New Year’s resolutions are starting to get a makeover. Despite big industry players, individuals are recognizing that sexy ad campaigns touting easy health fixes just do not last over time. Specific to New Year’s resolutions, goal failure is almost always related to setting a lofty resolution that is attempted via a total lifestyle alteration. While dramatic adjustments to daily habits may offer results, they will be incredibly difficult to maintain because they are so different from “normal”. In the end, dramatic changes often revert back to old habits.
The most reliable way to truly form new healthy habits for behavior change is to make smaller, more measured changes. Consider an overall goal and find out what steps are needed to achieve it. From there, evidence suggests breaking those steps into incremental, manageable chunks. The idea is to aim for sustainability. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Much success has been found when people use “SMART” goals for incremental changes. These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time sensitive. Maybe it’s adding in one additional workout this week or incorporating a fruit or veggie at breakfast 3 days weekly. Setting SMART goals provides clarity about what to strive for next.
It is also beneficial to celebrate any wins and reflect on challenges. After making small goals, take a moment to enjoy the success of achieving them. At the end of the week, recap on accomplishments and struggles, then use that reflection to set new goals. Building flexibility into goals, makes them more realistic to any barriers to change that may arise. Building a support system with family, friends, or health professionals also increases motivation and accountability, leading to more success achieving goals.
There’s an abundance of misinformation about health and nutrition. Look for evidence-based information that is from reputable sources and backed by research for the most effective and realistic information on how to achieve your specific goals. One study found the most common New Year’s resolutions are in the categories of physical health, weight loss and changes to eating habits. Seeking out a registered dietitian is an example of a reliable source for information for these categories!
Author: Caroline Hitchner
Cheyenne is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in the Charleston, SC area.