If you made a New Year's resolution, I'd bet the bank in Vegas that it was health related. Whether it was to lose weight, get fit or to simply eat healthier – those sorts of resolutions make up the lion's share of the New Year's resolution cup.
And here's another bet I'd take in Vegas: Odds are that at least periodically your best intentions and hopeful resolutions, however well-intentioned and however well crafted, will undoubtedly go awry. The thing is, real life has a bad habit of getting in all of our ways. Sometimes it's the wonderful stuff. Events including birthdays, vacations, religious celebrations, promotions, new courtships – all will serve us with heaping, and often resolution-interrupting, portions of happy distractions.
Sadly, sometimes it's the awful stuff – tragedies, layoffs, injuries and illnesses – that make our resolution to go to the gym or to cook from fresh whole ingredients more often not only seem but in many cases truly be inconsequential in comparison and hence, easily forgotten or purposefully abandoned.
As everyone knows only too well, nothing in life is a straight line. Good weeks and bad weeks are our shared realities, and even day-to-day ebbs and flows are normal. Yet, when it comes to healthful living behaviors, especially those undertaken in the name of weight management, ebbs frequently lead to "write-offs," which lead to dismay, which lead to discouragement, which for many ultimately lead to the abandonment of both hope and effort.
It doesn't have to be this way. Remember, we as a species are imperfect, and sometimes we even fall down for no good reason whatsoever – and make no mistake, we all fall down. Of course, every time you fall down, well, that's your opportunity to get back up. And make no mistake, overcoming failures, or better yet, painlessly overlooking them as a normal and shared human imperfection is required for any resolution in which the effort is not insignificant and its execution is not automatic.
Unfortunately, nowadays, healthful living is anything but effortless and automatic.
So the next time your healthful living resolution falls by the wayside, rather than admit defeat, cultivate your failure as an opportunity for change. Ask yourself, "What can I do right now that will help me to get back on track?" and do it. If you do look back, do so only as a means to troubleshoot measures to keep you on your rails the next time – and never as a means of self-flagellation for the crime of being part of the human race.
Who knows? The cultivation of failure may well be the most important New Year's resolution you still have time to make.
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Yoni Freedhoff, MD, is an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, where he's the founder and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute—dedicated to non-surgical weight management since 2004. Dr. Freedhoff sounds off daily on his award-winning blog, Weighty Matters, and you can follow him on Twitter @YoniFreedhoff. Dr. Freedhoff's latest book, The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work, will be published by Random House's Crown/Harmony in 2014.