Every year I get asked about New Year's resolutions, and every year I give pretty much the same answer: they probably won't work. But this year I'm going to pre-empt the cursory, "Michelle, tell me, how do you stick to a New Year's resolution?" by explaining well in advance why your chances of doing so hover somewhere between slim and none.
Most New Year's resolutions are made by women when they're upside-down on the bed with their legs in the air, trying to get into a pair of jeans bought in the previous year's summer sales. Or by blokes when they finally admit to themselves that the ever-diminishing view of their willy is due to their waistline expanding, rather than their little friend contracting. There's the first problem. Decisions made in a highly emotive state are rarely good ones.
The next regards announcements that start with, "That's it! From now on ..." These invariably precede a spontaneous run around the block and the buying of a gym membership and 10 boot-camp passes online. And there's the problem. No forward planning.
“Within a day or two, your brain has had enough and will power has gone home" … Michelle Bridges. Photo: Ellis Parrinder
Then there's the issue of will power. This is where our brain, stifling a yawn and realising it's "that time of year again", conspires to undo us.
The part of our brain that associates an action in the present with a benefit in the future is called the prefrontal cortex, which is located at the front of our heads. This is will power HQ, and it serves to determine to what extent the desire to rock a pair of Diesels in three months' time will propel you to pass up a deep-fried Mars Bar or a second glass of sauvignon blanc.
The trouble is, the prefrontal cortex is a hungry little bugger and needs plenty of glucose to keep operating at peak performance. Which isn't a problem – except that you've just put yourself on a 1500-kilojoule-a-day diet composed mostly of goji berries, spirulina and walnuts. So, within a day or two, your brain has had enough and will power has gone home, plus you've got a filthy cold because your full-throttle launch into a fitness regime flattened out your immune system and you weren't taking in enough vitamins and minerals to prop it up again.
And there goes the New Year's resolution. Pop it into the drawer and drag it out next year. Or follow my tip ...
Take a full month to plan the change to a healthy lifestyle, covering all bases: nutrition, exercise and mindset. Then, and only then, start on your New Year's resolution.