During the holidays, advertisers bombarded us with cookie commercials and equally-sweet depictions of joyful get-togethers. Now, they sing a new, more austere tune as they incite us to look inward...and downward at expanding waistlines. Advertisements for weight-loss aids, gyms, and supposedly healthy foods are everywhere this time of year, enough to magnify any weight problem that might exist. Should your New Year's resolution to lighten up translate into a hefty outlay of money? How likely are you to keep your resolution, anyway?
The question may be, should you make a New Year's resolution at all? Reuters cites a study by Harris Interactive that finds that 66% of adults have ever made a New Year`s resolution but only 17% always or often keep them. One's success may be related to gender: among adults who have ever made a resolution,men are more likely than women (22% versus 14%) to always or often to stick to their resolve. Rather than excusing us ladies from making any needed changes, this may just mean that some goals are more achievable than others. The New York Times suggested last year that small, incremental changes are more easily achievable than broad desires. Otherwise it's very easy to fall into the 1/3 of people who don't even stick to their resolution until the end of January.
Another problem may be due to the misconception that a resolution needs to be negative or health related. While there's no two ways to express the desire to quit smoking, if you're looking for ways to increase your general well-being, "Join a book club" sounds much more enticing than "watch less TV." If you're feeling a void after the holidays, look for something you actually want to do (learn how to play an instrument, tackle a do-it-yourself project around the house, join a community theater). Even if you do need to lose some weight, getting up out of a passive stance on the couch to do anything at all can be a first step towards a more active lifestyle.
If now is the time to change your diet or fitness routine, make sure not to fall into the trap of throwing money at a problem in hopes that will solve it. Buying top-of-the-line athletic shoes or the fanciest exercise equipment won't make the pounds melt away faster. In fact, a big purchase can lead to a false sense of having done something while the purchase may stay in the box. Those whose wallets are leaner than their waistlines can take advantage of others' failed resolutions and buy used equipment on Craigslist or even find it for free on Freecycle. Walking or bicycling are great ways to add physical activity to your errands or your commute--rebuilt bicycles are widely available. Instead of investing in pricey meal replacements that may or may not meet your nutritional needs in the long run, try tackling a couple dietary habits at a time, like by bringing your lunch or switching one really bad problem food for a healthier indulgence. Starting off slow is a good way to make sure that one false step doesn't sabotage the whole effort.
Ultimately, the message for New Year's is the same as for the preceding holidays: doing anything just because you're supposed to isn't going to be rewarding in the long run. If you successfully avoided the lemming-like rush to the malls during the gift-giving season, don't unthinkingly join the droves at the sporting-goods store. Every day there is always room--and time--for improvement.