The New Year’s Resolutions of Losing Weight and Becoming Physically Fit: Lots of Desire, Little Action and Fewer Strategies

Suggested Citation: Garko, M.G. (2014, January). The New Year’s resolutions of losing weight and becoming physically fit: Lots of desire, little action and fewer strategies. Health and Wellness Monthly. Retrieved (insert month, day, year), from www.letstalknutrition.com.

The New Year’s Resolutions of Losing Weight and Becoming Physically Fit:

Lots of Desire, Little Action and Fewer Strategies

 

Michael Garko, Ph.D.

Producer and Host of Let’s Talk Nutrition

Introduction

Predictably, each year millions of people make and fail to keep the New Year’s resolutions of losing weight and becoming physically fit. This is not breaking news. Most resolution-makers become resolution-breakers. Every year approximately 40%-45% of well-intentioned American adults make one or more New Year’s resolutions, the most popular of which pertain to health-related behaviors  such as losing weight, along with quitting smoking, eating healthier, getting fit, exercising more and reducing intake of alcohol, caffeine and drugs (see Miller & Marlatt, 1998 & Norcross et al., 2002). However, the failure rate on keeping New Year’s resolutions is abysmal, with some reports citing a failure rate as high as 80%-90%. 

 

Two recent surveys (i.e., Gallup Health and Healthcare Survey and Franklin Covey (FC) Organizational Products 2014 Survey), offer some insight into why losing weight and getting fit are associated with a high failure rate. The Gallup Health and Healthcare Survey (2014) suggests that the high failure rate of the goal of losing weight is caused in part by a discrepancy between desire and effort to slim down.[1] The FC Organizational Products 2014 Survey (Franklin Covey Organizational Products 2014 Survey, 2014) suggests that the inability of people to make and keep their New Year’s resolutions of losing weight/getting fit can in part be explained by a limited use of strategies. 

 

The January, 2014, edition of Health and Wellness Monthly takes a look at these two surveys and their findings in order to help illuminate why it is that the goals of losing weight and becoming physically fit are so infrequently achieved.

 

Gallup Health and Healthcare Survey For 2013

When it comes to losing weight, the odds are good that even those making this perennially favorite New Year’s resolution have made it before and probably somewhere deep down inside know that they will most likely not achieve it yet again, notwithstanding any degree of desire to the lose weight and keep it off. What is remarkable is not so much that the goal of losing weight (like most New Year’s resolutions) has a high failure rate but more that there seems to be a disconnect between the desire to shed the extra pounds and the necessary effort to achieve this goal.

 

This desire-action disconnect became apparent in Gallup’s recent annual Health and Healthcare survey (see Brown, 2013). Although the survey did not focus specifically on New Year’s resolutions, it provides a bit of insight into a possible, if only a partial explanation, as to why those making the resolution of losing weight so often fail to achieve it.

 

The Gallup Health and Healthcare survey (Brown, 2013) found that people possess the desire to lose weight but that desire fails to translate into getting them to actually doing anything to slim down. Fifty-one percent of the adult respondents reported that they wanted to lose weight. Yet, only 25% indicated that they were seriously making the necessary effort to accomplish their goal. Hence, there appears to be a real discrepancy between desire and doing relative to weight loss. According to Brown (2013), this discrepancy between desire and action has existed for a number of years. The following graph depicts the desire vs. doing discrepancy from 2003 to 2013:

Source: Brown (2013).

 

While the graph above shows that the 26% point discrepancy between those who desire to lose weight and those who are taking the requisite action is more narrow than the disparity reported in most of years since 2002, the percentage of people wanting to lose weight has declined by eight points since 2011 (Brown, 2013).

 

According to Gallup, the desire to lose weight has not increased with the self-reported increase in weight over the past 23 years and that Americans weight on average 15 pounds more now than they did in 1990, with the percentage of people wanting to losing weight being the same as it was back them (Brown, 2013).

 

In terms of gender, Gallup’s surveys have found historically that 57% of women and 46% of men report a desire to lose weight, 27% of women and 22% of men making an effort to shed the extra weight (Brown, 2013). Hence, women are more likely to desire to lose weight and do something about than men.

 

FC Organizational Products 2014 Survey

The annual FC Organizational Products 2014 Survey turned its attention to how people achieve their New Year’s resolutions. Specifically, it focused on 2013 and on how many made resolutions, which resolutions were primary in nature,  what people did to help them pursue their different goals, and which strategies were most helpful in achieving their primary goals.

 

Physical Fitness/Weight Loss and Improved Health Resolutions

Of the randomly selected U.S. respondents, aged 18-60, 55% set a resolution back in 2013. When asked about which resolution best described their primary New Year’s resolution in 2013, physical fitness/weight loss emerged as the top resolution, with 36% reporting it as their primary goal, with improving health as second most mentioned resolution with a considerable drop off at 18%. The graph below taken from the FC Organizational Products 2014 Survey shows the other reported resolutions (see Franklin Covey Organizational Products 2014 Survey, 2014, p. 4):

 

 

 

When asked about what helped them to pursue their physical fitness/weight loss resolution, 67% of the respondents said creating a workout plan and 51% indicated creating an eating plan. The other things which respondents said helped them are found in the graph taken from the FC Organizational Products 2014 Survey (see Franklin Covey Organizational Products 2014 Survey, 2014, p. 5):

 

 

When asked specifically about which strategy was most helpful in achieving their fitness/weight loss resolution, created a workout plan (29%) and created an eating plan (22%) were most frequently mentioned. The other strategies which respondents said helped them accomplish their fitness/weight loss goal are found in the graph taken from the FC Organizational Products 2014 Survey (see Franklin Covey Organizational Products 2014 Survey, 2014, p. 6):

 

 

 

With respect to the New Year’s resolution of improving health, the two most mentioned strategies were created an eating/diet plan (52%) and sought special assistance from a doctor or other medical specialist (41%), with a considerable drop off in the other mentioned strategies. The other strategies most mentioned to improve health are found in the graph below taken from the FC Organizational Products 2014 Survey (see Franklin Covey Organizational Products 2014 Survey, 2014, p. 7):

 

 


 

 

When asked which strategies were most helpful in pursuing the New Year’s resolution of improving health, created an eating/diet plan (27%) and met with doctor or other medical specialist (24%), with a drop off in the other strategies. The other strategies reported to be most helpful to improve health are found in the graph below taken from the FC Organizational Products 2014 Survey (see Franklin Covey Organizational Products 2014 Survey, 2014, p. 8):

 


 

 

Work/Career, Education and Travel Resolutions

Compared to physical fitness/weight loss and improved health resolutions, respondents mentioned using a far wider range of strategies to achieve their work/career, education and travel resolutions. As the graph below indicates, respondents employed numerous strategies to improve their work/career situation (see Franklin Covey Organizational Products 2014 Survey, 2014, p. 9):

 

 

 

 

 

The graphs below for education-, reading- and travel-related resolutions revealed a similar pattern of respondents using a wide range of strategies (see Franklin Covey Organizational Products 2014 Survey, 2014, pp. 13, 15 & ):

 


 

 

 

References

Brown, A. (2014). American’s desire to shed pounds outweighs effort. Retrieved November, 29, 2013 from http://www.gallup.com/poll/166082/americans-desire-shed-pounds-outweighs-effort.aspx.

 

Franklin Covey Organizational Products 2014 Survey (2014). Retrieved, December, 28, 2013, from http://www.slideshare.net/FCOPslideshare/2014-new-years-resolutions-survey-results-4.

 

Miller & Marlatt (1998). How to keep up with those New Year’s resolutions: Researchers find commitment is the secret of success. Retrieved December, 1997, from http://www.washington.edu/newsroom/news/1997archive/12-97archive/k122397html

Norcross, J.C., Mrykalo, M.S., & Blagys, M.D., (2002). Auld lang syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 4.

Suggested Citation: Garko, M.G. (2014, January). The New Year’s resolutions of losing weight and becoming physically fit: Lots of desire, little action and fewer strategies. Health and Wellness Monthly. Retrieved (insert month, day, year), from www.letstalknutrition.com.


[1] It is not being suggested that the high failure rate associated with weight loss is explained fully by a discrepancy between desire and doing and not using enough strategies, since overweight and obesity are caused by a complex constellation of individual and environmental factors.