Why is it so easy to make New Year’s resolutions but so hard to keep them? Ali Spencer, an Outpatient Dietitian at LDS Hospital, has some answers that can help you LiVe Well. “In most cases, the resolutions are simply not specific enough, not realistic, and aren’t measurable, which makes them almost impossible to keep.”
So here are five common New Year’s resolution mistakes — and how to set resolutions that are realistic, reachable, and healthy:
- “Eat healthier.” “While this sounds like a great resolution, similar to ‘getting in shape,' the goal is much too ambiguous,” Ali says. “What does 'healthier' even mean? Tweak this goal by focusing on specifics that make your diet healthier or make you more fit. Maybe you want to increase the number of vegetables you eat daily or reduce the frequency of eating out. It’s much easier to have a specific goal to work on so you can measure it and have a defined goal in your mind to help you visualize what you actually need to be doing.”
- "I’LL Lose 60 pounds THIS year." Ali says there are a couple of problems with a goal like this. “First, you’re focusing on an outcome instead of a behavior. Weight loss is a symptom of behavior change, so again, focus on behaviors that lead to weight loss like tracking everything you eat and drink or wearing a pedometer to increase the number of steps you take in a given day,” she says. “Second, this resolution is too long-term. Losing 60 pounds may take a year or longer to lose and you may get discouraged because it's human nature to want things now. Instead, choose a smaller, short-term weight loss goal. I recommend working in increments of 5 pounds and keep in mind that healthy weight loss recommendations range from 0.5 pounds to two pounds per week.”
- "I’LL CUT OUT SUGAR." Any time you make an ultimatum, you set yourself up to fail. “Elimination diets lead to feelings of deprivation and often lead to overeating or bingeing,” says Ali. “Instead, identify what high-sugar foods you’re consuming and think of ways you can realistically reduce your intake. Choose to limit regular soda to just a few times per week, or switch to oatmeal with dried fruit in the morning instead of a donut. With additives like sugar and salt, it takes our taste buds a while to acclimate to a reduction, so you'll be more successful if you reduce these in increments instead eliminating cold turkey.”
- "I’M JOINING THE GYM." Ali says: “Nearly everyone has been in the situation where they joined the gym, went a few times in January, then NEVER went again.” Instead, she says, evaluate your current lifestyle and your motivation. Just signing up doesn't guarantee you'll go, so ask yourself what you can do realistically. Most people say lack of time is the number one reason they don’t exercise, so focus on short bursts of physical activity instead of setting up gym glasses. “Focus on ways to increase your daily physical activity, like walking at least 7,500 steps per day or take three 10-minute breaks during the day to go walking, run the stairs, do jumping jacks, or jump rope,” she says. “If the gym is something you really do want to do, get a buddy and set up a schedule. Make yourself accountable for the number of times you'll go the gym per week and stick to it.”
- “BY THE END OF JANUARY I ALWAYS FORGET MY RESOLUTIONS ANYWAY, SO WHY EVEN BOTHER?” Ali says: “The absolute worst thing people do with their New Year's resolutions is not following through. Set resolutions that can be built upon and schedule times to check in on how you’re doing. I recommend evaluating monthly.” How to follow up: Post resolutions on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror — and increase your accountability by telling your friends and loved ones about your goals and asking for support.