Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 29, 2012

Mental Wellness: Weight control

By Joseph Sanok, Local columnist

---- — Even before you swallowed that final piece of Christmas dessert, you knew that 2013 was inches away.

Why is it that we keep failing at our goals each year? Whether it is exercise, weight loss, healthier friendships or being a better parent, what is going wrong?

The problem is smaller than you think.

People will tell you that this is the time of year to "change your life." That is ridiculous. Really, you should be making subtle changes that you hardly notice. That is how habit change occurs.

Habits take over in little almost invisible ways. It is eating the fruits and vegetables in your lunch first or snacking on salty pistachios at your desk rather than chips. It is a five-minute walk. Habit change is a small step that you can sustain — not joining the newest lifestyle change.

The problem is shorter than you think

Most habits take four to six weeks to feel natural. Your goal should not be all of 2013, but instead get to March 1. What can you do every day between now and March 1? How will you know success? When we clearly define what our goal is and then also make it very easy to achieve, we will stick with it.

For example, I recently started eating a lower-glycemic diet to reduce likelihood of inflammation, cancer and diabetes. Rather than stop eating everything I loved, I have reduced those things. It's been really easy!

The answer is within you.

Remember when you got negative and positive consequences as a kid? Maybe it was a time out or a special gift for your behavior. We are not much different from our childhood selves.

What will be your positive consequence for achieving your daily goal? As you create habits rather than lifestyle change, you will see a natural progress towards craving healthier aspects of life.

Joseph R. Sanok is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City. Download his 2013 Goal Planner for free at