Call me Scrooge, but I think New Year’s resolutions are a sham.

Trainers from local gym, District Crossfit gave students from Thurgood Marshall Academy a series of exercises to complete in Washington, D.C. on December 01, 2011. (Marvin Joseph/WASHINGTON POST)

Admit it: you made promises in January to eat right, exercise and finally lose some weight.

You probably joined a gym and purchased exercise gear. You may have actually dragged yourself to the gym a few times. Then “life” started exerting its inevitable muscle. You couldn’t find the time to go as much as you wanted to, so you stopped going.

You probably started eating salads in January, too. You may have even read a few nutrition labels.  Then life reminded you that it takes a great deal of time and trouble to plan your meals and to eat lunch at places that had healthy offerings, so you stopped trying.

I’d bet a figgy pudding that you weigh more today than you did in January. And I’d bet that same figgy pudding that you blame “life” and “time” for not being able to follow through on your resolution.

The truth is you can’t force people to go farther than they are ready to go. If you’re not emotionally ready to make long-term lifestyle changes, you won’t make them. If eating right, exercising and becoming healthier are not priorities in your life, you won’t confront yourself when you settle back into your routines and habits.

If the kids’ soccer games and an extra hour of sleep and your favorite television programs are all more important than exercising or preparing healthy meals, then you won’t lose weight.

The truth is you’re Scrooge. “Life” and “time” were not the bad guys. You simply were not ready to make the commitment it took to keep your promise to yourself. You were confronted with some challenges, you made excuses, you engaged in the blame game and now you sit – literally - on a year’s worth of atrophied glutes, ice cream and fried foods. You need to admit that. The Ghost of Resolutions Past demands it.

But before we cue the scary, sickle-carrying guy in the black Snuggly, know that, like old Scrooge, there’s hope for you yet. If you must make a resolution (Bah, humbug!), and the upcoming year is (finally!) going to be the year you keep it, it’s going to take a little work. 

Here are four tips that will help:

First, let go of this obsessive preoccupation with the first of January. The only thing the winter is good for is sleeping and eating. If you haven’t noticed, it’s freezing, dude. You and I both know it’ll take more than a chain-clanging ghost of Jacob Marley to get you exercising if it involves going outside. Save the promises of going to the gym until spring. Otherwise, there’s less than a snowball’s chance in hell you’ll keep that resolution.

Second, give your all-or-nothing thinking the heave ho. For example, instead of promising to totally give up sweets, make a commitment to finding alternatives to high-fat and high-calorie sweets, and eat those alternatives most of the time. Don’t deny yourself the things you crave. That’s a sure-fire way to send you spiraling into binge mode. Seek ways to lower your fat, sodium and cholesterol intake that allow you to wean yourself into healthy levels rather than trying to go cold turkey.

Third, seek help. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is hard. Even small changes, such as decreasing the amount of canned soda you drink, can be a big deal. Find a buddy or a group that has similar goals. The support you’ll receive when you get weak is invaluable.

Last, be realistic. If you haven’t exercised in years and you’re carrying around enough extra weight to make your own Tiny Tim, don’t promise to lose some ridiculous amount by bikini season. You’re dooming yourself to fail. Start small. Small changes, such as losing a pound per week, for instance, can produce big results. You’re also more likely to keep the weight off long-term if you lose it this way.

Want to know the real trick to keeping a New Year’s resolution? Make and start it NOW. There’s something empowering about being able to say, “I’ve already started,” when you’re having the resolution conversation around the holiday dinner table with family or at the company Christmas party with co-workers.

Granted, December is a very food-intensive month. We’ll all put down enough gingerbread, fruit cake, spiral-cut ham and other delicacies to feed a small nation. But if you can get a jump on your goal, you will enter into the New Year with a distinct psychological advantage. Sometimes knowing that you’re a little ahead of everyone else is all it takes to keep you going. Never underestimate the power of competition. Take advantage of anything that motivates you to keep your resolution.  

Unlike Scrooge, your transformation will not occur overnight. Losing weight takes effort and a long, hard look at the habits and practices that got us overweight in the first place. But if you take it slow and give yourself credit for every small victory, you ought to be able to keep the scary, sickle-carrying guy in the black Snuggly at bay for a long time.

Good luck. And God bless you, every one.

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