– by Tania Tétrault Vrga, originally published here in the Winnipeg Free Press.

So many New Year’s resolutions relate to health and fitness.  Losing weight, quitting smoking and getting fit are some of the most popular resolutions year after year.  So if these resolutions were in any way successful, why is it that they keep showing up on the top of the list year after year?  The answer is that most resolutions are abandoned early in the year, and so we keep attempting to make the same changes over and over.

There are a few  extremely well motivated and well prepared people who can be successful at using this time of year to break old habits or to build new ones, but they are few and far between.  You know how it goes.  You vow to shed those last 10 pounds once and for all, you exercise and eat clean for a few weeks but by the time February rolls around, you’re back to your old habits.

One of the things I’ve learned working with people in the health and fitness industry is that it takes a truly powerful personal experience to incite any meaningful change.  I’ve met people who have done amazing things, lost hundreds of pounds, healed chronic pain, reversed disease, transformed their lives.  The one thing they seem to have in common is a critical moment of revelation and empowerment.

In that moment, they finally decided to do something about their health.  In that moment, nothing else matters but the certainty that things must change and the desire to be the source of that change.    That moment must have such powerful impact that it consumes you and invades every facet of your life.

We are creatures of habit and we are fearful of change.  This combination makes it extremely difficult to affect positive change without an authentic and evocative motivator.  For some, it’s a major life event, such as birth or a death, for others it’s a seemingly minor event such as a conversation with a friend, the sight of a photo, a memory, a smell.  It often involves hitting rock bottom and realizing that there is nowhere to go but up.

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that critical moments don’t conveniently happen on December 31st.   I’m not saying that you should give up on New Year’s resolutions altogether, but manage your expectations.  Choose a small, realistic, manageable goal for the New Year.    Getting into the best shape of your life, healing disease, breaking dependencies, these are not resolutions, they are life changers.   And when that critical moment comes, be ready to change your life.

In the meantime, if you really want some new year’s resolution ideas, here is a list of simple habits that can make a big difference.  Some of them are harder than others.  If you already eat well, you may need to choose something a bit more challenging.  Choose one and ask yourself:  How likely am I to do this every day for the next 14 days, on a scale of 1 to 10?  If the answer is anything less than an 8, choose something else.

  • Take fish oil & a multi every morning at breakfast
  • Drink at least 8 cups of water
  • Eat protein at each meal
  • Drink only water, coffee, tea (no honey or sweeteners)
  • Replace industrial seed oils with coconut oil or butter
  • Have meat & nuts for breakfast
  • Eat at least 4 one-cup servings of vegetables
  • Take a full 15 minutes to eat each meal
  • Replace grains with greens at each meal
  • Replace beans and legumes with animal protein at each meal
  • Replace desert with berries or nuts
  • Replace fruit with vegetables
  • Replace dairy with meat
  • Replace coffee with green tea
  • Add 1 hour per week total to your exercise routine
  • Every day at work do 5 minutes of burpees, squats, pushups, situps during your break
  • Go for a walk during your lunch break
  • Sleep at least 8 hours per night
  • Mediate or write in gratitude journal

You may not think that just one of these things will make a big change, but you might be surprised.  Just try it and see what happens.