January 17 has come and gone, and so has the commitment to get healthy for the majority of Americans. According to an article in Newsweek, “Strava, a social network for athletes that tracks runs and bike rides looked at more than 108 million entries in the U.S. and found Thursday (January 17, emphasis mine) is when Americans are most likely to bail out on fitness resolutions.” Research shows that less than sixty percent of us are still committed to the resolution after six months.
What happens in just 17 days? Why do so many of us just quit? How do you beat the odds? I don’t have all of the answers, but I have some. These are simple habits I have developed (not quickly, I must say,) that have kept me focused and faithful to my wellness endeavors:
- Have a quiet time with God. He is our source of strength. God is our strongest help in overcoming temptation. We cannot resist temptation with our own power. We may be able to for a while, but eventually, our will power will run out. What happens next? Yep, we give in to the temptation; whether it be to overindulge in food or skip our workouts, it’s just not possible to sustain these commitments with our own power. That is why the connection time with God is so important. He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can God knows what level of temptation we are able to bear, and He has given us the resources we need to resist. And those resources are found in Him, through prayer, and through His Word. But it’s more than just spending a few minutes with God and reading a few scriptures in our Bible. We must train our ears and hearts to hear God’s voice and listen with intent to obey – quickly!
- Set a SMART goal. A smart goal is specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and timed. Set one goal and the strategies to accomplish that goal. In a 2007 study, British psychologist Richard Wiseman studied the success rate of 3,000 people in sticking to their resolutions but found only 12% were able to achieve their goal. After reviewing the data on the success rate of those who fulfilled their goals, he saw the wisdom of focusing on one goal at a time. Too many goals and changes at once will only set you up for an easy quit. The more specific the goal, the more likely you will be successful at achieving the goal. One goal I have set for this year is to have my quiet time with God six out of seven days a week. The six out of seven is not permission to skip my quiet time; it’s just a reality that some morning’s there will be interruptions in my life. It’s a reasonable goal, considering how my life is not always under my control. You can find detailed information on setting SMART goals in My Place for Fitness.
- Give yourself some grace. There will be days when you don’t do as well; days when it’s just not possible to exercise or you willing give in to the temptation to eat the things your body really does not need. Or, in my case, to eat more than my body needs. I don’t allow this set back to wreck me emotionally. I give myself some grace. There is a ton of research showing that it takes three months for a change to become routine. It won’t happen overnight, but it also won’t take years. An occasional sidestep from my commitments does not mean I need to quit. It means I need to receive the grace He has so lavishly bestowed upon us (Eph. 1:7) and do the next right thing, at my very next opportunity.
- Celebrate all the victories! Just this week, I asked someone to share her success story and the reply, “but I’m not at my goal yet; when I get there, then I will celebrate.” Every victory is worth celebrating. A week of saying no to extra portions; a week of consistently moving more; the day when you could finally get up off the floor! All of these are worthy of celebrating. This week I was able to get down on my hands and knees, put my knee down on the mat, and left my other leg. All of my weight was on my artificial knee. And my class cheered for me! That is a victory worth celebrating appropriately. It’s not permission to sabotage yourself, but a little encouragement goes a long way. Celebrate the success with others, especially if they reach their goals, too. God is at work, and He is worthy of our thanks. He is the One who accomplishes what we never thought could be accomplished. Clap your hands and hoot and holler over all the victories!
This could be the last year you make a New Years’ Resolution to lose weight. It is possible that this is your year for success if you stay focused on the One who begun this good work in you. He is faithful to complete it. We are done with the quitting!
Vicki Heath is the National Director of First Place for Health. Vicki is a certified fitness instructor for the American Council on Exercise, a certified life coach and Wellness Coordinator for her church in Edisto Beach, SC. Vicki is an author of the books Don’t Quit Get Fit, Wellness Journey of a Lifetime, and My First Place. She strives to bring others into the Kingdom through health and wellness.