Sticking to your New Year’s resolutions

By Deborah Gerszberg, RD, CNSC, CDN
Clinical Nutritionist, Division of Digestive Diseases

First, a Happy and Healthy New Year to all! Did you make New Year’s resolutions this year to help ensure it is indeed a healthy year?  Here are a few suggestions to keep your health oriented resolutions.

Make sure your resolutions are specific

Rather than making weight loss your resolution, think about the specific steps you will take to get there.  It isn’t enough to say “lose 20 pounds this year” or “fit into my size 8 pants again.” Dig a little deeper:  set small, measurable goals that will help you achieve your broader goal.

For example “include 20 minutes of exercise 5 days a week” is a good start. Even better would be “wake up at 6:00 instead of 6:20 and walk for 20 minutes, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.”

If your goal is to eat healthier food and less junk food, maybe your specific resolutions could be “stop drinking soda and juice” and “replace half my rice or pasta with non-starchy vegetables” or “limit dessert to once a week.”

Make sure your resolutions are realistic

While you may be excited to turn over a new leaf this year, you don’t want to set yourself up for failure.

Setting too many resolutions may be overwhelming and make it easier for you to throw in the towel. It is better to set smaller, attainable goals. Once you achieve them, you can always set new goals.  Most people can successfully handle 2-3 changes at a time.

Make sure the goals you set are each realistic. If you currently don’t participate in any planned physical activity, setting your goal as “running for 30 minutes every day” may not be realistic. Instead “walking for 15 minutes 3 days a week” is achievable and an improvement from doing nothing. Once you master walking for 15 minutes 3 days a week, you can add in a day or an extra 5-10 minutes.

Use imagery to help you succeed

Learn from the pros! Olympic athletes are trained to envision themselves crossing the finish line and winning that gold medal. Imagine feeling healthier, being more active, fitting into your old jeans. How does it feel? Our thoughts have a great influence on our body, so start thinking positive and imagine yourself achieving your specific goals. The more you imagine it, the better!

Focus on your health not your waistline

Studies have shown that people who are trying to lose weight for their health are more successful than people who just want to look better. Losing weight (especially belly fat) is preventative against many pro-inflammatory conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Therefore all the specific goals you have set are really in place to help you be your healthiest self. Keep that in mind, and you may be more successful!

Don’t view your health as black and white

One of the largest pitfalls we make in facilitating lifestyle changes is seeing things in black and white.  In order to move from where you are now to a healthier place, you have to allow yourself to adjust, which takes time. Therefore, if you don’t meet your exercise goals, don’t give up on yourself just yet!  Did you make any improvements at all from where you started? Most often the answer will be yes!  Yes, you did! So, pat yourself on the back for the progress you have made, and keep moving forward. Just because you aren’t perfect, doesn’t mean you must give up.

If you do have a really off week – look at it with a bird’s eye view. What went wrong? Too little sleep? Too much stress? What changes can be made now to support yourself in achieving your goals? If you are struggling and need help, ask a family member, friend, or seek advice from an expert (such a registered dietitian for nutrition advice or a certified trainer for help with an exercise plan).

Use these suggestions to keep your resolutions going all year round and have a happy and a healthy New Year!