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How to Stick to a Fitness Program

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Want 2006 to be the year when you finally follow through on a New Year's resolution to get fit? It is possible if you have a plan for regular exercise and a well-balanced diet. Research shows good nutrition and physical activity are key ingredients in weight loss, enhanced muscle tone, and overall health.

This is common knowledge. Yet why is it that in January, motivation is high to eat right and work out, but by February, resolves are less than robust? Do people no longer want to get fit? Have they found better ways to reach their goal?

Recognizing Roadblocks

There are several theories explaining why the best of New Year's resolutions sputter before they're realized.

Pauline Wallin, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Camp Hill, Penn., blames the "inner brat" in all of us for thwarting positive change. The inner brat is an internal voice that acts like a toddler. It doesn't like discomfort or inconvenience. It wants what it wants when it wants it.

"Our inner brat convinces us that we don't really have to exercise that day," explains Wallin. "When it doesn't want to exert itself, it will make excuses like 'It's too cold,' 'It's too dark,' 'I'm too tired,' or 'It's too late.'"

When people pay attention to their inner brat, they tend to negotiate with it. They may promise the little voice they will work out or eat right starting tomorrow. The next day, they may put off their fitness plan again, until they figure it's too late to start anything for the week. So they'll decide to begin their resolution next week, next month, or next year.

This series of putting off important goals can be discouraging. To fight the inner brat, refuse to work with it. "You don't negotiate with a little brat," says Wallin, who has authored Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-Defeating Behavior.

It would also help to get to know the inner brat's tactics and to find a way to regain control. Concentrate on the reason you are making changes in your life. This will divert your attention from the little voice's ranting.

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