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With the Right Tactics, You Can Make Your
New Year's Resolutions Stick

By Lauren Beckham Falcone - Boston Herald

Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Kind of reminds you of your New Year's fitness and diet resolutions, doesn't it?

Year after year you vow to take off the pounds and take up some form of exercise, but each time, you fall off the wagon or realize you never even hitched up the team in the first place. Well, you're not alone.

"This place is pretty packed at about 6:30 on Monday evenings," said Amy Ezra, a personal trainer at the Sports Club/LA in Boston. "It's the craze, right now, but it will calm down, because unfortunately, people burn out."

While nearly one half of all Americans make New Year's resolutions — the most popular of which are losing weight, quitting smoking and starting an exercise program — about a third ditch the effort, and it usually happens right about now.

The problem is, the more you fail, the worse you feel. And the odds of trying again? About as good as you getting up tomorrow morning and running five miles.

"A lot of the time, people have an unrealistic approach to fitness," Ezra said. "They want to do too much too soon and see instant results. You need a realistic approach.

"I imagine it's the same way with dieting. People cut out all sweets or carbs for two days and they're back to the same old habits because they went for all or nothing."

And quitting reaps more damage than not fitting into those 36-waist Levis. It can actually take a whack at your ego.

"Studies show that when people fail at their resolutions, there is a drop in self-esteem," said Ronald G. Nathan, a New York psychologist. "I think two factors that are very important to success are good planning and confidence that you will succeed. A lot of people do neither of those."

So, if the decision to drop 20 pounds this year came right after polishing off a plate of nachos and swilling down a bottle of Crystal, odds are, you're still on the couch. But even those with the best-laid plans have problems.

"My boyfriend and I made the resolution to go to the gym," said Kristina Barry, 29, of Boston said recently. "We haven't even started yet."

Her excuses? "It's cold and it's dark," she said. "Maybe we'll try again in February."

Laurie Kirk, a strategy coach based in Plympton, said the keys to successful resolutions include four tactics: clarification of goals, support system, follow-through and simplification.

"People really need to write down what exactly they want from a New Year's resolution," she said. "The second thing is people need support, someone who will hold you accountable, not say, 'You didn't go to the gym? That's OK, everyone is busy.' The follow-through is knowing the consequences of not doing what you are supposed to do.

"There are two different kinds of pain: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. One is over quickly and the other lasts a long time."

As for simplification, Kirk said people shouldn't set out to change everything about their fitness habits.

"Focus on a few things," she said. "Then commit the time, money and energy to the things that mean most and try to stick to that."

For those who started working on their resolutions, but for some reason haven't hit the gym in a week or pigged out last night, you're at a crucial turning point, experts said.

"People have a real hard time getting back into their new routine," Ezra said. "A lot of them think if they miss a week, well, it's too late, forget it. I always congratulate people for coming in, because, really, that is the most difficult hurdle to get over."

Steve Carbone, a personal trainer at City Gym in Kenmore Square, said he deals with fixing both the mind and the body when it comes to unfulfilled New Year's resolutions.

"Generally, my approach is to convince people it's OK that they've failed before," he said. "So you didn't meet a goal. So what? Let's start over. This is a new beginning and we'll do it."

And if his clients trip up and take an unintended break from their resolution?

"I just try to tell them that they aren't alone," he said. "It happens to everyone. And we begin again."

Of course, we all wish we could take that magic pill that would transform us into happier, healthier human beings. Ezra said maybe people will be motivated by knowing that, yes, that magic pill does exist.

"It can help you lose weight, prevent disease, make you mentally sharp and feel better," she said. "It's called exercise."

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