According to research, almost 30 per cent of us give up on our new year’s resolutions after just one week. Here’s how to make healthy life changes that you’ll keep up all year round.
The key is in setting manageable, achievable goals, and not ones like “cut out sugar forever” or “lose three stone by April.”
While these are admirable aims, they’re not that realistic for most of us – and it’s far easier to set smaller goals that’ll have a big effect on our general health.
For many of us, saying we’ll go completely alcohol free, either permanently or for a month or two is a pretty daunting prospect. This also means we’re less likely to stick to our goals, as soon as we give in once, we tend to let go completely. Try setting a more realistic goal of just drinking less booze – rather than cutting it out altogether – or limiting the number of units you have per evening.
Reducing alcohol consumption is pretty much one of the best things you can do for your health, with even moderate levels being linked to some cancers. If you’re not ready to cut it out completely, try deciding on three or four days a week where you won’t touch the stuff, to give your body a break.
What’s important is your health, not how much you weigh. Make this the focus for 2016 and not only will your goals be more achievable but the only reward you’ll need is how you feel, not a number on the scales. While losing weight is often a by-product of eating healthier and taking more exercise, making losing X amount by X day the goal can sometimes lead to unhealthy practices that are unsustainable.
Steer clear of checking the scales as much as possible, and instead notice the changes in your skin, health, the tone of your body and your general overall feeling.
Whether you love running or enjoy some solo yoga, there is an exercise for everyone – and that doesn’t mean you need to become a gym person. Studies show you’re more likely to stick to something that you enjoy, so it’s important to take up something that gives you a genuine boost.
You probably don’t need reminding why regular exercise is good for you – it enhances your mood, decreases your risk of some cancers and prevents osteoporosis.
But why is maintaining resolutions so tough? Researchers have ID’d several culprits, such as setting a goal that’s too vague or having unrealistic expectations (lose 30 pounds by March 1—ha!). But perhaps the biggest challenge is turning your wishes into immediate action, and then keeping with it. “It’s easy to change your attitude but difficult to change your behaviour,” explains Christine Whelan, PhD, clinical professor in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “If you’re committed to it, however, you can make a new habit or behaviour permanent.”
When it comes to cleaning up your eating, be prepared. If you want to rise above temptation, you have to think one step ahead. It also helps to have no-deprivation strategies. “Eating better is often associated with misery, so it’s no wonder that so many people throw in the towel.” Use these tactics to eat healthier, long-term.
Maybe you hope to set a good example for your kids. Or you’re just tired of not fitting into your old jeans. If you know the reason that’s fueling your desire to eat better, you can use it to motivate yourself when you’re eyeing a good menu.
Instead of making an ‘I want to lose weight’ pledge, try ‘I’m going to put more fruits and vegetables on my plate. So the resolution is a positive action that you can perform over and over. “If it’s an addition instead of a takeaway, you’re more likely to repeat it until the action becomes an automatic habit.
Toss unhealthy products (chips, sugary things, sodas) from your kitchen, fridge, car and office then restock with good-for-you options, like carrots and air-popped popcorn. Make sure you don’t have to dig deep to find them: Last year, Cornell University researchers found that women who kept healthy food visible in the kitchen had lower BMIs than those who left junky products out on their countertops.
The hours between mid-afternoon and dinnertime are when cravings kick in hard. Before leaving for work, pack a 200-calorie protein-complex snack in your purse to avoid unhealthy office snacks.
Get-in-shape goals tend to fizzle as early as the third week of January, per recent data based on Facebook searches. Yet some keep at it. What’s their secret? People who are successful are more likely to view fitness as a permanent lifestyle change, not an activity they can give up once they reach a number on the scale.
It’s easier to make a plan to go running three times this week than vow to run three times a week indefinitely,” says Whelan. “If you make your fitness goals week by week rather than so far-reaching, you’ll have more success, and that in itself is motivating.
Research shows that anticipating rewards may help you be more devoted to your goal. Sure, it’s a bribe of sorts, but experiment with promising yourself a week of true commitment. Or put a penalty on the table: Promise to go TV-less for a week if you don’t follow through. A 2012 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a financial pledge is another effective incentive.
You may be more likely to participate in a behaviour you’re not so into, such as exercising if you combine it with an activity you really enjoy. This strategy is called “temptation bundling,” and a 2013 study published in Management Science suggested it works.