The new year is a great time to evaluate your priorities and make goals. However, the reality is that most people don’t keep their resolutions for more than a couple of months! There are many reasons why this happens-maybe you lose momentum, or can’t realistically keep the resolutions. Here are some tips to help you make goals that you can stick with so you can build on them every year instead of starting over:
1. Think small
It is often the little daily habits that make the most impact on your health and results. Each day, you make hundreds of decisions that either help you achieve your goals or move you further away from your goals. I suggest keeping a food and activity journal so you can see what you are doing first, and then pick out one or two things that you do every day that you want to improve. Maybe it is not eating after dinner or putting exercise on your calendar every day and sticking to it just like you would a meeting or doctor appointment. These little things add up and if you do them consistently, can really result in better health. Even one healthy goal that you can stick with is great, and you can always build on that through the year.
2. Be specific
Goals like “I’m going to start exercising” or “I am going to eat healthier” or “I am going to get more sleep” are great intentions, but not as helpful in making real change. It is more effective to have a goal that states how you are going to meet those intentions. For example, “I am going to sign up for a 5:30 am exercise class Monday through Friday because I know that morning is the only time I can consistently exercise” or “I am going to have 1/2 my plate be fruits and/or veggies for all of my meals” or “I am going to set an alarm for 9 pm to alert me to get ready for bed so I can be asleep before 10 pm, which will get me 7 hours of sleep”. When thinking about goals, state exactly what you are going to do each day or week and it will be easier to track and accomplish.
3. Be realistic
No one is perfect, so expect to have slip ups, have a few days that you totally mess up, or feel unmotivated. These are all normal and people who have had healthy lifestyles for years are still human and have slip ups, they just get back on track more quickly and consistently. So, expect for those things to happen and plan ways to help yourself get back on track, and do it quickly. Don’t feel guilty, just focus on what you can do differently next time, or just relish in the fact that you really enjoyed a small break from your usual foods, or needed a couple of days off exercise. Having friends, trainers, dietitians, or other health professionals to help you get through these times and keep you accountable can be very helpful to stay on track.
4. Focus on why
I think it is great for people to write down why they are making these goals, so you can go back to that when you lose motivation or need help staying on track. For example, you could be eating healthier so you can decrease a medication or exercising so you can go on that hiking trip in the summer, eating healthier foods so you set a good example for your kids, or working on flexibility so you have less pain. After you set your intentions, then you can write down why, and then state the specific goal. Review this every month and refocus.
5. Be kind to yourself
Be positive and keep trying to move forward. If you mess up, think of it as a learning process. This is your only life and your only body and you are the only one who takes care of it. Embrace where you are and the journey and be thankful for the things your body can do. Don’t say anything to yourself that you would not say to a loved one. Often, we put ourselves on the back burner, think negative things, and are reaching for something that is not realistic. Keep your expectations in check and say nice things to yourself. Don’t let guilt be your motivator. Instead, think about more energy, healthier body, feeling better as motivation. You don’t have to be perfect to accomplish all of that. It is the daily things you are doing that make the most impact, not the occasional fun food, like ice cream that you are eating. So many people wish they would have not been so hard on themselves their whole lives and enjoyed the ride a bit more.
Here is to your best year yet!
Cassie Dimmick, MS, RD, CSSD