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So your new year resolution failed – now what?

January is over.  You’ve had over a month to work on that New Year Resolution.  How’s it been going?  If you’re like over 90% of the population, probably not as well as you’d hoped.  Under one in ten people make a permanent success of their resolutions, so if you’re still on track well done, but if you’re not at least comfort yourself that you’re part of a big majority!

But if you are struggling, or if your good intentions have already crumbled, don’t despair.  There are reasons why so many New Year Resolutions fail:

January is a miserable month anyway – the festivities are over, the house looks bare after the decorations have been taken down, and it’s cold and dark.  When you start restricting the things you enjoy you’re making a miserable time of year even harder

Many resolutions are overly ambitious, particularly where weight loss targets, healthy eating plans and exercise sessions per week are concerned.  Yes, it would be great to have lost half a stone by February 1st, to get to the gym four times a week, or to eat no junk ever again, but in reality you’ve got to have a life.  Ask people why they failed to stick to their resolutions and often they’ll say, “Life got in the way”

People often make the same old resolutions and embark on the same old course of action every year – joining slimming clubs is a prime example of this.  Do you tell yourself that this year it will be different, and this time you’ll find the willpower you’ve never found before to stick with the same old plan?  In fact if a plan hasn’t worked for you the first time around, it’s not likely to work for you this time around

So what do you need to do to get back on track and give yourself another chance of success?

Firstly, stop beating yourself up.  Being hard on yourself won’t get you back on track, and blaming yourself will only make you less likely to succeed next time around.  You can do this!

Tell yourself that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.  Learn from your experience.  Take a long, hard look at your resolution, your approach and what you most struggled with.  So for instance, if you said you were going to go running four times a week, but you didn’t go out because it was cold and wet, what can you learn from that?  Not that you have no motivation, but that you simply don’t like cold, wet weather; or perhaps you just didn’t have any warm or waterproof running clothes.  If you resolved to detox during January, but found it impossible to sit with your friends in a pub and drink mineral water all night, what does that tell you?  Not that you have no willpower but that a 100% perfect detox regime is impractical for anyone who enjoys a healthy social life.

Give yourself some honest feedback – but about the plan, not you.  What you need to identify is why the plan didn’t work for you, not why you weren’t able to force yourself to stick to it.  So running isn’t the right type of exercise for someone who likes to be warm and dry, dramatically cutting calories to hit an ambitious weight loss target isn’t the right diet for a foodie, early morning exercise isn’t going to be easy for someone who loves to lie in bed hitting the snooze button multiple times before getting up.

Now, with your new insight into what is never going to work for you, put together a list of what would work for you.  For instance, you joined a really great gym but you’ve hardly visited because it’s proved too far to travel to after a hard day’s work, so you now know that convenience is a priority for you.  Armed with that knowledge, you might chose to join the less flashy but perfectly adequate local gym.   Another example might be that you’ve embarked on a diet plan which requires that you spending most of your Sundays shopping for and preparing meals for the week ahead.  If that’s not how you like to spend your Sundays, you need to rethink your approach, or simply make small, gradual changes which fit your lifestyle rather than following a regimented, inflexible plan.

Be realistic.  Gradual weight loss which results in a smaller dress size by Summer is far better than trying to drop a dress size by Easter and then failing due to feeling too deprived on an overly restrictive diet.

Get support and advice.  Support can come from your partner, family or friends.  Ask them to help make things easy for you, and to cheer you on.  And if you’re not sure how best to go about getting fit or what changes you need to make to your diet, ask an expert – book a few sessions with a personal trainer or nutritionist.  It will be a worthwhile investment and you’ll learn the most effective ways of achieving your goals.

Be kind to yourself.  One slip up does not have to equal complete failure.  Be on track 80-90% of the time and you’ll get where you want to be.  A couple of unhealthy meals in a week won’t completely undo all of the other healthy eating you’ve done, and if you’ve missed a workout, just get the next one in as soon as you can.  If you have a bad day, just make the next a good one, and you’ll be back on track.  You’ve only failed if you choose to give up totally.

Finally, remember this: permanent change is hard, and many people have several attempts at things before they finally succeed.  So take time to understand the reasons you’ve struggled so far, stop blaming yourself, make some changes and take your time.  Then get ready to congratulate yourself when you reach your target!