New Year's Resolutions. Keep Them Simple. Keep Them For Life.

New Year's Resolutions

( Yes, it's that time again. With the beginning of a new year comes new resolve to make changes for the better. Don't get me wrong, I'm not poking fun. Committing to a new path is necessary if real change is going to happen. You can't keep doing the same thing as you did before and expect different results, hence, the proverbial resolution to do something new, but, as the saying goes

People don't plan to fail, but they fail to plan

Maintaining traction is difficult but not impossible. Two main reasons why resolutions fall quickly by the wayside is because people don't make clear and specific goals and because they try to make too many changes at once. With a little know-how, you can master the resolution maze and make lasting changes for life.

Tips For Successful New Year's Resolutions

Make SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely/time sensitive

Basket full of groceries

It's simply not good enough to say something like, 'I resolve to eat more vegetables next year', or 'my New Year's resolution is to start eating more healthfully'. Lingering questions  such as 'how will that happen?', or 'what will I do?', etc. to make resolutions a reality remain, and when left unanswered, set a person up to fail.

Your goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. For example, a person who only eats vegetables at dinner, might set a goal to 'include one serving of vegetables at lunch, three days a week, starting next week'. The goal is specific (any confusion about the plan?), measurable (one serving is 1/2 cup or the veggies will be eaten three days a week), attainable (in this case, 3 days a week is 'doable', for someone else, it may only be 2 days a week, for another, 5 days a week depending on logistics etc.), realistic (3 days a week, in this example, is 'what's likely going to happen', more often may be out of the question), and timely (this is going to start next week, not 'someday').

Don't take on too much at once

We know from the psychology literature that when people try to make too many changes at once, failure is assured. Ultimately, humans are creatures of habit and new habits are slow to take hold. Try to make too many changes at once and success drops like a stone: there's an 85% chance of success with just one change, about  a 35% chance when attempting two, and a dismal 10% chance of success with three. Sounds bleak huh? 

Make a list of some SMART goals, look them over and ask yourself, 'on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being absolute confidence, how confident am I at succeeding?'. If you can't answer 8 or 9, then choose something else. Start small, go slowly, and keep at it. It takes  about 3 to 4 weeks for a new behaviour to become a habit; once that's happened, layer on another change. Building on tiny successes will not only lead you to your ultimate goal but will also help to build confidence at the same time.

A Few Suggestions To Consider For The New Year

  1. Add vitamin D. At least 2000 IU per day, but preferably 4000 IU per day for adults over the age of 18. Vitamin D Council and Grassroots Health  has more information.
  2. Explore new whole/intact grains/seeds: quinoa, buckwheat, teff, black rice, wild rice, and amaranth
  3. Include more kale. Kale chips are all the rage, but getting back to basics is easy too. There are loads of kale recipes out there. It's super easy to add kale to soups and stews, or saute with onions and garlic, then simmer in vegetable or chicken stock until tender.
  4. Support Foodland Ontario and eat more parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes and carrots. Good health and good nutrition doesn't need expensive foods like goji berries and acai powders (these are perfectly nutritious, but pricey, so don't think you're not doing yourself, or your family, any good if you don't include the latest trendy 'superfood').
  5. Include whole eggs several times a week. There's no need to be afraid of egg yolks, that's where nutrients such as vitamins A, D, B5, B2, folate, choline, and lutein, are found.
  6. Cut back on drinking your calories. Sweetened beverages such as iced tea, lemonade etc, soft drinks, sports drinks, vitamin waters, more than 125ml / 4oz of fruit juice, energy drinks etc. are one of the leading contributions to the obesity epidemic.
  7. Add more magnesium-rich foods. Most Canadians don't get enough and magnesium is essential for optimal health. If consistently eating enough magnesium-rich foods is a challenge, consider a supplement.
  8. Get more restorative sleep; for most, that's between 7 and 8 hours. Sleep helps to lower cortisol, one of the major stress hormones. Chronically elevated cortisol is associated with higher body weights and obesity, and lower immune fitness.
  9. Have 4 to 5 Brazil nuts per week. Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium, a mineral that is used to make a very important antioxidant called glutathione peroxidase. Higher intakes of selenium are associated with lower rates of many cancers, heart disease, and better thyroid function [the gland that governs your metabolism].
  10. Try one new food and/or recipe per month: a new fruit, a new vegetable, a new grain, or a new way of cooking an old favourite. Variety is the spice of life!

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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.