As January is coming to an end, so are many well-intentioned health and fitness New Year’s Resolutions that were far too lofty to achieve and maintain for most of the people that made them. According to a study in the science journal The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, roughly 55% of New Year’s Resolutions are health related, including exercising more and eating healthier, and other studies show that most people give up on their resolutions before January is even over.
It’s time to end the repetitive cycle of failed attempts, disappointment, and sub-optimal health. Unrealistic expectations often lead to unmet resolutions and goals. So, when it comes to eating healthier to achieve a specific goal such as weight loss, fueling athletic performance, or improving health related problems, how can we change our approach to set us up for success? Here are a few simple ideas.
1. Don’t just make goals – make changes
While it’s important to have specific goals in mind, it’s equally important to break goals down into actionable steps. While wanting to lose 20 pounds may be what’s ultimately desired in the end, the changes that will lead to the weight loss need to be the focus. These changes should be measurable.
Examples: “I will eliminate sweetened beverages from my diet.”
“I am going to include produce with at least 2 of my meals per day.”
“ I will increase my exercise from 1 day a week to 3 days a week.”
There are always many different changes that can be made to accomplish specific goals, and it’s important that those changes be reasonable and compatible with each individual’s lifestyle, schedule, and support system. There are no “one-size fits all” plans that work for the long haul, which is why trendy diets never lead to long-term success.
2. Start small
Small changes add up over time and eventually translate to big results! This can further motivate a person to make MORE changes after they experience the positive feelings of initial success. It’s important not to set the bar so high, and instead work on things that happen on a daily basis, that offer the biggest bang for your buck.
Most people make the mistake of trying to change everything at once, which is why they end up feeling defeated and frustrated, thus throwing in the towel. Instead, the best place to start is by evaluating what’s happening daily rather than those every-so-often splurge meals or vacations.
Starting with one meal at a time is a more reasonable approach. Once changes are made and a new habit is established, it’s time to move on and create a new one.
3. Stop restricting! What can you ADD?
Unless a food allergy or intolerance is involved, no foods (or food groups) should ever be off limits completely. Restriction and deprivation is the root cause of resolutions and fad diets gone wrong. The notion of avoiding certain foods has a negative connotation, and leaves us feeling guilty about even the occasional time or two that we eat something that we perceive in our minds as off-limits.
Often times it may be necessary to cut back on certain foods, but it’s also important to consider what can be added into a daily routine that will have a positive impact in accomplishing goals.
For most of my clients, this definitely applies to including more fresh produce, drinking more water, and adding in time for meal planning in order to have a successful week of eating well. There’s a more positive and uplifting feeling to adding new behaviors or health habits into our routine, which ultimately motivates us to keep moving forward.
Working with an experienced Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist can help you determine realistic changes that fit your personality, thus allowing you to accomplish your nutrition and health goals which will eventually become part of your healthy lifestyle.