The best resolutions for a healthy lifestyle

 

Did you make a resolution on New Year’s Day? How has it turned out? Statistics show that 80 percent of resolutions fail by February. That’s often because your promise to change didn’t come with a plan. Let’s face it: It’s easy to say “I will get in shape,” but it’s hard to act on it if you don’t know where to start.

For a resolution to stick, you need sustain that New Year’s Eve motivation and handle any stress involved as you make the changes. That requires a plan with small, achievable changes. If you are hoping to lose weight or get in shape, read this first. It will provide you with the tools you need to set yourself up for success, so you’re one of the 20 percent that keeps their resolution. It can be done!

You are more than a number

The first winning strategy is to quit focusing solely on “body numbers.” Whether it’s a goal weight, number of pounds to lose, or aiming for a certain percentage of body fat, numbers are hard to control! We are human, and our body mass fluctuates on a day to day basis based on food, drink, exercise, hormones, environment, and so much more. Most importantly, numbers are not the only measure of health.

A better idea is to set small achievable changes that will lead you to a healthier lifestyle. If you lose some weight on the way and the number on the scale moves, that’s a bonus. But it shouldn’t be your sole focus. If you make a small change and stick with it, you will be proud of your success.

Here’s what I mean: let’s say your aim is to swap one can of soda for water every day for the next three months. At the end of that period of practicing the new habit, you have reduced sugar intake, which lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. That’s a huge win! You may lose a few pounds in the process, or you may not, but you have still achieved your aim of reducing soda intake! Progress is about more than a number.

You can succeed even if the number on the scale doesn’t change. That soda success will motivate you, whereas not reaching a target weight just demoralizes you. See the difference?

For sustainable change, get SMART

Consider the SMART acronym when you are planning to make changes:

S – Specific: Choose your words carefully. Make any aim specific enough that it is simple to know when it has been achieved to your satisfaction. For example, “getting in shape,” is open to interpretation. A more specific commitment could be:

  • I will exercise for 30 minutes three times a week
  • I will walk to work three times a week
  • I will try a yoga class this month
  • I will do weight training twice a week

M – Measurable: the aims above all include parameters, which makes them measurable. If your change can’t be measured, how will you know if you’ve achieved it? “I will weight train” is a vague aim, but “I will weight train twice a week” can be measured.

A – Achievable: No one can lose 100 pounds in two weeks or run a marathon without training. Set yourself up to succeed by making your aim something you can actually do. It’s okay to push yourself a little outside your comfort zone (these are ambitions, after all). But stay within what’s reasonable.

R – Realistic: Make sure you have the time, money, support and knowledge to be able to implement your change. If you have not been on a bicycle in 15 years, a realistic aim would be to ride around the block twice a week, not to bike 200 kilometers daily by the end of the month.

T – Time-framed: The fitness aims above all include a time frame, such as days, weeks or months. Set a time frame for how often you will do something, or when you will achieve the level of regularity.

Some SMART changes

If you have not yet made a resolution about your health, you can start today (or tomorrow, or anytime when you are ready!). Instead of goals like “I will lose weight,” try any of these SMART changes that may resonate with you:

  • This month, I will cook at home one additional night each week instead of getting take-out.
  • I will add one additional ½ cup serving of vegetables to my diet every day for the next two weeks.
  • By the end of the month, I will ditch soft drinks and juice, and drink water at dinner instead.
  • When I grocery shop every Saturday, I will buy at least one new fruit or vegetable to try.
  • I will bring my lunch to work with me twice every week, instead of eating at a restaurant.

So, there you have it. Changes are easier to achieve when you have a plan, and use the SMART acronym to pave your path. Good luck!

 

Cara’s bookNourish: Whole Food Recipes featuring Seeds, Nut and Beans, is available on Amazon.

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Cara Rosenbloom is a Registered Dietician, celebrated author and international columnist, active as a food blogger, recipe developer and nutrition educator.

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