Many resolve, again, to lose weight

Sunday, January 2, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:35 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A new year. A clean slate. Millions of resolutions.

Each New Year’s Eve, millions of people make promises to themselves that they’ll be better this year. They decide to quit smoking, lose weight or stop procrastinating. The tradition dates back 4,000 years to the early Babylonians who celebrated their New Year for 11 days at the beginning of spring. It was the time of rebirth, renewal and resolutions.

The tradition continues today. Losing weight and getting in shape are among the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Kathy Vairo, a counselor with Meta-Health Weight Management, estimates that Meta-Health’s membership doubles after the new year. The average holiday weight gain, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, is five to seven pounds, according to Vairo.

“Let’s just say it’s our biggest time of the year,” she said. “It’s everybody’s New Year’s resolution to lose weight.”

Vairo said the majority of people who join the program after the New Year do stay with it.

“As long as they’re seeing results they’re going to stick with the program,” Vairo said.

Laura Wacker, the owner of Body Basics Gym, said she has also seen an increase in memberships.

“(People) just feel hyped up about making a resolution,” she said.

But not everyone who invests in a gym membership will stick it out. Often, she said, people “haven’t thought about what it might take to meet that commitment throughout the year.”

Wacker estimates that only about 60 percent of people who buy a gym membership after the New Year continue to use it regularly.

“What you see around the first of the year a lot of times are people who are fanatics,” said Jason Butts, general manager of Gold’s Gym.

According to Butts, fanatics go to the gym regularly and participate in what he calls a “shedding program,” to drop off some of the holiday weight. He said that often the people who start out the New Year as fanatics will drop down to a health maintenance program after a couple of months.

Another popular resolution is to quit smoking. Darin Wohlbold, the manager of Walgreens on Broadway, estimates a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in the sales of nicotine gums, patches and other similar products after the New Year.

“All of the smoking cessation product sales increase, especially the gum,” he said. “Funny thing is, cigarette sales don’t drop a lot.”

Wohlbold said sales of cessation aids generally level off by the end of January.

Laura King, a professor of psychological sciences at MU, has studied goal setting for 18 years.

“I do think that it’s a really good idea to write your goals down,” she said. “Think about your life in the future and imagine that you’ve accomplished everything you want. Lots of times people realize when they do this that they’re not really working toward what they really want.”

King advises setting smaller sub-goals to keep motivated.

“The sense of accomplishment is really important,” she said. “Never underestimate the importance of enjoying what you’re doing.

“As important as goals are, we don’t spend most of our time having completed them, but most of our time working on them. The best goals that human beings can seek are the ones that the process is one where they can seek enjoyment.”

While she does set goals for herself, King does not make New Year’s resolutions.

“There’s nothing magic about New Year’s Day,” she said. “One of the problems is that people set these grand plans, but by January fourth or fifth they’ve gone down the toilet.”

If people fall off their diet on the 10th, she said, they can get right back on it on the 11th.

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