Making {and keeping} Healthy New Years Resolutions

Cornell University came out with an interesting article recently- according to their research it is not the holidays that lead to weight gain, but the resolution to eat healthier after the holidays that leads to weight gain.

Wait… what?

I was shocked to hear that too! I was even more shocked to find out why. According to the study, the average person only puts on about one pound during the holidays, but in trying to get rid of that weight they actually add more weight. The study went on to say that when people resolved to eat healthier and went out and bought a whole bunch of healthy food… along with all the not so healthy food they were already consuming. It is the equivalent of adding a large salad to a hamburger. Sure, you are getting more nutrients from that salad, but you are also adding calories. It is important to cut down on the bad stuff as well as adding the good stuff- add the salad but make sure you only eat half the burger.

This got me thinking about setting goals- not just for New Year’s Resolutions (although, it’s as good a time as any to start!) but all year long. How can we set goals that we will actually stick to and be successful?

It’s important to set goals that are achievable. Setting unrealistic goals is setting yourself up for failure. One of my favorite goals is focusing on healthy behaviors instead of weight loss (I tend to get depressed if the scale doesn’t move fast enough). For example, working out 4 times a week because no matter what the scale says, I feel good when I have been to the gym on a regular basis and when I feel good, I am more likely to continue (as opposed to watching the scale slowly creep down, then I feel disgusted and give up). When you set smaller goals you reach those milestones more quickly and feel encouraged to continue.

Including more vegetables- a great healthy lifestyle goal (Frankfurt Germany)
Including more vegetables- a great healthy lifestyle goal!

Focus on one goal a month. A year is a long time and committing to something for a whole year can feel daunting. Instead, pick one goal a month (losing 4 pounds, drinking 1 less soda per day, walking 10,000 steps per day with your pedometer, incorporating weights 2x per week into your gym routine, etc.) and focus on it completely for four weeks. Keep it in the back of your mind the rest of the year, but focusing on a new goal every month will help keep things fresh! Write your goals at the beginning of the year, or develop one at the beginning of every month. Keep them on your fridge, or somewhere you will see them every day.

When setting goals remember to set S.M.A.R.T goals.

S- Specific. Be specific, general goals are hard to pin down. Specific goals help you to hold yourself accountable. Make sure you think about who, what, when, where and why. For example- “I (who) will go to the gym (what and where) three times each week (when) to work out (why)”.

M- Measurable. Don’t just say, “I will eat more vegetables”, that’s too loose and subjective. Find a way to measure it- “I will have a 1/2 cup of vegetables every day at lunch and dinner and have another 1/2 cup with breakfast or a snack”. Having a measurable goal helps you to know when your goal has been accomplished and you can feel good about that!

A- Achievable. Setting realistic goals helps keep you on track. Trying to lose 20 pounds in a month is probably not realistic, and will be difficult to achieve. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Make a goal that is important and attainable to you.

R- Realistic. Do you have the time and the resources necessary to achieve your goal? You must be willing and able to achieve your goal. If your goal is to lose weight, do you have a gym membership? Have you gotten rid of all the junk food in your house? Have you set aside time to work out? Is your time frame realistic?

T- Timeframe. Giving yourself a distinct timeframe helps give you a sense of urgency. Without a timeframe things tend to fall to the back of the priority list, making them harder to achieve. Don’t set a timeframe too far into the future, or the goal will seem unimportant and you will not work towards it. On the other hand, don’t give yourself too little time to meet your goal either. That’s why I recommend a month- its long enough to really get into it, but not so long that it seems like forever.

Healthy New Year Resolution- Eat more apples (Frankfurt Germany)
Healthy New Years Resolution- eat more apples

Do you have any goal setting tips that help you achieve your health goals during the New Year, or any time of year? Leave a comment!

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