Resolution Next Year

EMILY GARSIDE walked through the doors of her local gym on the 2nd of January, and heard the slim blonde receptionist turn to her colleague and say: ‘Give it two weeks before they all give up’.

blonde fat gym New Year science

On the second of January I found myself walking Bridget Jones style through the doors of my local gym. As I entered this alien environment I heard an annoyingly slim blonde receptionist turn to her colleague and say: “Give it two weeks before they all give up.” Confused by her comment I entered the packed gym and realised what she meant – the place was full of what was evidently 2011’s crop of resolute newbies.

According to a study conducted in 2007 by psychologist Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire, 78% of people interviewed failed to keep their New Year’s Resolutions. The reason for this, Wiseman suggests, is that those who failed had relied on willpower alone. As any dieter knows, you can’t just stick a picture of Cheryl Cole on your fridge and hope for the best; upping the incentive just isn’t enough. Making goals more attractive doesn’t make it easier to lose weight; if it did, the minute we gained more than we liked we’d all just bounce back to peak again. It’s got to be the method of achieving goals that affects whether or not you make it. Two weeks on, as I sit here munching on a Thornton’s chocolate brownie, it seems I have fulfilled the blonde gym bunny’s prophecy and fallen by the wayside- so what’s the strategy?

According to this study, the quarter who actually kept their resolutions did so by breaking their goals down into smaller attainable steps, which when achieved brought regular emotional rewards. These are the women who aim to lose a pound a week instead of the ones doing naked acrobatics on the morning scales to prove their having miraculously lost half a stone. “Many of the most successful techniques involve making a plan and helping yourself stick to it,” says Wiseman. He also remarked that if resolutions are made drunkenly or on the spur of the moment they are doomed from a lack of genuine motivation. But most importantly, such resolutions, he suggests, are psychologically harmful as “failing to achieve your ambitions can rob people of a sense of self control.” Every high bar that you don’t make it over, makes you believe you’ll make the next one a little less, and that’s when you start allowing yourself to just pack it all in.

Does the evidence mean that I should completely abandon my optimistic forecasts for 2011 being the year of rock hard bum and tum? Not necessarily, but it does mean that I should anticipate my Baywatch promenade to come in September not February. So, next year, I’m going to give up setting myself unattainable goals for good, and make a feasible step-by-step plan for every one of my personal projects. Starting the first of January.