It's that time of year again! The time of New Year's resolutions and creating health goals for yourself to have your best year yet. While many of these resolutions are well-intended, you may find yourself in the cycle of: create goals --> stay on track for a few weeks --> get sidetracked/frustrated/disappointed --> lose motivation and fall off the wagon.
I learned a long time ago from my own experiences and those I learned in school and work that resolutions won't work if you don't have the necessary tools and expectations to make yourself successful. While we may think that it's all about willpower and determination, it is SO much more. Similarly to what I discuss in nutrition sessions, behavior change is complex and requires exploring your lifestyle, environment, stressors, knowledge, support systems, mindset, thought process and much much more. Behavior change takes time and our culture often forgets to mention these things. For New Year's resolutions that will last, here are a few of my go-to tips:
1. Be patient and forget the quick-results mentality. Our health culture is all about quick changes and overnight success, which almost always leads to failure. The diet industry has a 5% success rate and there is a reason for that! Making changes that will last takes time -- sometimes months to years. It's important to take this time to explore and learn about yourself and be compassionate with the time it will take to make this habit change. If you have been doing something for a few decades of your life, it will take more than a few days or months to reverse it. Give yourself time and enjoy the journey. Also, diets or cutting out food groups don't work. Remember that :)
2. Be realistic. It is great to have goals to reach for, but what is actually doable for you? Where are you right now in your life and what types of changes are achievable? If you set unrealistic goals for yourself you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Start small and build up gradually, one day, week or month at a time. For example, if you are looking to make healthier choices, rather than cut out sugar completely, try to focus on increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to 3 servings per day, building up to 4 and then 5. You will be much more successful this way.
3. Have a support system. Behavior change can be hard, so having a support system in place to help you reach your health goals can make a huge difference. This could be in the form of supportive family members and friends, a professional, group activities or meetings, online forums, etc. If you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone about your progress and goals, having support through a journal can even be helpful. Staying accountable and finding like-minded individuals can make a huge difference.
4. Stay positive. It is especially easy to get down on ourselves in today's culture when we see so much 'success' and 'perfection' in social media and around us. Remember that these are only snapshots and that everyone has struggles. Stay true to yourself and if something doesn't go as planned, learn from the experience rather than judging it. Nobody is perfect -- it would be a boring world if there were no flaws. Love yourself and see where that mindset takes you instead.
5. Manage your stress. Often times, bad habits result as a response to stress. Over drinking, overeating, under-eating, overexercising - these are often a symptom of underlying stress. It is important to find other ways to manage any emotions or stressors in your life whether it's finding a hobby, getting out in nature, exercise, practicing self-care or talking it out.
There is a lot that goes into behavior change and it is important to go into it with a new approach this year. Start small, be realistic, surround yourself with positive people and vibes and set out on a new path! If you need support or accountability, I am here for you as are many other professionals in your area. Have a great and healthy New Year!