Most people see the first week of January as the most crucial time for reaching personal health goals. It is the time when gyms become flooded with new, eager members and long-time pass-holders. Many of whom need to wipe the dust off of their membership cards before entry. The January rush phenomenon has less to do with the beginning of a new year and more to do with how we feel about ourselves after a few weeks of eating, drinking, and other forms of Holiday gluttony. New Year’s resolutions are fueled by negative thoughts and feelings built over several egg nogs and dinner sweats. In any event, when a small window of inspiration to take control of your health opens up, you’d better take it- and for many, the New Year acts as one of those few moments of personal health inspiration.
But how many of us stick to our ambitious resolution goals? Half of us? Ten percent? While overall data accuracy is always questionable, most experts would put the resolution success metric around 1%. If one thousand people take early new year action to control their health, roughly ten of those individuals will turn it into long-term success. Why is this? I have a theory. And while it is only a theory, I have seen it tested so many times with my own eyes that it may as well be a legitimate experiment.
What has changed?
What is different about your approach this year vs. last year and all previous New Years’ resolution attempts? Maybe a new gym, or a new supplement, or a new piece of workout equipment. In other words, jack-shit has changed. Meaningful shifts that result in success require significant internal changes. The gadgets you buy, the gyms you join, and the trends you follow are purely superficial actions. You will be excited at first, committed for a while, and then (like always) you will eventually fall off the wagon and quit. How do I know that a person has not made the essential shift in mindset that leads to greater chances of success? S/he waits until the New Year to take action.
Between Christmas and New Years’ Eve- the two events that make up ‘the holidays’ there is a gap week. This gap week takes place from December 27th to January 31st. The person who takes this week to ‘get ready’ for all their big health initiatives on January 2nd is full of shit. The thing that prevents you from taking charge this week is likely the same deep issue that will prevent you from succeeding this year. Perhaps you aren’t that serious about taking control of your health. You feel particularly fat, sick, and concerned during the holiday binge, and that state can result in feelings of motivation for change. But this state is fleeting. You will normalize in a week or so, and then you’ll go back to sitting in your ass and reverting to your destructive habits and behaviors. Somewhere in your mind, you know that your current motivations are superficial, so why start now. You’ve got Christmas cookies to eat! Or maybe you’re afraid. Taking control of your health is not a feat you believe you can take on. Your past is littered with self-sabotage and feelings of failure that derail your attempts to make a change. Starting now will only speed up the familiar cycle of failure, and we often push potentially painful experiences as far in the future as we can. Dentist appointments, cleaning the house, and getting that irregular heart palpitation looked at are all examples of the typical pain delay.
In any event, whatever excuse, justification, rationalization, or state of denial you are using to push your efforts into the New Year is rooted in the profound cognitive weakness that will ensure your ultimate failure.
We often become overwhelmed by the idea of taking control over an area of our life in which we feel little autonomy. We believe that we need to go from sitting on the couch and eating chips while cruising NetFlix to working our 3 hours per day and drinking kale shakes. The truth is that to begin shaping a better future for yourself, you need to adopt tiny changes that you can stick to today. Meaningful action could be as simple as committing to a daily walk, having a few fewer Holiday beverages, and spending less time justifying your day-to-day holiday gluttony. Can you watch 30 minutes less T.V. at night? Can you go to bed one hour earlier each night this week? Can you commit to making more of your meals each day? Any of those changes are the kind that begins to shake up your brain’s circuitry and set you down a path of success. Transformation doesn’t need to be complicated, extreme, or painful. It just needs to be consistent.
Right now, you are telling yourself all of the reasons why what I am explaining here isn’t true. You are justifying your reasons for delaying your fitness until January. Every single one of your bases is a lie. It is a lie that you’ve been telling yourself for decades, and it is the facade that has been keeping you on the hamster wheel that produces much emotional pain and little result. If your health matters to you, you will begin right now. Not tomorrow, not next week, not when every star in the universe aligns. Right now.
If you need some help getting started, I have a few tools and resources to offer you. First, both of my books, Heavy Brain and the new MetFlex-Rx Diet, are on Amazon for $1.00 until January 3rd. That’s right—a buck. You’re welcome. Secondly, I am running the January Project beginning January 3rd. It’s a free online community that I created to help people in my local city get in shape while in lockdown. If you are in London and the surrounding area, join this group. If you are outside of my local community, join this group. We will have monthly goals and rules, weekly themes, daily actions, and built-in accountability. If I can’t help you succeed within the group and with my books, you’re hopeless! I hope you will join me in some form and take a genuinely unique approach to your health this year- because if you keep trying different versions of the same old stuff- you’ll continue getting a different version of the same old health problems.