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Sticking to Resolutions - Our Top 5 Tips

MAC Nutrition - Thursday, January 25, 2018

Five Ways to Stick to a Resolution in 2018

If you’re like many people, you might have set a New Year’s resolution on January first. And, if you’re like most of those people, you might have already given up on your resolution. Or, you’re losing confidence that you can actually do it and thinking about giving up. Perhaps you’re slowly slipping back into your old habits.

New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to stick to, so if this describes you, you’re not alone, and you shouldn’t feel badly about it. New Year’s resolutions usually involve some sort of change you want to make to your daily habits, such as “I want to exercise daily” or “I want to eat more vegetables.” The problem is that, as they say, old habits die hard: habits are extremely difficult to break and make anew. But there are some things you can do to make it easier to stick to your resolutions in 2018.

  1. Make sure your resolution is attainable, reasonable, and sustainable. Before making the resolution in the first place (and don’t be afraid to scrap your current resolution and make a new one if it doesn’t fit this criterion), take stock of where you are now, and reflect honestly on your life. Does your busy job and family life actually allow for you to run five miles each day? Do you like green smoothies enough to have one every day for breakfast? Then think about what you want, and brainstorm how to make your current life and that lofty goal you really want meet in the middle. If we start out with goals that are too big or feel too out of reach, we can feel discouraged from the beginning, which may make us give up altogether. It’s better to aim for running three miles four days per week and actually do that than to aim for five miles every single day and never end up running.

  2. Identify barriers to success and how to remove them (or how to go over, under, or around them). Breaking old habits and making new ones can be such a difficult process because of the barriers that stand in our way. There are many possible barriers to that five miles per day resolution. Maybe your running shoes are completely worn out and you need new ones. Maybe you like running outside but the cold weather stands in your way. Maybe work, commuting, family commitments, cooking, cleaning, sleep, and all the other things you need to get done get in your way, making it feel like there’s just no time for yet another item on your to-do list. This is where removing barriers, (or going around them), comes in. Remove the running shoes barrier by buying a new pair. Remove (or rather go around) the cold weather barrier by getting warm weather running gear or running on the treadmill at the gym. Identify and remove time sucks in your day, such as time wasted browsing on the computer or time on the couch watching television in order to create more space in your day. Find ways to get creative with your time, such as adding in a run during your lunch break at work (as long as it still leaves you enough time to eat lunch!), streamlining your cooking by preparing large batches over the weekend, and dedicating just a few minutes each day to household chores so they never pile up. These solutions to barriers may not be perfect, but the perfect situation for tackling your resolution will probably never happen. Work with what you have, while removing barriers however you can to make it easier on yourself.

  3. Write it down. Sometimes, the idea of a resolution can seem nebulous, which makes it extremely easy to ignore. Writing it down can make it more real, and can serve as a great reminder. If you want to get up an hour earlier each day to get in a workout, write your resolution down and post it by your bed so it’s the first thing you see in the morning when your alarm goes off. If you tend to waste time at night and go to bed too late (making it more difficult to wake up an hour early), post your resolution by your TV or computer to remind yourself of why you’re going to bed early. Seeing your resolution in ink will help it stay at the forefront of your mind and keep it from getting lost in the shuffle of everyday life. Writing about your resolution in a journal can also help you keep on track, as this practice can help you reflect on challenges you’ve had and how to overcome them, and successes you’ve had and what helped you to be successful.

  4. Tell someone. Big lifestyle changes can be difficult to make alone. Telling your loved ones and friends about your new goals will help you to enlist them as collaborators. They can help to hold you accountable, they can help you come up with solutions to barriers, and they can support you in your quest. Anyone who lives in your house with you, such as your spouse or children, is especially helpful in this way, because they can help you with the day-to-day tasks that make keeping your resolution easier. They can help you make sure your alarm is set, they can help you cook larger batches of healthy food over the weekend to save time, they can go sneaker shopping with you, and they can pick up the slack on household chores while you’re out on your run. Your family wants you to be happy and healthy, and their support in this endeavor will make it that much easier on you. If your biggest support system is your sister who lives across the country, enlist her help too by having weekly phone calls during which you identify your successes and challenges of that week and how to make the next week even better. And, of course, enlist the help of professionals. Seek out a personal trainer, registered dietitian, or therapist who might be able to help you stay on track with your fitness, health, career, and family goals.

  5. Forget resolutions altogether. Sometimes, the biggest mistake we can make in making lifestyle changes is putting that scary label, “Resolution,” on it in the first place. That label can make the change seem all the more intimidating, difficult, and even impossible, especially if you have had trouble keeping up with resolutions in the past. If “Resolution” is synonymous with “difficult” and “failure” to you, then forget resolutions! Instead, think about the year ahead and how you want to feel this year, and then make decisions based on that feeling. Maybe you want to feel more energetic. This can be your guiding principle for the year, and small changes that don’t feel so intimidating can help you get there. You can think about your goal of feeling more energetic when you’re deciding whether to have sugary cereal or oatmeal with berries and nuts (much like our January Recipe of the Month) for breakfast, whether to run after work or go out for drinks, whether to go to bed early or stay up an hour later, whether to make plans with a particularly exhausting acquaintance or make tea and read on the couch. This way, your “resolution” isn’t a resolution at all, but rather a framework around which to make all the small decisions throughout the day. They won’t feel intimidating, but they can add up to some major changes.

So, good luck with your resolutions (or non-resolutions!), and please know that we at the Mount Auburn Club are here to help you reach your goals in 2018!

This month's blog contribution comes from Louisa Paine, Registered Dietitian at The Mount Auburn Club.

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The information presented here is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or health condition. As always, please speak with your registered dietitian regarding any dietary modifications or nutrition-related questions.