By McKenzie Hall Jones, RDN and Lisa Samuel, MBA, RDN
According to various reports, New Year’s resolutions are made by about 40-50 percent of Americans with goals to lose weight leading the resolution pack. (1) But, for many of us, New Year’s resolutions are so two weeks ago. According to a 2002 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, more than 25 percent of individuals ditch the resolution in a measly seven days. (2)
The problem with many resolutions is the ‘all or nothing’ mentality, rigid rules, and unrealistic expectations that come along with them. Does “I’m never eating sugar again,” or “I’ll only eat before seven o’clock” sound familiar? Goals that take leaps rather than baby steps can simply be a recipe for disaster.
That’s why we like to keep it real – in regards to the food we eat, our diet advice, and our resolutions. So, this year and every year, let’s shift our resolve from restrictive dieting to re-establishing sustainable eating habits that keep us feeling happier, healthier, and more balanced well into the next holiday season. How’s that for motivation?
Here are a few guidelines that will help steer you on the path of resolution bliss:
- Don’t ban resolutions altogether. According to the same 2002 study, participants who made resolutions and kept with them at the six-month point were ten times more likely to keep them after that than those that skipped the annual tradition altogether. (2) So, embrace the power of setting positive, achievable, goals. Write them down and share them with your family or friends.
- Make your resolutions achievable. There’s simply no need to make a complete eating overhaul. Take an inventory of where you’re at, and mindfully set your goals accordingly. If added sugar is a staple in your diet, you may have room to cut back. You could start out slowly by substituting a bowl of berries for dessert one day a week. Remind yourself that slow and steady truly does win the race.
- Keep the glass half-full. Eating well is so much more about what you can eat, than what you can’t. Rather than banishing certain foods from your diet altogether, aim to add in more of the good stuff, like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and good quality protein. Use this as the foundation of your resolution setting.
- Find a teammate. Each and every one of us performs better with our own cheerleaders on the sidelines encouraging us and holding us accountable. “Men and women are more likely to make a positive health behavior change if their partner does too,” according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. (3) Additional research from the Society of Behavior Medicine found that working out with a partner – especially in a team format – improves aerobic performance. (4)
- Keep on chugging along. If you fall off the bandwagon, don’t hesitate to jump back on. Setbacks are normal and part of the process. This year, vow that you’ll be kinder to yourself and find value in the journey. It was estimated that 53 percent of successful “resolution keepers” made at least one slip, with an average number of 14 slips over the course of two years, according to a study of 200 New Year’s resolvers. (5) Just keep swimming.
- This year’s top new year’s resolution? Fitness! Neilsen: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/2015s-top-new-years-resolution-fitness.html Updated January 8, 2016. Accessed January 11, 2016. * insights derived from an english language online survey of 580 u.s. respondents between dec. 29, 2014 and jan. 2, 2015.
- Norcross JC, Mrykalo MS, Blagys MD. Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Pyshcology. 2002 Apr;58(4):397-405.
- Jackson S, Steptoe A, Wardle J. Influence of Partner’s Behavior on Health Behavior Change: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015;175(3):385-392
- Irwin B, Scorniaenchi J, Kerr N, Eisenmann J, Feltz D. Aerobic Exercise Is Promoted when Individual Performance Affects the Group: A Test of the Kohler Motivation Gain Effect. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. October 2012, 44(2):151-159
- Norcross JC, Vangarelli, DJ. The resolution solution: longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. Journal of substance abuse. 1988-1989;1(2):127-34.