By Monique Richard MS, RDN, LDN
We’ve made them, shared them, kept them, broke them, forgot them, trashed them, and even resented them. What are they? New Year’s resolutions! Resolutions are often made on the heels of New Year’s Eve festivities and allow us to start anew. . . making fresh goals, clean breaks, and a way to put in perspective ways to improve our lives and ourselves. Oftentimes life gets the better of us though, and our good intentions fade away as the days creep into spring. However, if we focus on taking one day at a time, setting small goals and attainable changes, we will celebrate the small victories and keep them for life. Keeping in mind that our health is our first wealth, we will welcome these changes. After all, in life, it really is the small things that matter.
Try using the acronym S.M.A.R.T. to help your resolutions stick:
Simple: Keep resolutions basic and uncomplicated.
Measurable: How can you tell if you are making progress or not? Keep the goals measurable (i.e. waist circumference, servings of fruits consumed in a day, calories cut).
Attainable: Do something that is doable for YOU, not for your friend, neighbor, or icon; it can be challenging but within your reach.
Realistic: If you can’t walk or bike to work because you live 25 miles away, then that is not a very realistic goal. Purchasing entirely organic produce on a fixed income may not work. Keep goals realistic to your situation.
Time measureable: Don’t be vague with a timetable for hitting your goals or making plans. Change “we should go walking sometime next week” to “let’s meet at the track at 7pm on Wednesday.” Nail down specific times you want to see the results by such as lower cholesterol levels in three months.
Be specific—Be accountable
Instead of: “I should drink/eat less soda/junk food (coffee, beer, fried foods, desserts, etc.)”
Try: “I will reduce added sugars in my diet starting with drinking one regular soda a day instead of three.” Or “I will indulge in dessert twice a week instead of at every dinner.”
Tips for success: Write your goals down or tell a friend so that you stay accountable for following through.
Baby steps yield big changes
Instead of: “I am going to lose 25 pounds by swimsuit season.” Or “I am going to gain 15 pounds of muscle by March Madness.”
Try: “If I eat 500 less calories a day, and keep up my brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, while eating a balanced diet, I will drop one to two pounds in seven days, feel stronger, and better about myself.” Or “If I strength train two to three times a week, eat lean protein (a registered dietitian nutritionist can identify your specific nutrient needs), and fresh fruits and vegetables, I will build muscle and strength quickly over the next few weeks.”
Tips for success: By making goals smaller and more manageable as well as time measurable each baby step will add up to big changes.
Reward yourself, not with food
Instead of: “I did good by eating breakfast this morning, I am going to splurge and have that Danish with my coffee.”
Try: “I’ve worked out five days this week and if I can do it for two more weeks in a row, I am booking a relaxing Swedish massage.”
Tips for success: Rewarding yourself is an important part of accomplishing goals and staying motivated, but we often revert to food, which can counteract any healthy progress we have made. Other ideas that provide that feel-good jolt without a side of extra calories and guilt are:
• picking up a fresh bouquet of flowers
• indulging in a bubble bath
• getting and watching a movie
• reading a book
• getting together with friends and playing a game
• going to a play or concert.
The possibilities are endless, but the reward of feeling great is unsurpassable.
There’s only one you so you don’t have to reinvent yourself, make yourself over, or do everything all at once. Start small and work your way to bigger changes for a better you, not just now, but for life. Cheers to healthy beginnings!