The excess of Thanksgiving is the traditional kickoff to the season of immoderation. From that first bite of grandma’s turkey to the moment we pop the cork on the last bottle of New Year’s Eve champagne, the holiday season is stuffed with too much food, too many sweets, too much football and too much shopping.
Then the big ball drops and the calendars turn and millions of Americans guiltily resolve to stem their consumption and get back on the “right track.” We promise ourselves we’ll lose weight, quit smoking, and do a better job of achieving our goals in the coming year, but we can’t always do it on our own. With the odds stacked against our prospects of achieving these lofty (not to mention lengthy) goals, many of us seek out professional help.
Whereas online retailers and department stores cash in on the tendency toward holiday excess, a different brand of business looks forward to the post-season urge to purge.
“There is a big thrust, especially after all the holiday eating,” says Kara Shapiro, operating manager at Missoula Athletic Club. “A lot of people make a New Year’s resolution to start working out, stay with it, and lose some pounds. So we see a huge influx of people this time of year.”
Shapiro says January is the biggest month of the year for new memberships at the fitness club, which saw a jump from 77 new members in December 2003 to 104 new members in January 2004. New memberships dropped back to 60 by the next month. In December 2004, 40 new members signed up. That number climbed to 70 new memberships in January 2005.
Brenda Rice, manager at Missoula’s Gold’s Gym, has worked at health clubs around Missoula for 17 years. She confirms that the January fitness push is no myth, and while very few people admit to New Year’s resolutions when they walk into the club, resolutions are often the talk of the gym for the first few weeks of the year.
“Most of the comments come from existing members who notice that the gym starts to get more crowded this time of the year,” says Rice. “They say ‘it must be resolution time again,’ when they can see usage [of equipment] is up.”
Rice says that to ensure the gym can handle the rush and keep new and current members happy, she increases staffing at the front desk. The staff changes last at least 10 weeks, she says, but by the end of February or the beginning of March, new members’ commitments to their resolutions start to fall off.
“The time commitment is the hardest part for people,” Rice says. “Following through means changing eating habits and exercising more. Very few people are going to get really good results by just exercising. You also have to look at your diet and make adjustments. For some people that means very small adjustments, for others, it can be a major adjustment.”
But it’s not just physical workouts on the uptick in the post-holiday self-improvement binge. Hypnotherapy and acupuncture clinics, as well as martial arts and yoga studios, experience a New Year’s boost as well.
“We see people who are wanting to start fresh in the New Year,” says Raso Hultgren, chief instructor at Aikido of Missoula. “It’s a new time, people are starting new things and sometimes they’re more interested in looking at what sounds interesting to them, and give that a try.”
Meg Lattanzio, owner of Bikram’s Yoga College in Missoula, says her busy season begins in the fall when the days get shorter and colder, and peaks in January when people begin looking for a fresh start.
“For one thing, it’s the New Year and resolutions are still very popular,” says Lattanzio. “It’s also the middle of winter, and if you don’t ski or get out of town very often, there’s a need to start getting into some outlets that make people feel good physically.”
Cheryl Tanis of the Acupuncture Clinic of Montana says January is when the clinic receives most inquiries from people looking for a way to stop smoking or lose weight. January accounts for about 21 percent of the clinic’s new quit-smoking clients in 2005.
“Acupuncture helps manage the symptoms associated with quitting so you’re not running back to cigarettes,” says Jean Logan, a licensed acupuncturist and co-owner of the clinic. “The primary requirement is that they want to quit. If they truly want to, acupuncture can be very helpful; people need to have a way to manage their stress.”
“I always explain to them that it’s really up to them,” says Missoula hypnotherapist Mark King, of Hypnosis Clinic, who also says he sees a boost in business around the first of the year. “Even if they are deeply hypnotized, if they really don’t want to do it, it’s not going to work, period.”
Mary Place, a hypnotherapist with Hypnotherapy Creative Changes says hypnosis isn’t just about losing weight or quitting smoking; it offers a way to get “unstuck” from established routines.
“Sometimes people need a push start,” she says. “It’s not a magic bullet, but it is a useful tool in making positive changes in your life.”
According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40 to 50 percent of American adults make New Year’s resolutions. The research states that about 46 percent of resolvers will stick with it past six months, and people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t.
“There’s a lot of goal setting,” says Place. “The first of the year gets people thinking, ‘where do I want to be a year from now.’”
Almost anywhere, apparently, but where they are now.