Each new year comes with hopes of fresh beginnings and, for many people, a list of resolutions to help make them happen. But committing yourself to making a change in your life can be easier said than done. Need proof? Try counting how many people enthusiastically show up at any of the thousands of gyms across the country at the start of January. Then see how many are still working out at the end of the month.
That’s why it’s so fascinating to hear stories from people who pick a resolution, put systems into place to stick with it and then actually achieve their goal of choice.
HuffPost chatted with five people who made resolutions at the start of 2019 and managed to accomplish them. They told us how they did it and offered some key takeaways for anyone who aspires to do the same by the end of 2020.
NOTE: Before starting any new health program, it’s always a good idea to discuss your plans with a doctor or medical professional.
Brandon Campbell lost weight
Atlanta-based designer Brandon Campbell’s resolution will sound familiar to many ― he wanted to lose 10 pounds.
“My wife and I had moved down south from Brooklyn a year beforehand, and my indulgence in southern comfort food (and craft beer) was showing,” he told HuffPost.
Campbell enlisted the help of a friend, and together they created a “buddy system” to help keep that resolution ― and several others that included everything from cutting back on drinking to taking a vacation ― on track.
“My friend Nalani and I wrote our resolutions down on cards, sealed them in envelopes marked with corresponding numbers, and sent them across the country to each other,” he said. “Many of the resolutions were written as goals with distinct milestones, so ‘quit drinking’ was written as ‘no drink for three months’ and another card for six months, and so on. Once a goal was achieved, we would let the other person know which envelope to open.”
Campbell noted that breaking down the achievements like this made sticking to them more of a priority ― and more enjoyable.
“There’s an added element of satisfaction when you get to share the achievement with someone in this way,” he said. “There is also a motivating element of accountability when trying to get someone else to open all of the envelopes by the end of the year. The other person doesn’t know what is in those cards, but how sad would it be if the months passed without a single envelope being opened? They’d just be sad, little, mysterious pipe dreams collecting dust on Nalani’s shelf.”
Campbell accomplished his primary resolution and then some, ultimately losing a total of 18 pounds by cutting out meat, eggs and dairy from his diet. He also achieved several other resolutions. It might sound daunting at first, but Campbell saw it as an opportunity to be creative. “Eating became more fun as I discovered more options I hadn’t considered before,” he said.
Kelly Grover finally quit smoking
Kelly Grover started smoking when she was 21 and last year, at 46, she was going through two packs a day. She finally decided enough was enough and chose the start of 2019 to stop. “It was definitely time to give up the bad habit,” she told HuffPost.
Grover had made this resolution before, “probably about five or six times” using several methods to try to quit — but she never managed to do it. This time, she enlisted the help of her doctor, who prescribed her Chantix. She also used an app to track her progress.
“Some of the hardest moments were in the beginning,” she said. “It wasn’t so much the smoking itself that I was missing, but the habit. If I’m stressed or upset, I was used to smoking. I didn’t have the ‘crutch’ anymore, so that was ― and still is ― hard sometimes.”
Despite her struggles, the accountability she experienced by using her app and the benefits she felt ― like breathing easier and sleeping better ― have kept her on track.
“As of today I am one year and seven days smoke free and have saved $5,573 ― although I wish I would have actually put that money aside in an account,” Grover said.
Natalie LaFrance Slack read a book a week
“My resolution is boring, all things considered,” Natalie LaFrance Slack said of her resolution to read one book a week in 2019. When she spoke with HuffPost she was nearly 50 weeks into her goal and already ahead of schedule. “It’s kept me challenged throughout the year,” she said.
Slack craved a return to reading for pleasure after a number of factors over the years understandably kept her from doing so ― first being in school, then having three children in three years. She said she not only wanted to get back to doing something she once loved, but also wanted to set a good example for her three boys. It wasn’t the first time she pledged to read more ― just the most effective and therefore successful metric.
“In the past I’d had a generalized plan to read more often,” she said. “This was the first year that I set a timeline to reach my goal, along with accountability practices, and intention to ensure that I truly would spend 2019 reading.” She even made a spreadsheet where she listed the titles and synopses of each book she finished.
“The hardest part of the resolution was being intentional with my time,” she said. “It’s easier to default to watching Netflix in the evening with my husband, or going out with friends, instead of pouring into a book at the end of a mentally or emotionally exhausting day. There was a period of time, over the summer months, when I found it easier to wake up at 4:45 a.m. and read because my evenings were often filled. I took two international trips during the year which restricted me from having the feeling of turning pages in a book (something I absolutely consider part of my reading delight and experience) and during those trips I used my phone to read, with less pleasure.”
Beyond experiencing the satisfaction of completing a book, Slack was delighted to find gratification in other unexpected ways throughout the year. “I took great joy in mailing completed books of meaning to people I cared for,” Slack said. “One highlight was ‘Once More We Saw Stars’ by Jayson Greene, which I completed shortly after hearing of a dear friend’s pregnancy loss. Sending that book, with a note of courage and remembrance, was a gift that meant more than a bottle of wine or platitude. Passing the books on to friends offered full circle moments of sharing education, ideas, creativity, imagination and joy throughout the year.”
Stephanie solved her stomach issues
Stephanie (who asked that her last name not be used) was sick of feeling sick. At 53, she had long suffered from gastrointestinal issues and told HuffPost she’d repeatedly been misdiagnosed with IBS.
In 2019, instead of continuing to make trips to her doctor in hopes of resolving her stomach issues with more medical intervention, she decided to take matters into her own hands. “I did a bunch of internet research which led to trying a series of elimination diets,” she told HuffPost
Stephanie tried cutting out a variety of different foods, often with no success.
“It took a lot of patience,” she said. “You have to wait several days before trying something new; if one food makes you sick, you have to wait until your body recovers. I actually thought it was a gluten sensitivity, but when I started adding ‘gluten-free’ items into my diet, I got sick again. That really threw me! I was ready to give up.”
Stephanie said she finally discovered which foods upset her stomach, and has since cut them out of her diet, to great effect. It takes work: She has to prepare her food in advance and be especially careful about what she eats. But, she says, fulfilling this resolution was well worth it.
“I feels zero symptoms of my previous condition and have a wonderful quality of life that I’ve never known before,” she said.
Victor Feraru worked to get healthy
Victor Feraru was preparing to take the bar exam in 2018 when he developed a cough, which grew considerably worse, and was followed by a slew of other symptoms. Eventually a trip to the hospital revealed that at just 37, Feraru, who was “healthy up until then,” was experiencing congestive heart failure.
“Doctors at Duke and Columbia University were preparing me for the very real possibility of needing a heart transplant, or dying, within a year,” he told HuffPost. “I didn’t plan on doing either. On Dec. 21, 2018, I underwent surgery to implant a defibrillator because I was at risk for sudden cardiac death with such a weakened heart. I decided then that if I survived into the new year, my resolution would be to not only live, but try to avoid needing a heart transplant. Oh, and I wanted to pass the bar.”
Achieving his monumental resolution required intense dedication including completely overhauling his diet and working and exercising through constant spells of dizziness and weakness. But Feraru didn’t stop ― not even when he learned that after four months his heart showed no signs of improvement.
“Within the year my heart did what it rarely does in situations such as mine ― it reverse remodeled, or began to shrink down to size and pump a lot better,” he said. Feraru’s doctors credited his progress to his incredible dedication to his health.
“In other words, I stuck to my resolution,” he said. “About the time I should have been dead, or needing the transplant, my heart was actually healing. My heart isn’t perfect, but I no longer need the transplant.”
While dealing with major side effects from the medication he was taking, Feraru also began studying for the D.C. bar. “It was brutal but I pushed through and passed it. I’m now waiting for certification to receive my license to practice law in Washington, D.C., and New York.”