It’s that time of year again. The time when one year comes to a close and another begins to unfold. The time when so many make resolutions, determined to make changes and improve their lives.  I wanted to share some guidance on how to make this next year of your life as healthy as possible.
First, let’s take a moment to look at what a “resolution” really is:
 1) a firm decision to do or not to do something
 2) the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter: the peaceful resolution of all disputes | a successful resolution to the problem
Honestly, when I think of New Year’s resolutions, I always think of the first definition; firm, decisive, black and white.  I wonder, however, if more people would stick with their resolutions if we approached them with the second definition in mind – a solving

 of a problem, and a successful one at that!  Resolutions should not be something you do TO yourself, but something you do FOR yourself.  The changes you hope to make are not limitations, they’re opportunities — the opportunity to feel healthier, to have more energy, to feel less stressed, to expand your mind — the list goes on and on.  The context, the way in which you frame your resolution, however, can have a huge impact on your ability to commit to it and see it through.  Your resolution is resolving something, something you don’t like, something that doesn’t feel good, something that is inhibiting you from being your best version of yourself.  Resolutions are FOR YOU.  Before we get to some examples and how we can make them better and more self-affirming, let’s take  moment to talk about how to set good goals.  I know resolutions and goals are not entirely synonymous, but it seems that the principles that apply for good goal setting will also be beneficial in outlining strong resolutions.  A good mnemonic to use is SMART.  Goals should be:

– specific
– measurable
A – action-based
R – realistic
– time sensitive

Here’s an example:

I will lose weight.

This one can use some help.  First of all, it’s not specific.  Will you lose a pound? 10 pounds? 50 pounds?  Is it realistic? I don’t know. Do you need to lose weight? Is it healthy for you to do so? Do you have the resources and support necessary to do so?  It’s also not time sensitive.  Will you lose the weight by next year? By your sister’s wedding? By Easter?  This goal is too vague.  It makes it hard for you to chart your progress and feel success.  And how are you going to do it? What is the action by which you will pursue this goal?

Rephrased – I will lose at least  x pounds by April 1st by walking 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes for the next 3 months and cutting back my soda intake to 1 can of soda two times per week.

Specific: x pounds by specific actions
Measurable: x pounds by April; 30 minutes a day, 3 times per week; 1 can, 2 times per week
Action-based: walking & diet changes
Realistic: 90 minutes per week very doable, does not require a gym or any special equipment;  reducing soda consumption means I’m already drinking more than that, so drinking less should be affordable and possible
Time-sensitive: 3 months

Final thoughts: 

  • Start small. If you want to change your diet, pick one thing a week (like we did in our last 5 weeks of challenges!) to focus on.  Maybe this week you eat vegetables 3 times a day.  Then next week you might keep eating your veggies and start drinking at least 64 oz of water a day. Then you have veggies, water, and you have only one processed/packaged food a day… keep building until you reach the place you want to be and then maybe challenge yourself to go further.  But don’t take it all on at once.  
  • Focus on one primary goal at a time.  If you want to eat healthier to lose weight, focus on eating healthier and see if the weight follows.  
  • Rephrase your thinking.  It’s not that you “can’t” eat sugary treats, it’s that you “don’t” eat them because you want to make a healthy change.  “Can’t” makes you feel like you don’t have any control; “don’t” empowers you and let’s you make a conscious decision.
  • Finally, be gentle to with yourself.  Change is hard. Don’t give up, but don’t give up on yourself if you’re struggling. Regroup, try again, tweak your goal, seek help — resolutions are for you and just because we reserve one day a year to specifically make them doesn’t mean you can’t make them whenever you want! 

Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year.

Aubrey Phelps MS RDN