Top 5 New Year’s resolution pitfalls and how to avoid them

new years resolution

“Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil.”

-Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


Losing weight is the number one resolution people make each year. Getting more exercise or becoming “fit” is usually not far behind in popularity. Seeing as we’re approximately 2 weeks into the New Year, approximately 30% of people who resolved to change their lifestyle this year have already given up. In fact, only about 8% ever succeed in achieving their resolution.

At least some of this spectacularly high recidivism is the result of people setting goals in such a way as to almost guarantee failure, and end up exactly where they started (if not worse off).

Here are the top 5 New Year resolution pitfalls I regularly see people making. By avoiding these, you can increase your odds of being part of that elusive 8% when 2014 comes to an end.

Pitfall #1: The all or none approach
People have the best of intentions – they recognize the errors in their behaviour and they decide to do a complete 180 and become a new person. Unfortunately, when changes are too drastic, they can be very difficult to adhere to. If you’ve never gone for a jog, don’t set yourself up for failure by resolving to run 10km every day of the week.

Solution: Make small, progressive but easily achievable goals to gain some momentum. Also, try focusing on one change at a time rather than attempting a whole lifestyle makeover.

Pitfall #2: Focusing on outcomes rather than behaviours
What is a typical resolution read like? “I will lose 30lbs by December 31, 2014.” What is the problem? This is largely out of your control. There is marked variability between any two people going on the same weight loss plan. Also, as we’ve highlighted over the years on the blog, achieving sustained significant weight loss is much less common than many would like to believe.

Solution: Instead of worrying about the number on your bathroom scale, focus on healthy behaviours. Improve your diet, move more often, reduce the amount of continuous time you spend sitting, get a good night’s rest – any of these will improve your health and the way you feel. And if you happen to lose some weight along the way, that’s a bonus.

Pitfall #3: Going on a diet
The issue here is more to do with the concept of “dieting”, understood by many as a quick and temporary fix for years or even decades of poor lifestyle. Literally starving yourself for a few weeks or even months will result in weight loss, but how long can you maintain that before you inevitably resort right back to your unhealthy diet? A diet is not something you “go on”, it is a progressive and sustained improvement in what and how you eat.

Solution: Avoid diets that are too restrictive or that sound plain crazy (i.e. grapefruit diet). Instead focus on something more reasonable, such as eating breakfast each day, switching pop and juices for water, eating more small meals throughout the day instead of a couple large ones, slowly replacing your chocolate and chips with healthier snack options, etc. Understand that changing your diet for the better does not happen overnight. It has taken me a good decade to significantly reduce intake of chips and pop – it didn’t happen overnight!

Pitfall #4: Getting a long-term gym membership
While I fully endorse the use of a fitness facility to be physically active, the key error people make here is committing to a gym with a long-term contract (mandatory at many establishments) when they have no idea whether they will like it. This works great for the gym owners – they get tons of money from people who end up never using the facility. The traffic in all gyms swells dramatically every January. By late February, the gym is back to normal and many who started in January have stopped coming (but continue to pay).

Solution: When you head over to your local gym demand that you pay on a per session, per week or per month basis – whatever they allow. Do your best to avoid signing up for a year contract. If in June you are still regularly using the gym – then consider a longer term commitment to save some money. More importantly, get over the notion that you need to go to a gym to get in better shape. You can get a perfectly good workout in your home or at the park. You just have to get creative. The stairs at your office or home are essentially a free gym – use them!

Pitfall #5: Falling for Miracle Weight Loss Cures
The whole reason behind the development of Obesity Panacea waaaaay back in 2008 was to help debunk many of the bogus weight loss products on the market. Judging by the regular spike in traffic from Google to our site early each year for search terms such as “Acai Berry”, “Slender Shaper”, “Air Climber” – too many people will end up buying some utterly useless product they were made to believe is the panacea for obesity.

Solution: Unfortunately, there currently exists no cure for obesity – only treatments. Anyone or any product that suggests otherwise is trying to rip you off: run away!

The best of luck to all of you in 2014.


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2 Responses to Top 5 New Year’s resolution pitfalls and how to avoid them

  1. Nikola says:

    Good article! :) I agree almost about everything you wrote except for the number two.
    I think it can be both ways. Some people get more disciplined and motivated if they’re thinking about goals, rather than behaviors. It happens to be so because behaviors can be rather unspecific. Being healthy does mean to eat healthy and exercise but it does not prevent you from eating some junk food and skipping workouts now and then, because you’re still “eating an apple a day”.
    But I do agree that sometimes focusing on behaviors can be a better option. Thinking only about your looks and losing weight can put you in a bad place emotionally. Over-focusing your body and wanting it to be “perfect” can lead to big dissatisfaction. Even after you’ve lost some weight and are looking better, you’re still dissatisfied because you’re not resembling image of perfection from your head.
    Using both of these approaches at different times is the best option, in my opinion. Once you start slacking or feel unmotivated, switch up the mindset.

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