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Promise to Self: Keep Promises to Self
01/15/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

Americans love to use the first day of the year to make promises to themselves:  to spend more time with family, to be less stressed, to eat better, and excercise. The New Year's resolution has become an annual ritual, despite the fact that they are often abandoned a few weeks later. So why are some people better than others at sticking to their resolutions? As Keith Shortall discovered, the answer may have to do with how they answer one key question.

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Promise to Self: Keep Promises to Self
Originally Aired: 1/15/2013 5:30 PM

January 2nd:  Buy new gym membership, ride stationary bike, lift weights.

January 4th:  Go to gym, ride stationary bike, lift weights.

January 15th:  Stop going to gym.

"I think one of the biggest things is that people don't really have a plan," says Mark Nutting, master trainer and fitness director at Saco Sport and Fitness.  Nutting says, too often, we don't ask oursevles the rights questions.

"What am I going to do specifically, I'm going to eat perfectly and I'm going to excercise.  Well, that's not specific. That can mean anything. And they go in and they flounder," Nutting says.

Resolutions also fail, says Bates College phychologist and lecturer Susan Langdon, because we too often avoid asking ourselves the most important question:  Why?

"Do we want good health? Why do we want that good health? Do we want fitness to look good and beautiful so we can snag a sexy someone?"

Mark Nutting: "Even if you say 'weight loss,' that doesn't tell you enough. Weight loss why? Because you're heavy? Okay. But why is that a concern? Is it a health issue or an asthetic issue? What's the real desire, the real motivator?"

Susan Langdon: "And what I do in my work is call that 'the touchstone': sort of, 'What's the essence of what it is that you want?'"

The other mistake, says Langdon, is that we try to do too much too fast, ignoring the tenets of the transtheoretical model of behavior change, "more affectionately known as 'the stages of change.'  And if you take the approach that it's about stages of change, think about what you can do and want you want to do, and proceed accordingly.

Mark Nutting: "And it should be about 'tweaking' what you're doing: 'Here's what I'm doing this week,' not, 'I'll do a little more than last time.' And the progression starts there. It's not all at once because that's a recipe for crash-and-burn."

Then, of course, there is the time-honored destroyer of the New Year's resolution: The Excuse. And in this modern era of genetic mapping, "there is constantly research coming up with a 'Here's the gene for fat loss.' 'Here's the gene for weight gain.' So we can't dismiss the genetic aspect. But we are not prisoners of our genes. We are in control ultimately achieve or don't achieve."

Susan Langdon: "And I would stress from a mental/pshycological side that part of it is excuses.  But part of it is thinking about some idealized version of what we think we should be."

Keith Shortall: "But we do have these measurements now - like BMI - that is now emerging in schools and in the workplace for insurance and wellness, etcetera."

Susan Langdon: "The way I approach this:  You look at the whole picutre. BMI is good - it's a good rough estimate. But it's not perfect. For some folks who do a lot of weight-lifting, it looks like their BMI is obese."

Keith Shortall: "That's my problem (laughs)."

Or perhaps I have just failed to embrace the transtheoretical model of behavior change. Either way, it's back to the gym - tomorrow.



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