It’s that time of year again when everything slows down and people take time to reflect on the closing year. Whether or not you call them New Year’s resolutions, most people aspire to do more for their health in the coming year. I believe New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap – and failure-by-February is frequently mentioned in the media. In studies it shows that people who make resolutions do report higher rates of success 6 months later than those who did not make resolutions. So it’s not New Year’s resolutions that are bad, rather it’s how people go about following through with them. Here are a few suggestions to help you succeed for getting it right in 2014!
Focus less on weight and make it more about developing healthy habits! We put too much weight on weight! Yes, weight loss is often the goal with New Year’s resolutions. But the reason this can backfire is weight is often a symptom of a bigger problem. Focusing on weight makes up more apt to choose extreme approaches to eating and exercise that are difficult to maintain when the weight loss slows or stops. Focus rather on the reasons for the weight – and make changes there – you will be better off. Stopped being active? Make goals to get more activity every week. Getting less sleep? Go to bed early for a week and see how you feel. Stopped making meals a priority? Focus on easy ways to plan healthy meals. When you attack the source of the problem the symptom goes away.
Instead of doing what you think you should do, make your diet and exercise plan enjoyable. When it comes to resolutions, people often choose what they feel they should do in terms of eating and exercise instead of what they enjoy. So if you hate spin class (or broccoli), drop them from your life. Focus on activities and healthy foods you enjoy – and build from there. Let’s face it: very few people continue to do things that they don’t enjoy.
Instead of vague goals like “eat healthfully” or “exercise more,” be specific. It’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t have specific goals. So instead of “eat healthfully,” make an initial plan to add a fruit or vegetable to your meal each week. And “exercise more” could start with 5-10 minutes of daily walking. When each goal is met and feels like a keeper, add on a new one. Keep a journal and watch your progress, or try an app. There are plenty to choose from. The key is to keep making changes to become healthier one step at a time!
Instead of letting the business of life get in the way, give your new behavior “goal clout:” No matter how motivated you are to make healthy changes, life stressors get in the way. When your behavioral goal has clout you feel more compelled to fit it in, even if it competes with other important items on our “to do” lists. When you replace a healthy behavior with something else “important” on a given day, the full return on the behavior (happiness, energy, focus, productivity) usually far outweighs the benefits from checking off one more item on our “to do” list.
Instead of giving up and saying you have no time, identify your true barrier. As you make your healthy changes, you will run into snags. Instead of giving up, look deeper for the true barrier. Maybe you no longer enjoy the form of physical activity you are doing or your work hours have changed, meaning meal preparation has to change too. Bottom line: Be ready to modify eating and exercise when things in your life change.
When making dietary changes, start small and set realistic goals. The path to a healthier lifestyle begins one little habit at a time. Make the commitment to healthy change and by this time next year, you’ll be in a much better place, with a whole new set of resolutions to take you to the next level!