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December 31, 2011 at 5:11 PMComments: 4 Faves: 0

Dr. VanWingen's 3 Tips for a Successful New Year's Resolution

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

I resolve to lose 12 pounds by March 1st. 

There, I said it! Those pounds need to come off for the sake of my health.

It's December 31st and time for resolutions and looking forward into the new year. This blog will examine New Year's resolutions and help us get the edge on successful implementation.

January - A Time of Change

January, the inaugural month of the year gets its name from the Roman god, Janus. 

Janus is distinguished by having two faces, one that looks forward and one that looks backward.  Roman calendars began with an image of Janus looking back on the previous year and forward into the coming year. 

In this same spirit around New Year's time, we look back on the notable times of the previous year and resolve to make things better in the year to come. 

Thus, the resolution. 

How to Make a Successful  New Year's Resolution

I usually have something in mind to better my life with the new year.  In the past my resolutions have varied from not stealing my co-workers pens to running a marathon.  I'll focus on the positive and say that I managed to run the marathon.  While most of us make resolutions, the success rate is dismal.  A recent study found that while 52% expressed confidence in achieving their resolution, only 12% were successful. 

Where do we fall short?

As a doctor, I regularly assess and assist people in lifestyle changes. Generally, those who are successful in these changes approach change in the same way, following these 5 steps:

The 5 Stages of a Successful Resolution

  1. Pre-contemplation: The beginning of deliberation regarding change. We have a vague idea that a change should occur, but no plan for how to make it happen. As a doctor, I may challenge patients and set them into the "pre-contemplative" phase when I see the need for them to make a lifestyle change.
  2. Contemplation: Behavior is monitored. Either alone or with the help of others, we begin to make plans for a change we hope to achieve. 
  3. Preparation:  A commitment is made.  After determining a strategy for change, we gather the necessary tools, set aside the necessary time and get ourselves in the necessary mind set for starting work on our goal.As a doctor, if a patients come to me in the "contemplative" or "preparation" phase, I may help them to create concrete plans are goals.
  4. Action: The active phase of change. The plans we have made for change are set into action and the struggle for self-improvement ensues.
  5. Maintenance:  The change is made. Our task now turns toward maintaining our success and preventing a revert. If I find patients in the "active" or "maintenance" phase, I am the encourager, reminding them of the positive aspects of their change.

Listed like this, change looks pretty simple, but as most of us has experienced, it is easier said than done. HOWEVER, by putting certain factors in place, one can improve their chances of success. While goals like "lose weight" and "get more exercise" are certainly good, their vagueness is often their downfall.

In fact, a study on change showed that women improved their chances by 10% when they made their goals public thus making them more accountable to their friends. Men improved their chances of success by 22% if they set CONCRETE goals.

For instance, vague goals such as "lose weight" or "get more exercise" are narrowed to more concrete, specific goals.  Women improved their chances by 10% when they made their goals public or got accountability from friends. To improve YOUR chances of achieving your resolution, make your goal one you can be accountable for and make it concrete:

Dr. VanWingen's 3 Tips for Resolution Success

Good, concrete goals should:

  1. Be Realistic. Don't set yourself up for failure before you even begin! While the most things that are worth having take considerable effort, consider what efforts are possible for you to make and in what time frame. A goal to lose 50 pound in a month, for example, is probably not achievable and definitely not healthy. A goal to lose 10 pounds every two months for the next year, while certainly challenging, CAN be done.
  2. Be Written Down. Writing goals down has been actually been proven to improve success rates. Put your written resolution in a place you can revisit it regularly, like on a dresser, bathroom mirror or the refrigerator.  In fact, post your resolution as a comment on this blog!
  3. Be Accountable. Enlist your friends to keep you in check. Joining an online support group website is a great way to get ideas and encouragement while you help others with similar goals.

Good luck with your resolution and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and successful year ahead.

More from Health Coach Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. Others Are Reading


  • Yes I did enjoy reading form a doctors point of veiw but have found committing myself to a diet n excersice very difficult since I gave up smoking after 27yrs n also over coming 3 different drug addictions over the last 13yrs yes from smoking heroin to using speed while smoking dope for 17yrs.Yes I'm proud I got myself out of that deadly corner I put myself in but food is my weekest link,iv never had a flat tummy or even thought yeah I'm sexy!im38 and my hope is fading into fad dieting or trying to save for lypo and tummy tuck which being a single mum seems like il never have money for that!!Well doc goodluck I'm sure your hard headed go lose those pounds me iv got 45kg just to get back before becoming a non smoker humm:((

  • Tammy - First of all, wow! To have overcome those addictions and to have maintained that success is really, REALLY awesome. If you can do that, I'd say that's proof positive that you have the will determination to achieve anything you set your mind to!

    However, losing weight is definitely difficult both physically and mentally - and anyone that says otherwise is just full of it! The key is persistence - outside of and despite your results (or seeming lack of results.) If you are burning more calories through exercise than you are taking in, you will eventually lose the fat! The tricky part is, that often you will initially gain weight as you build muscle mass which can be discouraging, but is actually a great thing because just having muscles helps boost your metabolism!

    My advice as some who has fluctuated up and down in weight is to look for the "little victories" along the way to your ultimate weight loss goal: things like increased energy in the day, better sleep at night, pants that fit a little loser than they used to. Also as a woman and as someone that understands what it is to feel self-conscious, I'd like to point out that despite all the pressure society puts on us to be barbie dolls, think of what actually draws you to someone. Maybe it's a little bit of their appearance, but if you think about it, what is REALLY sexy is confidence, smarts and a sense of humor. Hold your head high and be proud of the strong, survivor of a woman you are! :)

  • Tammy, congratulations on your success so far. You have overcome the grasp of the two most addicting substances. I think that Erin is spot on with her recommendations. Just like with anything you are trying to break, don't quit quitting. Celebrate overcoming the small hurdles and don't get discouraged if you take a step back. Consider joining a help group on for some comradery as you work toward your goal. It's not easy... don't let the promises of the fad diets fool you.

  • as for weight loss I heard writing down what you eat will open your eyes so you can actually see all of the calories you are putting in your mouth. This will surprise you and help you cut back on your intake.

    Personally I tried it one and I didn't like it - I eat too much junk food!

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