How many times have you seen the statement “New Year, New You!” plastered on billboards, brochures, flyers and across instagram? These ads and promotions are meant to sell you on a fitness, diet or lifestyle plan for the new year, so of course they capitalize on this catchy phrase.
As a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist, I often battle unrealistic goals with my patients, leading me to consider the real damage that statement can cause. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how unattainable it really is.
New Year, Stop Self-deprecating
What is so wrong with you that you want to give yourself up completely? Reaching for a “New You” every year is not only unrealistic, it’s unhealthy. Surely, there are at least one or two qualities you would like to keep? But New Year, Stop self-deprecating just doesn’t quite flow as well.
January is a challenging month. Dark mornings and dreary evenings coupled with an often sluggish reluctance to get back into a routine mean we may not be embodying our sunniest disposition. But we need to start the new year by being kind to ourselves. A good way of achieving this is by reflecting on the past year. More often than not, society is focused on the future, predicting trends, looking forward to new innovations and bracing ourselves for upcoming governmental and economic changes and challenges. On a personal level, vacation planning and goal setting seem to be the bread and butter of the new year.
But what about past achievements? The positive things accomplished, and the difficult lessons learned. Would it be wrong to pat ourselves on the back and say “Hey! Not bad.” before moving onto “What’s next?”. The answer here is no, and in fact, you’ll probably set yourself up for a more positive year by learning from the past one.
It is impossible to become a new you, ever. We fall for grandiose promises because we are results focused. Results drive us to try harder, but striving for the unattainable will lead to defeat and disappointment.
Slow and steady
Stop. Breathe. In fact, you can lower your blood pressure by 3 to 4 points just by taking in six deep breaths. There is a reason the tortoise and the hare is such a renowned and referenced fable. Slow and steady really does win the race, especially when that race is fitness and health. At Pulse Fit Rx, we work with cardiac patients and people who face barriers to fitness, and encouraging people to slow down and taking baby steps, while it may not sound ambitious, really works. We know we are more likely to succeed and reach our goals if we have a plan. A well thought out plan takes time.
Large goals might seem motivating at first but we often delay or never start a project because it simply seems too large of an endeavor to take on. It is helpful to break goals down into smaller timely, achievable ones to tackle. We are more likely to stick with a behavior change if we feel it is manageable.
Taking the time to think about what is realistic could be a game changer. Whatever it is we decide to do has to fit into our lives. If other aspects need to shift to make room, we need to see the true value in it. In other words, commit and buy in.
Keeping it real
Eating at least 5 servings of vegetables, exercising for 30 minutes a day, balancing cardio and weight training. These age old recommendations may not sound sexy, but they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
What if we all worked on establishing a baseline before taking on more? What if we took some time to praise ourselves for the colorful, delicious meal we prepared? That walk we took at lunch? The healthy snack we bought instead of our favourite confection?
What if we just took the time to be nice to ourselves? “New Year, slightly better you”.
Author: Ling Pai has had a long and successful career helping cardiac patients achieve meaningful gains in their health. Ling is currently the Director of Fitness at Pulse Fit Rx, a new Vancouver-based fitness centre dedicated to cardiac health and rehabilitation. Ling has spoken at conferences around North America, and has received praise for her practical knowledge on methods that work.