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Tania Atkin on Why We Should Banish New Year’s Resolutions and Set Goals Instead


January 5, 2021

Resolutions are an all-or-nothing approach to stopping behaviours that have been labelled as “bad.” As such, they can be considered distorted, unhelpful ideas or thoughts. 

Goals, on the other hand, focus on mental clarity, planning, ambition and a desire to change. Goals require tapping into one’s unique potential and strengths. 

Instead of being so hard on yourself for not succeeding in your attempts to improve yourself in 2020, focus on your emotional and physical strengths that can carry you throughout 2021. Focus on what you CAN celebrate.

The reason why so many resolutions fail is that they are too rigid and are based on the process of removing only negative bad habits. Far too often, resolutions fail to follow scientifically proven, evidence-based steps for success. According to Amanda Reaume and Cynthia Park (2018), studies in neuroscience link goal setting and life experience as a sure way to turn a resolution into reality. 

Many people this time of year set unrealistic/unachievable goals out of desperation for self-improvement. In CBT-Fitness (CBT-FHC) and traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we evaluate a person’s readiness for a change and set S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Sensitive).

CBT-Fitness health coaching explores thoughts, feelings and behaviours collaboratively with every client we work with. With the use of Socratic Questioning (clarification questions) related to health and fitness, professionals can help clients clarify what they want to work on (a.k.a resolutions). CBT-Fitness health coaches implement specific rating scales and measurements to give their clients feedback and bring new awareness to the habits/behaviours, keeping them stuck.

With the use of self-monitoring activities, worksheets, journaling exercises, moods/stress scales, and activity tracking, CBT-Fitness health coaches bring attention to current biopsychosocial and emotional factors that may be currently affecting a client’s ability to follow through with their health and fitness goals. As noted by Engel (1977) thoughts, feelings and behaviours cannot be overlooked, because they influence how a person adapts to their lifestyle.

Let’s look at a typical example: If a client wants to lose weight and have more energy, we can measure weight loss with metrics, but we cannot measure energy. To measure “progress” we must have a client describe (in a thought record or energy scale) how much energy the client has when:

1) Playing with their children 

2) Climbing stairs 

3) Getting in a 10-minute workout

The idea is to set smart achievable goals and not to change lifestyle drastically.

To attain a goal, there needs to be a sense of mastery. Mastery can be promoted by implementing a written commitment/accountability contract or action plan with a therapist or coach. Frankly, you cannot rely on motivation. Motivation is fickle and it comes and goes, just like moods. 

Whatever the goal your client might have, ensure it is believable and authentic to them. CBT-Fitness health coaching looks at educating clients and equipping them with strategies that align with their lifestyle.

Take another example: wanting to lose 20 pounds may be a great long-term goal. CBT-Fitness health coaches use a six-step, goal-setting formula to break long-term goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. Therefore, it may be easier for the client to lose five to seven pounds in four to six weeks while working on changing behaviours gradually and celebrating “mini victories” along the way.

To evaluate goal progress and success, we often use a holistic perspective and use follow-up questions throughout the transformation process.

Here are three follow-up questions:

1. When you lose X amount of weight – What will that do for you? Explain?

2. When you have more energy – Who will you share it with?

3. When you can run 2 km – What will you be able to do better in your life?

Teach clients to banish their resolutions and turn them into goals. Look at both the costs and benefits of achieving that goal, including the emotional significance and the level of desire needed for them to succeed.

Through respect-focused coaching, we teach clients that there is nothing wrong with asking for help and accountability when making long- or short-term changes. It helps the process along.

In 2021, awaken your own personal journey and move with the natural ebbs and flows of life, fueled with inspiration and practical skills. 

For the exact Six-Step CBT-Fitness Goal Setting Formula, please visit cbtmeetsfitness.com

– Tania Atkin (B.Sc., M.Sc., M.A. Coun. Psych & Nutrition, N.D.) is an Oakville, Ontario-based Integrative Health, Fitness, Nutrition and Resiliency Coach for Women and graduate of Yorkville University’s Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology program. A psychotherapist as well as a professional fitness athlete, Tania Atkin specializes in CBT-Fitness Health Coaching, holistic nutrition, fitness, female transformations, eating psychology, cognitive behavioural therapy, stress resilience training, anxiety reduction, chronic pain, body image, binge eating, MVA rehabilitation, gender identity, work-life balance, relationship building, and parenting issues. She’s currently working with the Founder of CBT Meets Fitness, Jill Bunny. For more information about Tania Atkin, go to her website at www.taniaatkin.com, visit her InstagramFacebook or Twitter pages, or email her at [email protected]