Why you shouldn’t wait until the new year to make a change

Dec 17, 2019
Any new habit requires discipline. Source: Getty

It’s that time of the year when the usual burnout sets in and most of our thoughts turn to the Christmas break. Although Christmas should always be a time for rest, reflection and rejuvenation it often becomes a time for excessive partying and overeating.

Rather than heading towards the inevitable Christmas weight gain, the very common New Year’s Day hangover and the perennially failed New Year’s resolutions, why not make a few changes before the holiday season really sets in?

Decide what life habits you want to break and which ones are not working for you. Write down your life goals for the coming year, including the list of bad habits that you wish to change.

What’s stopping you from making these changes? Some people are comfort eaters, often sitting in front of the television consuming unnecessary food. Why not go for a walk instead?

When you change a bad habit that has occupied a significant amount of your time, whether it be excessive eating, drinking or smoking, it should be replaced with a better, healthier habit. For example, a patient of mine consumed around 20 schooners of beer per day, leading to a severe dilated cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease). However, this man made the decision to quit drinking and replaced this with an interest in Egyptology. All of the money he used to spend on alcohol was placed in a bank account. He had eventually saved up enough money to take him and his wife to Egypt where he had the trip of a lifetime.

Any new habit requires discipline. It usually takes a full month for this new habit to be trained and become a normal part of your life. It’s also very important to associate rewards with this new habit. For example, once I had destroyed my knee through too much sport, I needed to replace my very enjoyable soccer and squash games with a less rigorous form of exercise. I therefore started using an exercise bike 10 years ago but my reward was to watch an enjoyable TV series whilst exercising to associate pleasure with the habit rather than the boredom of the exercise bike for 45 minutes staring out the window.

A number of years ago I wrote a book, Diets Don’t Work. The reason diets don’t work is that you go on a diet in the same way as you go on a holiday. You always come back from the holiday. When you’ve created new, healthy habits, these need to stay with you for the rest of your life. You need to have a commitment to maintaining these habits as part of your new way of thinking.

Life is not about making the big decision to be healthy and happy, it’s about making 30 to 50 small decisions every day of your life. Decisions like, ‘I won’t eat that biscuit, I’ll walk up the stairs rather than take the escalator or I will not yell at that fool who just cut in front of me in the traffic’. These are split second decisions that can either take you towards good health and happiness or bad health and unhappiness. Why wait for the new year to make these decisions and resolutions? Why not start right now before the often bad habits of the Christmas break take over.

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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Have you set any resolutions for the year ahead?

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