Did you make a New Year's resolution this year? Many people did, but - here's the bad news - despite their best effort, most will utterly fail. Why are New Year's resolutions so hard to keep? You can blame the False Hope Syndrome, the unrealistic expectation of self-change:
As many as 90 percent of attempts at change fail, yet New Year's resolvers are undeterred. In a 2002 report in the journal American Psychologist, University of Toronto researcher Janet Polivy and a colleague came up with a name for this "cycle of failure and renewed effort": the False Hope syndrome.
The False Hope syndrome may be particularly common among those who resolve to lose weight, Polivy said. And the chief cause is a combination of unrealistic goals and a misunderstanding of our own behavior.
For example, take the perenial New Year's resolution for millions, dieting. Instead of resolving to lose weight this year, perhaps the trick is to keep a food journal instead:
For example, dieters may chastise themselves for eating a few Oreos and feel sad about it. But this only increases their likelihood of emotional overeating. Jotting down a few notes about the sweet snack, however, allows you to be more realistic. By writing, "A couple of cookies isn’t so bad," you can prevent feelings of failure and the desire to give up, Mosunic said.
Caitlin Mason, an exercise and health researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said a food journal also reinforces what you’re doing right.
"It can help you see the positive changes you've made," Mason said, "and help you identify what triggers might be holding you back from your goals."