A Healthy Approach to Making New Year’s Resolutions

Honestly, New Year’s resolutions don’t have a very good track record. It’s estimated that 80 percent of all New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside by the second week of February. We’ve all been there, right? Let’s focus on the positive aspects of making a New Year’s resolution.

Making a New Year’s resolution shows you have identified an aspect of your life you would like to improve. That’s a good thing. And while these resolutions are often about health, fitness and weight loss, they don’t have to be. What about finding a new job if you are not happy in your current one, expanding your friend group, quitting smoking, volunteering, having a more positive attitude, going back to school or, yes, eating healthier and exercising. Once you’ve identified an improvement you’d like to make, the start of a new year is a great time to begin.

Here are a few things that will help set you up for success.

  • Make a pros and cons list of the benefits of sticking to your resolution versus doing nothing. Looking at the pluses and minuses of NOT making a change is often a powerful motivator, especially when it comes to health-related resolutions.
  • Recognize that achieving your goal requires a long-term behavior change. If you approach these changes as something you will only do short term, you will likely not find sustained success.
  • Be specific regarding what you want to accomplish. You can have lofty goals, but they should be clear cut. Rather than “I want to lose weight,” your goal should be “I’d like to lose 25 pounds” or “I’d like to lose 5% of my body weight.”
  • Break it down into manageable steps. You can’t change everything at once, nor can you go from doing none of it to doing all of it overnight. If working out more is your resolution, start slow. Even if it’s 10 minutes three times a day, and you can build from there. Take baby steps.
  • Have a plan. Literally sit down and sketch out a plan—when, where and how will you start and progress. Plan it into your schedule. You must make time for your self-improvement and not feel guilt for doing so. As Benjamin Franklin said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
  • Keep it simple. This is supported by planning ahead, whether it is when and where to work out or creating a healthy weekly meal plan.
  • Build in rewards. According to a study in Harvard Business Review, small rewards can help foster self-motivation and serve as tool for behavioral change. Keep your rewards goal-appropriate, however. For example, if weight loss is your goal, perhaps a large slice of cheesecake is not the best reward for reaching your workout target.
  • Refrain from negative thoughts. We are often our own worst critics. Be fair to yourself when you have a setback. So quiet those inner voices that may be too critical.
  • Avoid having an all-or-nothing attitude as it is sure to have a negative impact on your sense of accomplishment. Be proud for what you have achieved thus far.
  • Be patient. True, long-lasting behavior change does not happen overnight. So, while you may have set a lofty goal, set a realistic time frame to achieve that goal.

Barb Walsh, R.D., is the community nutrition educator at the Tevis Center for Wellness.

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