Picture this. It’s the last workday before the new year, and your co-workers begin to discuss their resolutions. Panicked, you find yourself inventing a resolution of your own. Of course, you hope this resolution will be the one that finally results in change, but part of you knows you probably won’t keep it.
At the end of the year, we often feel a need to change, which might be why health-related resolutions are so popular on New Year’s Eve. But do resolutions actually result in a change of behavior? The Journal of Clinical Psychology found that two weeks into the new year, 29% of people had failed their New Year’s Resolution, a month later, 36% had failed, and by midway through the year, a staggering 54% of participants had abandoned their new year’s resolution.
What can be done to curb this unfortunate trend? Experts say that a lack of clear definition (for example, resolving to “exercise more” without elaborating on what healthful exercise looks like for you) is a leading reason why health resolutions fail. This article will be your guide to effectively defining your New Year’s health resolution and steering you away from unwise health resolutions.
The All-or-Nothing Approach
When New Year’s Day finally comes around, it can be tempting to go all-in on a drastic plan, perhaps to make up for the previous year’s disappointments. Dietician Sharon Palmer recommends ditching this all-or-nothing approach and focusing on personal improvement instead.
This “all-or-nothing” approach may take many forms, including fad diets. Palmer warns against fad weight-loss diets, many of which can damage your body because they focus too much on one food group. In fact, Palmer argues that weight loss shouldn’t be your primary objective when reforming your diet for the new year. In addition to weight loss, a healthy diet has several other benefits, including a reduced risk of chronic disease.
Resolving to eat less food carries the same “all-or-nothing” risks as the fad diet. Just as eating healthy isn’t just about losing weight, losing weight isn’t about eating less. Don’t predicate your weight loss goals on skipping meals or going more than five hours per day without food, as these habits zap your energy and often lead to wasteful snacking. Without enough food, your body turns stored fats into ketones, too many of which can harm your body.
The Negative/Harmful Mentality
Fueled by the hopes and anxieties of a new year, resolutions often conceal a negative or even harmful mentality regarding one’s health and body. Negative mentalities give rise to unrealistic goals, such as wanting a body like your favorite celebrity, revealing a basic, unhealthy desire to be someone other than yourself. Banish these negative body thoughts and avoid situations in which other people are talking badly about peoples’ bodies. Research shows that talking negatively about bodies (whether your own or others’) increases shame in both men and women.
You should also avoid grounding your New Year’s efforts in a self-deprivation mentality warns Cynthia Sass from the American Dietetic Association. Weight loss based on self-deprivation is depressing and creates a motive for retributive bingeing. Instead, orient your goals towards what you can eat, not what you can’t. By focusing on behavior modification (rather than outcomes), you’ll ensure you’re setting goals you can reach.
Resolve to Do Something Attainable
Start by honestly taking stock of your current eating habits. Then, make your plans based on realistic improvements. Next, maintain regular eating patterns, and disperse this eating throughout the day rather than at one large meal. By planning your meals in advance, you can reduce your stress and make it less likely to give into eating junk food.
In terms of physical exercise, resolving to join a gym/buy exercise equipment is expensive and unlikely to stick. Instead, find a physical activity you enjoy or something you can easily work into your life. Consider adding something as simple as sitting less and moving more by taking regular five-minute walks reduces mortality rates.
A Better Diet is a Better Life
If you continually fail dietary resolutions, it could be because you’re prioritizing the short term over the long term. Instead, break the dieting cycle and establish a sustainable, nourishing eating plan. Your eating plan should be adaptable so that you can follow it regardless of your circumstances.
Begin by eating more whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fish. Adding just a few of these foods to your weekly diet can be a springboard for better health. Focus on fruits and vegetables which are foods “pre-packaged” by Mother Nature to contain concentrated nutrients that deliver a massive boost to the immune system. If you still feel the urge to snack try sprinkling rolled oats or crunchy whole-grain cereal on your salad for extra fiber so you’ll feel full.
Finally, cut back on sweetened drinks, which increase your risk of obesity, fatty liver, heart disease, insulin resistance, and cavities. Cutting out soda is an excellent place to start. Focusing on gradually minimizing your consumption of drinks with sugar is more effective in the long run than quitting cold turkey.
Make a Resolution That’s Tailored to Your Health
This holiday season, don’t make resolutions based on your hopes and fears about the upcoming year. Beware of committing to too many resolutions or to resolutions you’ve previously attempted. Stick to one or two achievable resolutions so that your project remains manageable. Armed with this arsenal of knowledge about the best and worst new year’s resolutions for your health, you can head into the new year happy and hopeful.