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How to beat the (impossible) odds and keep your New Year's resolutions

By Ray Grass, Contributor | Posted - Jan. 15, 2014 at 7:31 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY It all sounds like a great idea at the time — lose weight, eat better, find love and, oh yes, give up smoking.

The problem is that while the ideas are good, the brain very often chooses not to fully cooperate. According to a study by the University of Scranton, which appeared in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, fewer than 8 percent of those making New Year’s resolutions will ever reach their goals.

In most cases, these bad habits are hard to break, if not impossible. According to the study, health-related goals are typically a distant memory within the first 15 days of the new year. And of the eight percent who reach their goals, those in their 20s are nearly three times more likely (39 percent) than those over 50 (14 percent) to be successful.

Top 10 New Years resolutions for 2014
  • Lose Weight
  • Getting Organized
  • Spend Less, Save More
  • Enjoy Life to the Fullest
  • Staying Fit and Healthy
  • Learn Something Exciting
  • Quit Smoking
  • Help Others in Their Dreams
  • Fall in Love
  • Spend More Time with Family

Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology

But why?

One expert suggests that the brain is wired for certain behaviors and trying to make changes can be very difficult. Another suggests people set goals too high and become easily discouraged. Still another suggests people are looking for quick fixes and there are none.

Also, it took time to create the person and it will take more time to reinvent the individual, even if the desire is there.

According to the Scranton study, the top 10 resolutions for 2014 are: Lose weight; get organized; spend less and save more; enjoy life to the fullest; stay fit and healthy; learn something exciting; quit smoking; help others; fall in love; and spend more family time.

Among the hardest resolutions to meet, and typically among the first to go, are losing weight, and getting in shape.

There are things you can do to increase your odds of success, however.

Involve others in your fitness goal

Brent Cook, owner of The Gym at City Creek and a fitness expert who has designed workout programs in more than a dozen Utah gyms, said involving others in your resolution will help you succeed in your goals.


“Get a friend or relative to get involved," says Cook. "Having someone along when you exercise or plan a menu helps. Even better get a personal trainer. A trainer can put you on the right track to meet your goals. Also, making a commitment to be somewhere at a certain time strengthens resolve.’’

A personal trainer can also make sure an individual is doing the right exercises and eating the right foods.

“Put a personal trainer in the equation and that eight percent success rate suddenly jumps up to 65 to 75 percent," Cook said. "It is always more beneficial to get someone who understands the specific requirements of an individual."

Keep your weight loss goals realistic

Every year weight loss tops the list of resolutions. Too often, however, people set unrealistic goals. They may resolve to lose 20 pounds and after a month or two of no significant change they give up. A better goal would be to lose a pound a month or 10 pounds in 90 days.

Obesity is, in fact, a real concern in the United States these days. Statistics show one in three adult is rated obese.

The thing to remember is that workouts need not be painful or boring these days. The key is moderation in everything we do. It makes it much easier to live up to those resolutions if conditions are more enjoyable.

–Brent Cook, owner of The Gym at City Creek

And, short-term dieting doesn’t help. Lasting weight loss requires lifestyle changes, which include healthy food choices and regular physical activity.

It helps in that experts today have a much better understanding of foods and which foods add pounds and which foods don’t.

Take advantage of technology

Cook also points out that technology has made physical activity “much more beneficial and more enjoyable.’’

Fitness gyms, and even some home equipment, have integrated such things as TVs, monitors that take the user on visual trips, such as biking through the Alps or running a race, while working out, and even introduce aromatherapy into workouts.

“The thing to remember is that workouts need not be painful or boring these days," Cook said. "The key is moderation in everything we do. It makes it much easier to live up to those resolutions if conditions are more enjoyable.’’

Cook said you should also start slowly and work your way up to your fitness goal so you don't get burned out. It also helps to focus on one resolution at a time. And keep your eyes on the big picture — Make it a year-long process to meet your goals rather than look for short-term results. Ray Grass is a long time contributor to KSL and the Deseret News.

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