As the new year approaches, many people make resolutions or pledges to be healthier. And while living a healthy life is a great way to lower your cancer risk, some experts believe that a resolution may not be the best way to do that.
“Most New Year's resolutions are doomed to failure because it takes a lot more than a resolution to change,” says Warren Holleman, director of MD Anderson’s Faculty Health & Well-Being Program. “It takes a self-understanding, skills, strategies and support.
Consider a resolution like losing weight. Losing weight is a complicated process that requires a comprehensive approach.
It starts not with a resolution but with self-understanding and honest reflection. If you want to lose weight you should ask yourself:
- Why do I want to lose weight?
- What are reasons that I might be ambivalent about losing weight?
- Why do I eat more food than I need?
- What are the reasons that I eat unhealthy food rather than healthier food?
- What positive purpose do comfort foods play in my life?
- Are there other ways I could get that comfort?
- What are my attitudes about exercise?
- What would I have to give up if I were to eat better and exercise more?
- Is it really worth it?
Making sure you’re ready to lose weight will help you avoid making a premature resolution to lose weight, which can lead to failure and shame.
It takes a lot more than a resolution to change. It takes a self-understanding, skills, strategies and support.
Tips for making a successful change
But losing weight takes more than motivation.
“Having the right skills are crucial,” Holleman says.
He recommends following these steps to tackle your resolution successfully.
1. Prepare a script.
You've got to know exactly what to do when you get tired in the mid-afternoon and your brain tells you that you need an ice cream cone. What do you say to your brain? Or what do you say to your friends when they invite you to happy hour during your exercise time? Or to your co-workers when they cut a birthday cake for your boss? It takes skill to navigate those situations.
“I have to write down what I'll say and how I'll say it, then memorize it, then rehearse it with my wife. She'll tell me if I need to change the script to stay strong in my decisions. Or, she’ll tell me if I need to hire an acting coach,”Holleman says.
2. Create a strategy.
Strategy means making a plan. Try bringing an apple to work each day for a snack so you go for that instead of those cookies in the break room. Or make a pot of healthy vegetable soup to bring for lunch instead of getting takeout.
3. Build social support.
Social support means talking to your friends and family and asking them for help.
“Try telling your friends to invite you on walks and hikes instead of happy hour,” Holleman says. “Or telling your family to stop buying cookies, potato chips and ice cream.”
Remember, it’s important to take New Year’s resolutions slow. Start with self-understanding, develop some skills, plot some strategies and recruit some social support.
“Before you know it, you'll start losing weight,” Holleman says. “And, in the process, you'll gain lots of good stuff. Like self-understanding, skills, social support, and all sorts of new ways of viewing things and doing things.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.