New Year, New Me: Tackling the Next Decade on the Right Foot
Many people view the start of a new year as an opportunity to begin their journey in accomplishing big health goals: losing 20 pounds, running a marathon, or hitting the gym every day at dawn. Such lofty goals, especially without driven purpose or a game plan on how to accomplish them, can often fade from memory after a few months.
To combat fading goals, it can help to keep three ideas in mind when creating New Year’s resolutions--create an action plan, pace yourself, and stay positive.
Create an action plan
Create smaller goals based on actionable steps you can take along the way to eventually accomplish any larger goals. Actionable and timely steps could include examples such as exercising three times a week and eating a piece of fruit after dinner instead of a piece of cake. Decide ahead of time of what success looks like to you (and physically write it down somewhere you look every day). Otherwise, how will you know when you're achieving it?
Pinpoint the reason/motivation for your New Year's resolutions. Identify your “why.” Is your ultimate goal to meet somebody else’s expectations, or rather to meet your own expectations, such as to feel better so you can be more present for your children? If the latter, it's not the number on the scale, but how you feel after making lifestyle changes, that matters most. The more mindful your approach, the more likely you are to stick with a healthful lifestyle long-term. Any weight loss after making healthful changes comes moreso as a welcomed “side effect” to feeling better and healthier.
It’s also worth considering holding off on lifestyle changes until mid-January to avoid stress (especially if stress reduction is a goal). Give yourself time to create a regular schedule and game plan so you can slowly incorporate healthy lifestyle changes as you go along.
Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to improving health. Start with a small change and build from there. Just like goals should be actionable, they should be realistic. Expecting a “full-throttle” approach to work is likely a fast track to burning out. Is it realistic to expect somebody to workout every day, when currently they do not exercise regularly? In reality, likely not. Setting smaller, short-term goals are also great ways to recognize progress and act as opportunities to celebrate victories along your journey.
Ditch the diet mentality. Diets are designed to be sold, not sustained. The diet industry is a multi-million dollar industry designed for people to fail (and then buy into another diet). Likewise, fad diets are not sustainable and may result in disordered eating and unhealthy relationships with food. Instead, focus on mindfulness and healthful foods you can add to your diet instead of foods you want to remove. Consider including more: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, heart healthy fats, dairy, lean/low sodium protein and water for hydration throughout the day. By focusing on foods to include, you subconsciously reduce the foods that are less healthful.
Think of sustainable lifestyle changes as compound interest for your health, which will pay (even more) dividends down the road.
Do what makes you happy and reflect on why it makes you happy.
There is no sense in adding tofu or kale to your plate in the name of good health if they make your stomach churn. Eat nutritious foods you like, and choose physical activities you love. You'll have more success maintaining your healthier lifestyle if you are enjoying yourself.
Don't give up if a day doesn’t go as planned. Every new day is a new opportunity to focus on your goals and appreciate your achievements.
Lastly, spend time with people who share your desire to become healthier. It’s said that you’re the average of the five people you spend time with most. Be sure to choose wisely. Positivity will inspire you to stay on track.
For a more personalized approach to meeting your nutrition-related goals, consult with your local registered dietitian.