As we usher in a new year, as many as one in three Americans will start it off with a New Year’s resolution. Many of these resolutions will have to do with some sort of self-improvement such as weight loss, exercise or living healthier. But as the weeks and months whittle away, six months later, less than half of us will still be on target.
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“The key to making your New Year’s resolutions stick is to make sure they are realistic and attainable,” says Shawn Zajicek, registered dietitian at Nebraska Medicine’s Bariatrics Center. Zajicek offers these tips to help you make your weight loss goals (or other New Year’s resolutions) a reality.
- Ask yourself if you are ready to make a change. If you are not ready, you will not be able to sustain your goal and you will be setting yourself up for failure.
- Make your goals realistic. Goals that are too big and lofty will lead to frustration and disappointment. Make one change at a time. For instance, if you are committed to improving your diet, start with adding one serving of a fruit or vegetable to a meal each day. If you are working on adding exercise to your routine, start slowly by adding exercise to your routine one to two days a week.
- Write down your goals. Put them in places that you will see every day to remind you and motivate you.
Choose things you enjoy. For instance, when adding exercise to your routine, choose two types of activities you really enjoy doing. This will help keep you motivated and moving. If you want to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet, make a list of fruit and vegetables you really like and add those to your diet first.
- Schedule it. Plan how you are going to meet your goals each week and put it in your calendar. This will make your goals more real and help you stay on task. For instance, if you typically skip meals, schedule in time to eat breakfast or lunch. If you are committed to exercising more, block out a chunk of time each day and pencil it in your calendar as well.
- Create an environment that’s conducive to achieving your goals. If sweets are your downfall, remove them from your kitchen or work space, or don’t bring them into the house at all. If exercise is on your calendar, pack a gym bag before you go to work so you don’t have to go home first and you’ll be more likely to follow through.
- Identify obstacles that are going to prevent you from achieving your goals and develop alternative plans. If you are heading into a busy time of the year, plan meals ahead of time to avoid the fast food trap. Work in exercise before work, a walk during lunch or do steps over your breaks.
- Recruit a friend. Having an accountability partner helps keep you focused, provides encouragement and helps you stay on track.
- Don’t punish yourself. If you fall off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up and throw in the towel. Remind yourself that mistakes happen and perfection is rarely attainable. It’s okay to have setbacks. Just pick up where you left off and commit to keep moving forward.
- Be kind to yourself. Emphasize your successes, not your failures. Remind yourself what you are doing right, not what you aren’t doing.
“Remember that life is fluid,” says Zajicek. “Everything doesn’t have to happen on Jan. 1. If the timing isn’t right, save your New Year’s resolutions for a later date when you are ready to tackle your goals.”