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Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

While it is difficult to estimate what percentage of New Year’s resolutions fail, research indicates that only 10% of individuals who set resolutions in the New Year feel they succeeded a year later. For many people, feelings of failure begin to set in within weeks—in fact, a 2019 report from fitness tracker app Strava estimated that users would give up on fitness-related resolutions by January 19th. But why does this happen, and what can you do instead to make lasting changes to your habits? In this post, we’ll cover the common reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail and how to reframe your goals to make them more successful!

5 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

1. They are based on extrinsic motivation

Although evidence suggests that intrinsic motivation is more effective in supporting behavior change than extrinsic motivation, New Year’s resolutions are often based on extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is related to the external result of an activity or behavior (eg calories burned or the number on a scale), whereas intrinsic motivation is related to internal rewards (eg pleasure or a sense of empowerment).

Instead of setting a resolution to burn a certain number of calories per day or lose a certain number of pounds, focus your resolutions on engaging in specific activities that you know you enjoy, such as your Carve out time to attend a favorite workout class or go on a scheduled walk with a friend. Recognize, too, if certain activities bring you more pleasure or value after you walk, even if they don’t feel as enjoyable as while walking. It could be the endorphins from a run, the feeling of empowerment after lifting weights, or reduced hip pain after yoga. If your resolutions bring you joy, you are more likely to stick with them.

2. They are not specific enough

Many New Year’s resolutions fail because they are too vague and open-ended to be actionable. One of the most common resolutions we hear about is to eat healthier. It is a broad resolution that can be narrowed down to something more specific. For example, what does eating healthy mean to you? Perhaps you’ve been working specifically on eating more vegetables. If so, you can make the goal even narrower by aiming to have a serving of vegetables at lunch each day. From there, you can get more detailed by bulleting an action plan with steps you’ll take to achieve the goal, such as chopping raw vegetables every Sunday. For. Extra vegetables at dinner so you have leftovers to eat with lunch the next day.

Starting with a small, specific goal makes it more realistic to achieve, and you can always expand your goals later. Check out our post on setting practical nutrition goals for more ideas on how to get started.

3. They are overly restrictive

When setting goals with clients, we like to focus on things they can do add For health benefits rather than setting restrictive goals. This is called attitude-oriented goal setting, which focuses on positive behaviors. In contrast, avoidance-oriented goals focus on avoiding negative behaviors. A study published in 2020, in which more than 1,000 participants set New Year’s resolutions, found that after one year, those who set attitude-oriented goals were more likely to report that their resolutions were true to those goals. were more successful than those who set avoidance-oriented goals.

So, while you might be hearing about all the things you should avoid in the new year, focus on what you can add instead. See the infographic below for examples of non-restrictive resolutions that support performance. For more on why we don’t recommend starting a restrictive diet this January, check out our article on Abandoning the Diet Mindset for Performance.

4. You have an all or nothing mindset

All too often, people feel like they need to go all in and set rigid, all-or-nothing New Year’s resolutions. However, research shows that setting rigid goals doesn’t equate to higher levels of success and can be harmful to your mental health and overall well-being. One study found that people who met their New Year’s resolutions with flexibility rather than rigidity had higher levels of well-being, although unfortunately neither group had a high success rate with their resolutions.

Give yourself grace and flexibility with your New Year’s resolutions and remind yourself that change takes time. If life gets busy and you aren’t able to focus as much on your goals in February, that doesn’t mean you should give up completely — with a flexible approach, you can always refocus. and can pick up where you left off when you have time.

5. The Timing Is Not Right

Speaking of time, there’s no reason to feel like you have to set goals in January! One common reason why New Year’s resolutions fail is that it’s not the right time. If your new year is looking busy and you’re not ready to make any big changes, there’s no shame in delaying your goal until you can give it more focus and energy.

It’s also beneficial to check in with yourself about your goals frequently (ie, more than once per year!). Goals can change and it is okay if your time frame needs to change in order to achieve them. Habit change is hard, and any change you make is more likely to happen if you take the time to overcome any obstacles that come up on a regular basis.

Accountability for New Year’s Resolutions

If you’re feeling ready to make nutritional changes to support physical and mental performance and feel like you need support and accountability, let us know! You can apply for our 1-1 Nutrition Coaching Programs which are tailored to Your Built-in structure is needed through unlimited email support and regular follow-up sessions. HSAs and FSAs can be used for our coaching programs!
If 1-1 sessions aren’t for you, but you want weekly education and activities to inspire behavior change, sign up for Fitness Nutrition Foundations, our self-paced 8-week course. It offers incredible value at an extremely low cost. Learn more here and don’t hesitate to reach out with questions!

Why restrictive resolutions fail

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