Getting Healthy and Fit In the New Year

Free Yourself from Recurring Obstacles That Keep You from Your Fitness Goals

December is the perfect time for assessing, evaluating and planning what we want to change about ourselves in the next year. But this is not what we usually do during this frenzied month of visiting, baking, shopping, wrapping and traveling that has become the holidays. Many of us stopped making New Year resolutions a long time ago because we don’t ever stick to them. But this year can be different.

Take a deep breath. Have you been yearning to lose a few extra pounds for years? Have you been faithfully paying for a gym membership hoping you’d use it more than once or twice a month? How long has your gym bag been sitting under your office desk collecting dust? How many months have you said, “Next week I’ll start walking in the mornings?”

We have good intentions but often lack follow through. It’s already the end of another year, and many of us are no closer to our desire to feel and look better, and unless we change course, we will start the cycle all over again.

“Cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right”, is how Oprah Winfrey characterizes her attitude towards the New Year.

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day,” is how Edith Lovejoy Pierce describes her approach to the New Year. Each of these women is positive and hopeful that the next year will be different.

What Do You Want?

Choose a goal and then focus on what life would be like if you achieved that goal. Be as specific as you can without getting negative. Visualize it. Meditate about it. For example, I want to lose weight. How would I feel when I lost weight? What would I look like? How would my life be different?

Adopt a Different View

Attitude is everything. Once you choose an objective, success will forever be illusive unless you first believe in the possibility that you can do it. You have to be willing to think differently in order to get a different result. One of my students whom I have known for years says she wants to lose weight. However, she has a list pages long of foods she does not eat. She uses the excuse of not liking so many foods as the reason she can’t lose weight. Perhaps another way of thinking could be, “I haven’t liked these foods in the past, but I will give them another try. There are so many ways of preparing them that I may surprise myself and find something I like.”


If it’s scientific support you need for motivation, research results about the benefits of moving and eating well are published almost weekly. Just last month yet another study about the evils of sitting were documented in the Washington Post. (Nov. 13, 2012). This study talked about how back pain isn’t caused so much by acute injury as by muscles that have become weak or imbalanced from disuse. Another study result published the same day showed that exercise improves life expectancy about 3.5 years even for those who are severely obese. This information should be a wake up call for those who think that by keeping their weight down without exercising will keep them healthy and pain-free.

Check Your Feelings

Sometimes what trips up our good intentions is not what we don’t do, but what we can’t stop doing. We are so particular about what we wear, how we work, what we eat, who we spend time with, but we don’t control what we think. We let our thoughts control us instead of choosing thoughts that will make us feel better and support our desire to create change.

Congratulate yourself for small concrete successes. If going to the gym three times a week is your goal, look at your going twice a week as a success and closer to your goal instead of berating yourself for not going three times.

Follow your feelings. Negative ones are your indicator that you are out of balance with your true desires. When you feel bad, pause, and figure out what would make you feel better.

Last year my 53-year-old client lost 25 pounds, after years of frustration at trying different diets unsuccessfully. After much hemming and hawing he started his program this time last year. “I was surprised that I could actually do it,” he said. He lost 10 lbs. between Christmas and New Years. “The most important thing I learned is that I shouldn’t have been surprised. I should have had more self confidence.”


Once we’ve decided on a goal and spent time imagining our life achieving that goal, then reflection is in order. Think about why we weren’t successful in years past and create ways to remedy the impediments to our success. Are you always making excuses for not eating well or not exercising? All true of course – not enough time, too tired, too much work, too much to do, had to take care of the kids, husband, parents (you fill in the blank).

A group of my clients were just like that. Good intentions about exercising and good excuses for not doing it. They decided to train together, motivate each other and make each other accountable. It’s not a perfect solution, but it has gotten them out of the house and into the gym.

Notice what triggers your overeating and notice what prevents you from exercising. The solution could be as simple as changing the time from after work to before work for exercising, or planning and packing healthy good-tasting snacks for work. It could be asking someone to be your walking buddy or your sounding board. Or you may have to go deeper to find the remedy.

Dr. Wanda Dyson, the owner of Change for Life Wellness and Aesthetics Center on Capitol Hill, told me about a patient who came to her frustrated about her inability to lose weight. This patient, who was studying for her PhD, was highly stressed and couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t lose weight. After examining her, Dr. Dyson said, “I knew from her food cravings, short attention span and her struggle to complete tasks that she most likely had an imbalance in her neurotransmitters. Until we controlled those imbalances, she would not be able to lose weight.”

This holiday season, spend some time in your head and your heart. Reflect on what is working and what is not. Realize that you can never get it wrong because no task is ever done. As my 94-year-old yoga teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch says, “There is nothing you can’t do.” And she is proof of that.

Pattie Cinelli has been writing her health/fitness column for almost two decades. She has been a personal trainer for 17 years and last year launched her MindBodyBalance For Weight Loss program. She can be reached at