It’s that time of year. The time when we apply deprivation and restraint to our plates with the fervor of a dedicated monk. Because we have plans. We have goals. We have pants to fit into by summer. Generally this approach works anywhere from six hours to six weeks, at which point you have a torrid love affair with a piece of cheesecake, followed by a disastrous decline and the eventual sabotage of your commitment to a New Year’s resolution.

Health and change, however, do not come from a sudden surge of motivation and a cure from sugar addiction, as if January 1 just wiped out years of your personality traits, bad habits and lifestyle. Sustainable health and change come from, simply enough, change. And compassion. And commitment. Sometimes in the tiniest doses given at a frequent rate.

Change: Sometimes we decide we’re going to change who we are rather than how we act. Well, here’s a simple truth: If you LOVE cheesecake, you’re probably always going to love cheesecake. Denying that truth is what lands you elbows deep in a no-bake when you think no one is looking. But those damn pants know everything. Change comes in how we act, and this changes who we are. If we want the result of who we are to be changed, we must make small changes toward that end product. Maybe this means celebrating cheesecake once a month.

You aren’t going to become a gym rat (or runner, or yogi) overnight. But if you make some small changes to your schedule to accommodate that, it will eventually become a lifestyle.

Compassion:  Some days, you’re going to fail. That doesn’t make you or your plan a failure; it makes you human. When it happens, recognize what things contributed and take steps to mitigate it in the future. If you binged on cookies, maybe it is because you went too long between meals (a good way to throw self-control out the window). Keep some nuts in your desk/car/purse. Prep better snacks. Eat a big breakfast. And get over it. A day of losing focus doesn’t mean you throw it all away. Put your big kid pants on and get back to it the next day.

Commitment: I don’t know who gave us the idea that commitment is just a one-time thing. Everything I have ever done requires renewed commitment almost daily – whether it is sticking to a nutritional protocol or loving the same person for more than a week. It takes an effort to think about that commitment and the way your life supports it (or how changes in your life are perhaps not supporting it) and an assessment of your desire to remain committed. Sometimes we go to a party or a barbecue and forget we’re committed to health or weight loss or less beer. And that’s okay (see above). Just wake up the next morning and recommit.

Whatever it is you’re striving for this year – a first marathon, a goal of getting outside more, improved health – remember that big things can happen as a combination of many tiny things. Then do those tiny things and watch that big change unfold. //