#236 Resolution Solutions

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Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors,
and let every new year find you a better person.

Benjamin Franklin

10 Ways to a New You

By Steve Edwards

Most of us make a resolution to somehow change ourselves for the better in the upcoming year. More often than not, this has to do with our health and leads to us making a resolution where we promise ourselves to get into better shape, improve our diet, or quit a habit that we think is hurting our health or well-being.

While this trend is great for us at Beachbody (or any health and fitness company), it's only a good thing if it's helpful to you. Unfortunately, the stats show that most of us won't see our resolutions through to 2008. Of course, you are an individual, not a stat. Whether or not you succeed is entirely up to you.

Our job is to make your path to health and fitness easier. So here are some tips to help you succeed on your New Year's makeover.

  1. Feel free to change your resolution. After all, it's yours. You made it and you can change it. While New Year's resolutions are a great idea in theory, we tend to make them so difficult that most fail. It's the first week of the year and research tells us that the majority of people have already cheated on their resolution or given up on it altogether.

    The main reason is difficulty. The average resolution aims high—really high. For example, let's look at the ubiquitous "I'm going to stop smoking." It's pretty easy to mess this one up and once you've cheated, at all, it's very easy to give up. In fact, a case can be made that many resolutions are made too difficult on purpose because it makes it so much easier to stop trying. Instead, attempt a more holistic approach. Maybe your resolution is to stop smoking but throw in "by the end of the year." Now you've got an entire year to work towards a goal.

  2. Make a plan. This is a big step, because given the above scenario, without a plan it's unlikely that you'll change anything in your lifestyle until the following December. Most of us can look at a calendar for the following year and come up with a decent idea about our schedule and what might work for us if we were to, say, going to schedule an event as part of a resolution. Taking a minute to look at the upcoming year can give you a realistic sense of what you want to attempt.

    Again, using quitting smoking as a goal, you might want to schedule some kind of healthy retreat where you can cleanse yourself, get healthy, etc., during the year. You'll need to know your schedule or, as we tend to do, you may find you've made something a goal that just happens to be the month you've got a lot of other obligations. Planning ahead will stack the odds in your favor. Then you can also plan the subsequent months leading up to it.

  3. Remember the big picture. This one has to do with the fact that most resolutions are about self-improvement (or helping someone or something else improve). Some of the main resolutions we make are to quit a bad habit, change the way we look or feel, or become more educated. All of these things require our mind and body to change. And while it's possible to do a 100% turnaround at the strike of midnight, it's not very likely. Your chances for success will improve drastically if you use your brain and make a plan that allows for failure, plays to your strengths, and moves towards your overall goal in a way that makes it harder for you to quit than to keep going.

    For example, again using our age-old quest, here's an idea that's focused on the big picture. Break the year into 12 months. For January, you might want to start with an exercise program because you know that the harder your body has to work physically the less it craves cigarettes. So your entire first month might not actually address your ultimate goal directly. Instead, it can focus on something that you know will help you down the line.

  4. Involve your family. If you've got a family, find a way to involve them in your quest. If not, you're probably going to have some trouble because they'll be pulling you in the opposite direction. If quitting smoking is your goal, chances are your family will be supportive and do anything you ask. So for this example let's use a family that consists of a dog, who isn't about to stop you from doing something you enjoy. Involving your dog is easy because, while he doesn't care whether or not you smoke, Fido would certainly rather you be out hiking with him. So something like "when I want a cigarette I'll take the dog for a walk" could be an effective element to your ultimate goal. And, as you well know, Fido will be very supportive on this one.

  5. Involve your bad habits. We've all got some bad habits. If you can embrace yours and somehow involve them you'll stand a much better chance for success. Let's say that you smoke most often when you're out drinking socially. Since you know you're vulnerable and will probably break down no matter what you tell yourself, find a roundabout way of allowing this.

    For example, in the beginning you might allow yourself to socially smoke a cigarette if you'd exercised for an hour that day. This can evolve over the year to be stricter, perhaps increasing the exercise intensity or time for the reward. In this instance, the harder you exercise the less your body will crave that cigarette. So even though you've set it up as a reward, you will likely find that you'll crave it less and less. The possibilities are nearly endless and you'll need to get creative; but by involving your bad habits you will virtually eliminate your excuses to quit progressing towards your goal.

  6. Involve your good habits. While this should fall in the "duh files" it's surprising how often people try and ignore their own history when they attempt to make themselves over. Get realistic and embrace the things you like to do. Certainly, you must have some things that you love to do that are good for you. Make sure they're a part of your plan.

    And even if they aren't currently good for you there's usually a way to change that. For example, if you love watching Lost, you can make this a positive by vowing to stretch in front of the TV, or exercise during the commercials. An hour-long network TV show has 20 minutes of commercials. You can get a lot done in 20 minutes.

  7. Find strength in numbers. Even the most independent of us need support from time to time. Unless your goal is completely off the radar there is a support group available, which a 30-second Internet search will validate. These support groups can be amazingly helpful and can fit any personality type. Even if you're very shy, just reading through what others say can help to motivate and keep you on track.

    For exercise and diet support, we offer the Message Boards, and the Team Beachbody Game™ (free to join, free to play!), where you'll find our virtual gym WOWY® (Work Out With You). By logging in and working out, you can win up to $300 or other cool prizes every day. (If you'd like to be eligible for winning the Grand Prize of $250,000 and get more diet and fitness support, join the Team Beachbody® Club—risk free for 30 days!)

  8. Get involved for a higher purpose. This doesn't mean God—although it can be God. A higher purpose can be your family, your friends, or any number of causes—essentially anything that helps the world around you become a better place. We often wallow in our bad habits due to a sense of uselessness and the world has a way of keeping us down. Getting involved in something beyond yourself can give you the sense that your life matters because, well, it does. Engagement can be very empowering. Not to mention fun.

  9. Schedule some alone time. This is important because we tend to allow the outside world to distract us. Often this is done for the most altruistic purposes, putting family, friends, or job above ourselves. But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and allowing control of your own life to slip away—even for a higher purpose—isn't the answer. If you're not healthy, happy, and content then it's going to be difficult for you to help others to be healthy, happy, and content. Even if it's just minutes a day, make some time for yourself to be alone where you are able to gather your thoughts and focus on what you want to happen in your future.

  10. Use a target goal that's qualitative, not quantitative. Our society loves numbers. Losing X amount of pounds, running X amount of miles, going X number of days without smoking are things we dangle out there as if they were some Holy Grail. In fact, these things matter very little, if at all, in what we really want, which is to improve our lives. Numbers can be great motivators. They can be nice as signposts on your road to progress. But they can also mislead you and should not be a part of your ultimate goal because you can't really control them. Shooting for unobtainable numbers is the primary way we sabotage our self-improvement goals. The adage "it's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game" isn't just about sports. Live your life well and, in the end, you'll be content, no matter where the numbers fall.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter.

Check out Steve's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Motivate Yourself to Quit Smoking

By Steve Edwards

We shouldn't smoke and we know it. No one needs to tell us how bad it is, we know that too. So why do so many of us who want to quit fail? The answer is motivation.

If you want something bad enough you will usually find a way to get it. Every day people quit smoking. What makes some able to and others not is motivation. Usually it comes from a sense of urgency: an illness, a scary report from your doctor, a loved one getting sick, etc. But you know it would be much better if you could stop today, as in right now. This could be the extra motivation you need.

Easiest time to quit

The easiest time to quit smoking is at the beginning of an exercise program. There are many reasons for this. First is that you're replacing one body-altering experience with another. Exercise causes a reactive bodily chemical response somewhat like smoking. Both are addicting but the difference is that one is good for you. The chemical reactions aren't the only reason it's easier. You depend on your body performance to enhance your exercise experience. Smoking diminishes your capability. When you are short of breath during your workout you begin to understand what smoking is doing to you. This makes it much easier to make a decision not to have a cigarette next time you're in the mood.

The trade-off you're looking at is replacing one high with another. You may love the high you get from smoking but it inhibits the high you get from exercise. When you know this, it's much easier to make the healthier swap, since it's getting you high, too.

Sound great? Sure! But it's not without a price; meaning that you need to motivate yourself to do the work in order to receive the high you'll get from exercise. Knowing that you'll feel better is a pretty good motivator. And that you'll look better, too, also helps. Then toss in the fact that you'll live longer, and in much better health, and the decision should be a piece o' cake.

Benefits of quitting

Still not enough for you? Then consider what happens to your body when you stop smoking, even for an amount of time that's less than it will take you to finish your workout. Also consider that all of these stats were done using only control groups of smokers and nonsmokers. Adding exercise speeds up the process.

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate drops.

  • 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

  • 1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

  • 1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.

  • 5 to 15 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.

  • 10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker's, as is the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas.

  • 15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker's.

U.S. Surgeon General's Report, 1988, pp. 39, 202; U.S. Surgeon General's Report, 1990, pp. 131, 148, 152, 155, 164,166,193,194,196,285-287, 304,323.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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