Bite-size resolutions at New Year’s have the best chance of success, experts advise

Experts, however, have warned against attempting drastic lifestyle changes as setting overly ambitious goals inevitably leads to failure.

Basel Shouly, who lost about 73kg since changing his lifestyle, says gradual changes are more sustainable for the long term. Victor Besa for The National.
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DUBAI // January 1 is traditionally the time of year to ditch annoying habits or make lifestyle changes.

Experts, however, warn against setting overly ambitious resolutions as they generally lead to failure.

Madan Pillutla, a professor in organisational behaviour at London Business School, said: “Ironically the New Year resolution leads to a worse outcome than if we had never made the resolution in the first place.

“Repeated failures pile up. Eventually we decide we should give up entirely this year and make a fresh start next year.”

Behavioural experts estimate that most New Year resolutions are adhered to for less than a week, whereas more than a quarter of resolutions are repeated year after year.

Some psychologists suggest scrapping resolutions altogether could make us happier, while making a few lifestyle tweaks could be more manageable over the long term.

Dr Marie Thompson, head of the psychology department at Medeor Downtown Medical Centre, said if people should set realistic goals at New Year.

“When people want to change, they often set the end goal without breaking it down into manageable steps,” said the Briton.

“If your goal is to be fit and healthy, you have to set mini goals along the way and reward yourself. After a month or two, that goal may seem too far away, so people often lose hope.”

Dr Thompson offered three tips to help stick to resolutions.

“To avoid failure, people should choose resolutions that are achievable. People should also be grateful for who they are, and it isn’t always necessary to reinvent yourself.

“A couple of tweaks here and there are sometimes all that is necessary to live a better live. Rewarding yourself along the way can help you stick with it.”

Dietary experts have also warned against taking on the latest fad diets as they could do more harm than good.

High-protein, liquid or zero-fat diets all claim to help shift the weight piled on over the festive season but radically changing dietary intake could wreak havoc on the digestive system and other bodily functions.

Dr Ganesh Bhat, a consultant gastroenterologist at Medeor 24x7 Hospital, Dubai, said omitting certain food groups could cause undernourishment.

“Liquid-only diets are low in protein which will hamper the building of cells and muscle regeneration. Rather than lifting one’s mood like detoxes promise, they result in mood swings, fatigue and irritability,” he said.

“It also affects the digestive system causing stomach pain, irritable-bowel syndrome and acidity and in the long run stomach ulcers.”

“A high protein diet can also restrict kidney function, doctors have said, as the body struggles to eliminating the large quantity of by-products of protein metabolism.”

Cutting out fat completely from a daily diet can also attract health problems, as it helps absorb vitamins.

Education consultant Basel Shouly works with young people to help them manage healthier lifestyles at weight loss camps.

In September 2013, Mr Shouly weighed 173 kilograms, but since changing his lifestyle by eating sensibly and taking regular exercise he has since dropped to about 100kg.

He also warned against unhealthy dieting and agreed gradual lifestyle changes are more sustainable for the long term.

“My weight loss was not a result of a specific diet, just changes to my routine,” said Mr Shouly, who keeps a food diary to monitor his calorie intake.

“During the holidays, when people lose that routine, it is easy to put on weight, so that could be why people make these New Year resolutions.

“Routine helps maintain a healthy weight. I cut out desserts and stopped buying sandwiches, sweets and soft drinks from gas stations and limited my bread intake.

“From Day 1, I said I am not going on a diet, just changing my routine with better food and exercise. I made a decision this was how I was going to live my life, and it has worked.”