the inside.

It’s All About Habits

When it comes to nutrition and fitness, you really are a product of your habits.  One of the habits that the diet and fitness industry has helped all of us to foster is using food and exercise as punishment. Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: you went out to dinner with your friends/partner/spouse, ate delicious food (including – gasp! – dessert) and drank delicious wine/spirits/drink of your choice. The next day, you feel guilty for so-called overindulging and spend extra time working out to “burn off those extra calories.” Food and exercise should never be used as a form of punishment, but that is a habit that many people practice (some without even realising it). Wouldn’t it be nice if you could enjoy a night out or a nice meal or movie theatre popcorn without feeling guilty about it?

Another familiar scenario for many people is negative self-talk; mentally berating themselves for eating something “bad” or making “bad” nutritional choices. We are taught to categorize foods as “good” and “bad” from a very early age, and therefore categorize ourselves as a “good” or “bad” person for eating those foods.

It’s pretty obvious that these are not healthy habits. But the good news is they’re habits that can be changed with some effort and an open mind.  Lasting health and fitness involves a physical and nutritional component but also must involve a mental/emotional component, one that teaches people how to form lasting habits that shape a better life.

Goal VS Purpose

Many of us have an overflow of motivation when it comes to our New Year’s resolutions to “finally get fit/lose weight.” But there is a hitch when it comes to motivation: it is fleeting when it doesn’t lead you to do something. One day, you can feel as though you will conquer the world and that “this year, I will FINALLY reach my health and fitness goals!” The next day, however, that feeling seems to have vanished and you’re left confused, frustrated and upset that you can’t get it together.

Instead of using motivation, you might consider changing your habits. How? It’s a matter of goal-oriented action versus purpose-oriented action.

Goal-oriented action involves setting a goal, working towards that goal, reaching that goal and declaring yourself finished. Problems arise when the goal is reached or when motivation runs out; you’re not sure what to do next. Like mile markers on the highway, goal-oriented action tells you how far you’ve come on your journey but that you still have lots of road left to drive once you reach (and pass) each marker.

That’s not to say that goal-oriented action is something to avoid entirely. There are many goal-oriented people who continue setting goals for themselves after reaching their first one. But this is the key factor that many have trouble with: continuing to do something once you start. Purpose-oriented action, on the other hand, doesn’t include an “I’m done” moment. It’s action that you do because you like doing it, it’s good for you and it makes you feel good. Things like weight loss and fitting into a smaller size actually become side effects of that continued feel-good action. To use the above example, you keep driving because you like to drive, regardless of how many mile markers you pass along the way.

A purpose-oriented approach to your health and fitness allows you to focus on something else besides your physical appearance, such as building endurance, getting stronger or improving your well-being, and is a common trait among those who experience lasting side effects like weight loss.

Continued Action

Changing your habits can seem very overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be.  Start by making small changes like committing to eating more fruits and vegetables. Don’t put a number on it, just leave it at ‘more’ and figure out what that means for you and how to add it into your daily routine so it becomes habit. The same concept applies to moving your body more. Choose an activity that you like, something that gets you moving but that you can see yourself doing months, even years from now. This action will be enjoyable for you and will become one of your new healthy habits in no time.

This year, why not resolve to ditch the resolutions? Worry less about getting “bikini ready” and enjoy more of the process, creating positive daily habits and working to let go of old, negative habits. Yes, there will be bumps in the proverbial road but if it means a better, happier, healthier life lived, it’s definitely worth the drive.