How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Don’t want to talk about it, huh? While it’s great that so many people are excited about making healthy changes at the same time, resolution enthusiasm fades quickly. Old habits creep back in and most people give up on resolutions within a few weeks. But if you’re still ready to eat smart and move more for better health, nothing is stopping you from resetting your resolutions on February 1st. And you’ll be a little better prepared to make lasting changes with these tips.
Pay Attention to Patterns
Do you usually set a resolution every year only to see it fizzle out? Think about what didn’t work and adjust your approach this time around. A lot of people set goals that are too tough to achieve. Some people get frustrated by lack of progress. Some people don’t have a clear reason to change. Figure out what went wrong before and figure out how to work around it. If your goals are too big, break them into smaller steps. If you need to see progress, start tracking or setting mini-goals to achieve. Find the motivation and inspiration for making a change – feeling better, feeding your family nourishing meals, being around to play with grandkids, etc.
Pick the Perfect Plan
If moving more is your goal but you hate running, do you really think you should make a resolution to run a 5K? Or if you’re working on eating smarter but you don’t like lettuce, do you think eating a salad with dinner every day is the best strategy? If you don’t enjoy your new habits, they won’t stick. Sure there is some amount of discomfort to overcome when changing your behavior. But if you set goals to do things you don’t like, you won’t do them. Instead, find ways to be active that you actually enjoy – dancing, hiking, yoga, etc. If you aren’t sure what you might enjoy doing, try out a few different options. Think about what you enjoyed doing as a child. The same goes with food. Try new recipes to find ways to eat more veggies or cook more meatless meals. Pick a new kind of fruit, veggie, legume (bean) or whole grain to prepare. The more you enjoy your new habits, the easier it is to stick with them.
And while we’re talking about plans, reread this post with all the details for making an effective plan to change.
Stack up Smaller Steps
Making a life-changing resolution is great. It can be very motivating to think about how much better you’ll look and feel once you are eating smart and moving more. But big, life-changing goals are also intimidating when the gap between what you do now and what you want to do is so great. The solution is to break down the big resolution into smaller steps. You only have to focus on one change at a time, which can keep it from feeling overwhelming. Completing each smaller goal gives you more confidence as you work towards the end goal. Check out this post see an example of starting from very little physical activity to reaching the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical activity.
It’s hard to make yourself change. It’s more comfortable and there’s no risk of failure if we remain the same. There are people who need us and it’s easy to give them all our energy, at the expense of taking time for ourselves. If that sounds familiar, then use it to your advantage. Find an accountability buddy, someone else who is committed to making healthy changes with you. If you know your friend is waiting for you at the school track for an evening walk, you’ll show up even if you don’t feel like it after a long day at work. Your accountability buddy could also just check-in with you about the changes you’re making. If you are working on planning meals, your kids asking what’s for dinner can be your reminder to stick to the menu instead of reaching for takeout. Create a group chat with some of your friends to encourage each other in working on your resolutions.
Tracking your goals with a food or activity journal is another way to help stay on track. Being able to see how well you met your goal each day and over time is an effective tool for accountability. There are several different ways to keep a food diary – traditional pen and paper, using a smartphone or web app, etc. You just need to find a way that works for you. Figure out something that records as much (or as little) information as you need and is something you can stick with day after day.
Have you ever trained a dog before? Then you’ll know that using lots of treats helps reinforce behaviors. This same concept works for people, too. As you make progress on your goals, reward yourself! Choose experiences (relaxing bubble bath) or things (new pair of running shoes) instead of food for rewards.
Sharing your successes with friends and family can also be motivating to keep making progress. Making changes to your diet or activity habits is tough, so take the opportunity to brag on yourself occasionally. You can share your successes with us on social media, too. We also love hearing about the impact our program has on people’s lives and sharing those successes with our online community.
Regroup and Reset
In the journey of changing your behavior, there are bound to be slip-ups. People who are successful in changing don’t let temporary lapses turn into permanent relapses. Research has found that while it takes 2-5 years until eating smarter and moving more are more or less habits, it does become easier to maintain over time. One day of missing your goals can’t ruin your resolution unless you let it. After all, there are still 334 days left in 2018 to achieve your goals!