These resolutions for the New Year may sound good, but they’re likely setting up people for failure.
Have you ever wondered why the gym is so crowded in January and February and then deserted by mid-March? How about your own past resolutions? Did you declare last year to cut back on sugar only to find yourself eating way too much candy by Valentine’s Day?
Many resolutions don’t work and it’s not because people lack willpower. It’s because their goals are way too broad and unrealistic, said Registered Dietitian Judy Mitnick, a certified diabetes educator, who works with patients at Bon Secours In Motion.
“You need to make your goal very specific and individualized,” Mitnick said. “You have to have detailed steps for how you’re going to reach it.”
Consider what many health professionals call SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
If your goal is to eat less sugar, figure out how you will make this happen. A SMART version of this goal might be to cut down on soda by drinking no more than eight ounces per week. This way, you can keep track of how much soda you drink within a timeframe. It makes holding yourself accountable easier, too.
Arm yourself with education and support.
It also helps to work with a Registered Dietitian. Not only can they identify what’s missing from a person’s diet, they can also explain why carbohydrates are neither good nor bad and why gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthier for everyone.
Marketing and fad diets can encourage a lot of people to eat too few carbs, which are essential to health, and too many “healthy” gluten-free cookies.
“A gluten-free cookie is still a cookie,” Mitnick said.
Keep it realistic.
Many people run into trouble keeping their resolutions because they take an all-or-nothing approach, Mitnick said. People often eat whatever they want in December and come January, they’re trying to be perfect.
“The biggest mistake is that they’re not being realistic,” Mitnick said. “They’re swinging from one extreme to the other. I try to show them that there’s a gray area.”
So, if your goal is to exercise five days per week, you need to sit down and look at your schedule. Do you have time to go to the gym that often? Would you have the energy and discipline to work out at 6 a.m.? Is that a realistic goal? Would it be better to schedule brisk walks during your lunch break instead on certain days? What’s the weather going to be this week? Make a plan, a schedule and keep track so you can meet your goal.
As for losing weight, Mitnick never gauges success by what the scale indicates. After all, you can lose weight by losing muscle mass.
“I’m much more impressed with behavioral change,” she said. “A lot of people want to lose a certain amount of weight by a date and when they don’t reach that goal, they feel like a failure. I never want a person’s goal to be tied to weight.”
Instead, Mitnick prefers to help people set goals that take a positive approach. A person who needs to eat more healthy foods might set a goal to eat a vegetable at dinner five nights out of the week.
“By focusing on what you’re going to include,” Mitnick said, “you won’t even realize you’re cutting back on other things.”
The plan also would include keeping frozen vegetables on hand that can be cooked quickly in the microwave. Remember, keeping it simple makes it easier for you to reach your goal.
Create a plan that works.
Want to stop eating out for lunch everyday? Think about why you like to go out for lunch. If you like having options and don’t want to get bored, stock your office fridge once a week with different types of foods you enjoy. If you don’t feel like having a sandwich one day, have a salad or soup instead.
Lastly, when your resolution or goal isn’t successful, don’t blame yourself.
“Look at why you couldn’t carry out your plan,” Mitnick said. “Change it. The plan wasn’t right for you. Come up with a different one that does work.”