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by Abigail Van Buren

Daughter Fearful of Father Who's Fallen Off the Wagon

DEAR ABBY: It has happened again! Every year I make my list of New Year's resolutions, and within two weeks I have broken my vow. My downfall is bingeing on sweets, so this year I resolved to swear off chocolate.

Last night I was feeling tired and depressed, and I "found" a large chocolate bar with almonds I had stashed at the back of one of the kitchen cupboards and ate the whole thing. I'm disgusted with myself.

Every year you print your list of New Year's resolutions. But now many people actually stick to them, and if so, now do they do it? Have you any tips? -- CHOCOHOLIC IN NORFOLK, VA.

DEAR CHOCOHOLIC: Please stop beating up on yourself. You're not the only person who has broken a New Year's resolution. The majority of people do it sooner or later.

I do have some suggestions for establishing healthier habit patterns, and I'm pleased to share them with you:

(1) Decide what you want to achieve, but be realistic in setting your goals.

(2) Get support from friends and family.

(3) If you're trying to eliminate a bad habit, then make a plan and substitute a good habit in its place.

(4) Understand that we can learn more from our mistakes than our successes. If you slip up, don't give up. Forgive yourself and then rededicate yourself.

(5) When you do well, don't take it for granted. Look in a mirror and praise yourself out loud. Affirmations provide strong reinforcement.

And last, but not least, remember that you're not a bad person for backsliding on a New Year's resolution. If people were perfect, there would be no need for a Dear Abby.