A landmark study from the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology by Norcross et al sheds much light on this subject.
Of the 415 study participants in the study, 159 made New Year’s resolutions (were resolvers) and 256 did not make New Year’s resolutions (were non-resolvers). Ages of the subjects ranged from 18 to 85 years, with the average age being 43 years. Most of the participants were white (99%) and ¾ were women. Those that made New Years resolutions and those that didn’t were similar in terms of demographics, problem history and behavioral goals.
NUMBER ONE NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS – TO LOSE WEIGHT
The number one New Year’s resolution of this study conducted in 2002 was to lose weight and the fifth most important goal was to exercise and eat healthy.
In December 2012, the same researcher that conducted the 2002 Scranton study conducted a Harris poll of 3,036 adults and found that the New Year’s Resolutions that people make were the same as those ten years earlier, with “weight loss” still being first (21%), exercising being second (14%) and eating healthier, fifth (7%).
SUMMARY OF THE STUDY
1. Making change before New Years: The study found that those that started to eat better and exercise before New Years were actually 11 times more likely to be successful than those that started by making a New Year’s resolution.
2. The good news of New Year’s Resolutions: The good news, while limited, is that those that made New Year resolutions succeeded in the very short run; with the success rate being approximately 10x higher than the success rate of those desiring to change their behavior, but not actually making a resolution
3. The harsh reality of New Year’s Resolutions:
a. After only a week into the New Year ½ of those that started the New Year with a resolution to lose weight, eat healthy or get in shape had already given up!
b. By the end of January 83% percent of people that set New Year’s resolution to lose weight, exercise of eat healthier have already given up!!
Only 8% of people are actually successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions!
SO NOW WHAT?
If your New Year’s resolution isn’t enough to be successful in losing weight and eating healthier, how can you successfully make the dietary changes you desire?
Recent research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology from University College London found that it takes about 66 days (i.e. 2-3 months) to actually create a habit (Lally et al, 2010), so the professional support of a Registered Dietitian during this critical time can make all the difference .
A customized eating plan based on your own lifestyle and food preferences will not only enable you to achieve your weight loss goals gradually over the next few months, but as importantly, keep them off over the long term.
Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998–1009.
Norcross, JC et al, Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. J Clin Psychol. 2002 Apr;58(4):397-405
New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 – Changeology, Dr. John C. Norcross