On New Year’s Resolutions

Like most people in the world of health, fitness, longevity, and performance, I hate New Year's. I hate it.

Oh, I like the champagne, the tuxedos, the little black dresses (“LBDs”), and the fun of figuring out what in the world does “Auld Lang Syne” mean?

“For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne. 

We'll take a cup o' kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.”

You know what I hate: I hate RESOLUTIONS. A few years ago, I wrote an article with a challenge concerning New Year’s Resolutions:

“Not this year, BUT next year, on New Year’s Day, be ONE pound lighter than you are this year.”

I still agree that is the wisest advice I can give.

Our Society's #1 Resolution Revisited  

Here is the point: most of the planet is getting fatter and heavier by the day and by merely maintaining weight, or by my one pound loss challenge, you go are going to be ahead of the rest of us.

What does it take to lose that one pound? Well, a pound of fat on paper is 3500 calories. Dividing that by 365 days, you need to lose nine calories a day.

Two ideas come to mind for me immediately: 

  • There is a diet drink that has an ad that states it is only one calorie. Instead of drinking twenty of these a day, drink eleven.
  • Most people burn around 40 to 100 calories, depending on body weight, while sleeping. So, if you are heavier, you can accomplish this by sleeping just a few more minutes every day.


Or, you could do both: drink one less calorie drink AND enjoy a couple of extra minutes of sleep.

If you catch the sarcasm (literally “to tear flesh,” an appropriate if not frightening term for fat loss protocols), I am having a bit of fun.

You won’t be able to find a treadmill or exercise bike on the first days after New Year’s Day. Most of the people at the office will be drinking magic beverages with liver cleansing and pancreas sweeping ingredients.

And, it all ends the second week of January.

I tell people this: 150 reasonable workouts a year is far better than three really hard workouts on the first Monday, the first Wednesday, and the first Friday of January.

And, yes: we ALL know that.

Most People Need 'Tiny Habits'

Let me chart out a plan that works. Most people won’t do it as it is far too easy, simple and logical.

BJ Fogg, the Stanford psychologist, notes that most people need “Tiny Habits.” Nassim Taleb of “Black Swan” fame teaches us the very same basic principle with his “hockey stick” with intense life changing events on one extreme and small gentle changes on the other. 

To make it simple: the BEST fat loss client is the one with the most pain. A woman, recently divorced, discovers her best friend from high school was hooking up with her husband during the marriage. This “other woman” was a high school superstar and has bulked up since then. My client, the scorned woman, comes to me with a plan:

“I want to be in the best shape of my life at our reunion and show that ******* what he is missing and show that ****** up!”

Ah…perfect client. Her rage and pain will allow us to give her a strict diet and strict workout plan. She probably will do much more. Pain is a wonderful lever to push: “Oh, you only ate eleven eggs yesterday? I guess your ex was right.” (Okay, no…I would never say that, but WOW!!!) 

J. K. Rowling said it best: “Rock bottom was the foundation of my success.”

For the bulk of people, they don’t have that lever. Most people come to fitness professionals with an exciting introduction like:

“Well, I guess my doctor says I have bad health or whatever and maybe I should lose a hundred pounds or so but I think I’m just going to do whatever and…you know.”

This kind of thing stirs my heart!

The ex with the broken heart can handle strict diet and strict training. MOST people need “Tiny Habits.”

Month-By-Month Tiny Habits

Let me give you my BEST advice:

January: Two extra glasses of water a day.


Yep, that’s it. For the month of January,the client needs to drink, consciously, two glasses of water. I was an accountabilibuddy for friend and I called him every night at nine. The joke was this: “Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, HELLO?”

While the phone was ringing, he drank those two glasses. Every time you drink the water, give yourself a high five, celebrate, and win.

I know. No. I do: it’s too easy. But, here is the thing: most people need to drink more water. Obviously.

But, they also have to get into the habit of health. Make the first month’s new habit so simple that it is almost shrugged off.

Here is what I know: when I prepare for a weightlifitng contest, I always add to my daily “To Do” list: “Eat at least eight different veggies.” At every meal, I look for a different vegetable, I scout the soups and salads at restaurants, and always toss in extra greens into every recipe. 

Each time, I am preparing my mind to lift (or throw) in the upcoming competition. I am following one of my key coaching principles:

Be proactive, not reactive.

The more proactive I am when it comes nutrition for the twelve-week build up to the weightlifting meet, the less I have to worry about cutting weight in week twelve.

So, yes, it’s very easy to shrug this month off. Since our goal is simply one pound, we should be fine. 

What we are trying to do is something few people enjoy in fat loss and exercise: success.

We want to build on success. 

February: Find the parking space farthest from the office…and park there.

What is the coach’s job? It is to tell every single person in the business or facility this: “If you see my client, X, park ANYwhere but this space…let me know. Then, I will fire X as a client."

Again, not that big a deal. But, combining this with the extra few minutes of sleep a day and those one calorie drinks, we are well on our way to that one pound loss. 

For most people, it is establishing a conscious decision-making matrix. We all have those automatic parts of our life:

I don’t eat orange food, but if it is in a box, then placed in a bowl, then put in front of me watching football, I will consume a bowl of orange food. 

Automatically. No thinking.

The habit of health and fitness and longevity and performance begins by reprogramming the mind through positive habits. I had ONE person adopt this process and by the middle of February, he was already making obvious fat loss progress. He ended up losing one hundred pounds in one year, no medical intervention of any kind, and ran a half-marathon.

March: Walking shoes next to the front door.


  • During week one, simply put on and take off the shoes daily.
  • During week two, walk outside to a designated spot within vision of the front door, touch it, and return home.
  • During week three, add one minute a day to the walk.
  • During week four, enjoy a daily walk.

Depending on where you live, before work or after work will be up to you.

Our New Daily Tiny Habits

I am not going to give you all twelve months as you can easily figure out where we are going. Ultimately, we want this as our daily habit:

  1. Respect the sleep ritual. Two hours before bed, take medicine and supplements. Make coffee for the morning. Craft tomorrow’s “To Do” list. If items can be done now, do them. Turn off the TV and the computer. Hot tub or bath, if possible. Read. Go to sleep in an absolutely pitch-black room with either white noise or silence.
  2. Wake up and be grateful for something (Thank you to Pat Flynn for reminding me of this)
  3. Two or three days a week, go to the gym and push, pull, hinge, squat, and loaded carry with appropriate reps, sets, and load.
  4. One day a week, do something fun and fast. Play. Laugh. Join a league or just get together with friends.
  5. As often as possible, walk.
  6. Eat protein and veggies at every meal and drink water. Strive not to drink calories, unless it is good whiskey. Don’t be afraid to skip meals.
  7. Read good books. Life, laugh, love.

Can YOU jump right into this seven part plan? Well, sure.

Except that most people literally canNOT add this many habits at once. I was at a party years ago and a woman came up to me. She had been told that I was on the Velocity Diet, six protein shakes a day and…that’s it. Nothing else. She had her right hand swigging a PBR and her left hand swinging a chicken leg. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of that leg.

“This diet,” she said, “that’s for me. I’m all about self-discipline. When I put my mind to something, I do it.”

She had obviously been keeping her mind off of her physique for a long time! (Meeee Ow! saucer of milk, table nine, please!)

I remember struggling with her saying that because I don’t have that level of self-discipline. It took every friend and family member to keep me on the V Diet. I called disabled American vets to walk me through “making it through the night.”

And, this brings me back to New Year's. Resolutions will number in the dozens, including a new diet and training program. And, nearly every single person will fail on their resolutions.

You can’t just put your “mind to it.” You have to actively plot and plan a course…step by step. Like John Powell, former world record holder in the discus, taught me: “Yard by yard, it’s hard. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch.”

So, NEXT year: be one pound lighter. 

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About The Author

Dan John has spent his life with one foot in the world of lifting and throwing, and the other foot in academia. An All-American discus thrower, Dan has also competed at the highest levels of Olympic lifting, Highland Games and the Weight Pentathlon, an event in which he holds the American record.