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Resolutions For the Not-So-New Year

Getting tired of hearing about New Year's resolutions? Me, too.

But there's good reason to be writing about these annual pledges to improve ourselves on January 6 -- or June 6, for that matter.

As I note in today's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, many of us will already have broken those pledges already, not even a full week into the new year. So maybe it's time to re-evaluate the kinds of resolutions we make and focus on tiny, easy-to-achieve goals that might add up to big-time results.

Plus, as D.C. psychotherapist David Sternberg tells me, January 1 is an arbitrary time to make those resolutions in the first place. The best time to vow to make changes in your life, he says, is when you realize you're good and ready.

"You can make a resolution to change any time of the year," Sternberg says. "But at New Year's a lot of people come up with something that doesn't feel so authentic. They're just providing an answer to the question 'What's your resolution?'"

"But when it comes from you, when you really want to change, it increases the likelihood that you'll succeed," Sternberg notes. "If you hit rock bottom, that's going to be your trigger."

Whether you're resolving today or this summer, Sternberg advises, the key is to keep your goals simple and realistic -- and few in number. "If you want to change several things about yourself," he suggests, "start with one."

"It's a big mistake to tackle too many things at once," Sternberg says. "You don't do any of them well, and then you feel like a failure and regress." Limiting yourself to one change at a time ups the odds that you'll succeed, he adds.

As you plan your self-improvement campaign, Sternberg advises, "Think more about the process than the end goals. Instead of thinking you just want to lose weight, ask yourself 'What are the things I need to do to get there?'"

Finally, Sternberg suggests, don't view setbacks as cause to throw in the towel but rather as part of the process of working toward your goal. Overcoming a bump in the road -- whether it's a major pig-out or skipping the gym for a week -- and getting back on track can actually strengthen you to meet the next challenge, he says.

Did you make health-related resolutions this year? Or are you deferring them till later? What are your tips for ensuring that you'll actually achieve your goals? And check out Post reporter Shankar Vedantam's article in today's Health section (Preach What You Plan to Practice) about the surprising factor that psychologists say is most likely to make you stick with the changes you want to make.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  January 6, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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