New Year’s Resolutions: Punishment or Accomplishment?

~Written by Rose Colleran~

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? This is the quintessential time of year when people jump on the “got to get healthy” bandwagon. People make all kinds of unrealistic declarations often focused around weight loss and improving fitness. Unfortunately, the majority of these resolutions don’t last. I believe one of the many reasons for the lack of success people have with resolutions like this could be tied to a theory I read about in an article the other day.

How many times have you said or heard comments like the following:

“I’ve been so good all week. I deserve a treat.”


“I ate and drank all weekend. I need to go to the gym to work it off.”

Food is not a reward and exercise is not a punishment.

Now, read that again so it really sinks in.

If exercise is viewed as either punishment (1) that you tolerate long enough until you feel a reward of food is earned or (2) that you discipline yourself with following perceived transgressions of eating in a unhealthy manner, it’s not a surprise that it’s not an enjoyable experience that will last.

“This is a self-defeating cycle, in which two things that should both nurture and fuel our bodies — food and exercise — erode our self-esteem and put us down,” explains Michelle May, MD, founder of Am I Hungry? Mindful-Eating Programs.

“When people learn to get away from this learned mindset, and treat both food and exercise as ways to fuel and care for their bodies, they are more likely to find mind and body balance,” May says. “They are more likely to sustain healthy behaviors over the long term.

There are many benefits to exercise and nourishing your body with healthy foods beyond your physical appearance. Both can better your mood, boost your energy, improve your sleep, reduce stress and prevent cognitive decline, just to name a few.

Rather than viewing exercise and healthy eating as reward and punishment, this year make a resolution to transition to nourishment and accomplishment instead. You may find that your ability to keep that New Year’s pledge lasts a lot longer then in year’s past.


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