Resolutions require realistic commitment

Whether it is to save money, lose weight or quit smoking, many people “resolve” to change as the calendar flips to a new year. Often, it is easier said than accomplished.

To increase chances for success, Heather Aardema, a national board-certified health and wellness coach based in Colorado, recommends a long-term, realistic commitment.

“We go into resolutions completely unprepared and quickly begin to doubt ourselves,” Aardema said in a phone interview. “Many stay stuck in a chronic contemplation and wonder if the change is really worth it. Resolutions are good when they are done right. They’re powerful and even life-changing.”

One of the keys to doing resolutions right, Aardema said, is to create a step-by-step action plan that unfurls over a year.

“If you commit to a yearlong effort — six months at a minimum — the new behavior becomes so much easier to maintain,” she said. “Be real with yourself. Change is hard and it takes effort. It takes a lot of effort if we want to make a life-changing, positive, impact on our health and wellness.”

Another national expert Alok Trivedi, a chiropractor who studies human behavior and psychological performance, has a different view.

“Why wait until Jan. 1? Thinking you’re going to make a magical change come the New Year is delusional thinking, gives you more time to indulge in the bad behavior and digs a deeper hole,” Trivedi said. “If you’re really serious about making a change, start right now, this very second.”

Trivedi has authored a book, “Chasing Success,” and founded the Aligned Performance Institute based on Aligned Performance, a behavior modification system using neurology and psychology to maximize performance.

The experts do agree accomplishing any goal is rarely a straight line.

“Trying to accomplish any goal is a process filled with ups and downs. Most people enter the new year expecting things to just magically change without any effort or obstacles. The person who accomplishes his New Year’s resolutions is the person who overcame the most obstacles,” Trivedi said.

With her clients, Aardema helps them discover their “why” that often goes beyond dropping pounds or quitting smoking. One client had a favorite pair of shorts that she wanted to fit back into. But Aardema helped reveal a deeper meaning: The client wanted to be more “outdoorsy, hiking in nature and living life.”

Other times, clients come knowing their “why.” One 40-something man desired to lose weight so he could kayak with killer whales and satisfy a need for adventure and losing weight may also help him avoid death in his 50s like his own father.

The client had repeatedly failed (to lose weight), Aardema said.

“Then I realized neither he nor his wife had ever learned to cook and had a fear of the kitchen. So, I made them commit to at least six months of effort, and I traveled to them to teach them how to meal plan, grocery shop, food prep and cook so they could embrace a healthy lifestyle. The kitchen skills serve as a foundation for the couple’s future success and increased their confidence.”

Often such self-doubt dates to childhood, as it did for an accomplished, overweight medical professional.

“She has all the knowledge and knows a candy bar isn’t good for her. But she doesn’t feel worthy despite her brilliant success as a specialist. The root … is that she has very low self-esteem or self-worth and is filled with self-loathing instead of self-loving.”

Aardema learned relatives fat shamed her client as a young child and made unflattering comparisons of her to thinner friends.

“An event is neutral until a person’s thought processes attribute negative or positive feelings to the event. (The client’s parents) were very negative and she learned to go to the negative. The key is to say, ‘Yes, it happened,’ but to no longer allow it (negative thoughts and feelings) to dictate the present or the future. One way to disrupt these negative thought patterns is to fact-check the circumstances and see what other, more neutral explanations may apply. For instance, a relative’s taunting could be neutralized if they suffered from dementia, for example. By replacing negative thoughts with more neutral or positive thoughts, a client’s perspective can shift and reframe and this leads to more positive behaviors leading to more positive outcomes,” Aardema said. “It’s important to have healthy and honest communication with yourself, and with others.” When needed she refers clients to a mental health counselor to address underlying wounds.

Trivedi believes negative thoughts are valuable and provide insight into the “benefit” a person receives from smoking or over-eating. He said asking “why not” provides insight into what is a barrier to progress.

“All the self-help gurus, while well-intentioned, encourage you to only think positive thoughts,” he said. “This is unrealistic because you’re living in a fantasy world. Paying attention to your negative self-talk is extremely important because it’s trying to break you of your addiction to that fantasy. The key is to be optimistic about what you want while listening to the negative thoughts because it will keep you grounded in reality.”

“Take smoking,” he said, admitting he once smoked. “We all know it is bad for you. What I’ve found is that a smoker often internally feels a lot of internal emotional turmoil and guilt. They don’t feel worthy of living the life they want.”

Aardema also said feeling “unworthy” comes into play when it comes to making lasting change.

“We don’t believe we’re worthy of enduring the journey. We don’t do the emotional thought/mind work of shedding the old image to make space for the new. You have to let go of the past and practice self-compassion to embrace healthier behaviors that enable you to live more fully,” Aardema said.

Staff writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.


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