Making healthy resolutions stick in 2012


January is quickly coming to an end, and with the approach of February, many people will see their New Year’s resolutions become a thing of the past. It’s a phenomenon seen all over: make a New Year’s resolution only to break it.

But if you’re one of those people falling off the proverbial resolution horse, you’re not alone. Dr. James Prochaska, a professor of psychology at URI and founder of Pro-Change Behavior Systems, said that breaking New Year’s resolution is a common thing.

The problem, he said, is the commitment to sudden and often drastic change. Psychologically, making a sharp adjustment in everyday habits is not something people handle well.

“The biggest problem with New Year’s resolutions is that you have to take action or do nothing,” he said. “Neither is a really good choice.”

If weight loss is your goal for New Year’s, pure exercise won’t get you there, says Robert Sirabo, owner of Planet Fitness on Miantonomo Drive.

“Exercising is great, but you have to watch what you eat, too,” he said. “It takes about three months to see the effects on your body. Some people quit after a few weeks, but you need to wait a few months.”

Sirabo said business at Planet Fitness is usually steady in January and through the winter but tends to taper around the summer. He urged people to stick to new exercise regimes and be patient with the changes in their body. He also recommends fitting the gym into your schedule at consistent times.

“Come into the gym after work or before you go to work,” said Sirabo. Going home before going to the gym can be a dissuading factor from venturing back out, especially in the cold winter months.

Some people have taken to losing weight together, counting on the inspiration of others to get them in shape. Shape Up RI, a statewide exercise and weight loss challenge, is now in its seventh year. The program, started by Dr. Rajiv Kumar while he was in Brown Medical School, is based upon peer support and teamwork. The result is a community-based weight loss system. In 2011, 12,892 people participated, and the average participant lost 7.8 pounds. Teams can register online at to participate. Having a support system for weight loss isn’t just a popular idea, it’s been proven affective.

Pochaska has teamed up with the Kent County YMCA to help ensure that more people who have made resolutions can reach their goals through individualized wellness plans and professional support.

The YMCA is offering a free wellness consultation and three free supervised workouts to new members who join this month. The program ensures that individuals get what they want out of their wellness regime and that it’s something they can gradually incorporate into their lifestyles.

“We’re looking to support their individual journey,” said Patricia Driscoll, membership director at the YMCA.

Driscoll said she, too, often sees people who are consistently working out in January fall to the wayside by mid-February. Driscoll said one of the unique features of the YMCA’s new program is that it offers realistic goals.

“You can’t lose 100 pounds by next week,” she said. “That’s not a realistic change that’s going to happen.”

An online assessment lets the YMCA know what the individual will need to do to make change occur. Once the assessment is completed, clients are matched with wellness consultants called “navigators” who guide them through their fitness journey.

Driscoll said the key to the program is taking small steps and to make sure the change in behavior, whether that be exercising more, eating less or both, is supported. That’s where the navigators come into play.

“We’re not going to say to you, ‘You have to work out all the time,’” she said. “We’re not prescriptive. It’s a collaborative, supportive approach.”

Pochaska said the format of the program is based on years of research on how people can make lasting changes in their lifestyles.

“We actually have done a long series of studies,” said Dr. Pochaska, who said there’s about 30 years of research supporting the methods they use in the program. “It’s been highly effective.”


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