If you’re like many people I know, you probably consider the beginning of the New Year as a fresh slate. You might have vowed to eat healthier foods, lower your cholesterol or exercise more. Perhaps you’ve pledged to cut back on your alcohol consumption after a social December. Or maybe you don’t know where to start, you just know that your diet needs to change. So, you seek advice during a personalized consult with a registered dietitian and get a plan of action that suits your goals and your lifestyle.
Now comes the hard part – sticking to your resolution. Difficult perhaps, but not impossible. According to one study from the University of Washington in Seattle, 63 percent of people surveyed managed to keep their primary New Year’s resolution past February.
How successful you’ll be at making resolutions more than wishful thinking depends on how you approach your goals. In this study, the keys to making a successful resolution were confidence (believing in one’s ability to make change) and commitment to goals.
Persistence also paid off. Of the people who successfully achieved their top resolution, only 40 percent did so on their first attempt. The rest required multiple tries; 17 percent finally succeeded after more than six attempts.
The following strategies can help you turn your good intentions into action – and stay motivated along the way.
Make it a priority. To be successful, you must truly want to make change. Making a lifestyle change – be it eating better, exercising more, or quitting smoking – must be among your highest priorities. Why bother setting a goal if you’re not truly committed?
You need to “own” your goals. Your goals should be for you, and only you. You’ll be less likely to make change stick if you make resolutions to please other people.
At Medcan, we now offer an enhanced Nutrition Station as part of the Annual Health Assessment that provides a more personalized and targeted consult with a registered dietitian. You’ll be able to choose a relevant topic that’s meaningful to your health goals and interests, be it eating for brain health, adding more plant-based meals to your diet, ensuring you’re getting enough protein to match your workouts, or lowering your blood sugar, for example.
Meeting with a dietitian during your health assessment, and enlisting a professional for on-going support, helps make eating well a priority.
Put it on paper. Write down your goals and read them daily. Keep written goals in a prominent place – on your desk, on the fridge, in your smart phone, or as your screen saver. Written goals serve as your contract; they remind you of your commitment, provide focus, and help keep you on track.
Be specific. Successful goals state, in specific terms, what you want to achieve. Instead of saying “I will eat healthier”, spell out precisely how you are going to do that. Will you eat at least two fruits and three vegetable servings per day? Eat breakfast before you leave for work? Limit unhealthy snacks or desserts to once per week? Go for a power walk at lunch?
Break it down. Setting bite-size goals boosts self-confidence and motivation because they’re easier (and quicker) to achieve. If you’ve pledged to eat healthier, make one small change each week and build on your successes. For example, the first week you might commit to “adding vegetables to lunch”. The following week you might decide to “replace your afternoon protein bar with fruit and nuts”, and so on. Making small changes each week adds up over time.
Plan in advance. Whether your plan is to eat more meals at home instead of in restaurants or to get to the gym more often, neither will happen if you’re not organized. On the weekend, spend a few minutes thinking about the week ahead. Map out your meals, healthy snacks and workouts. Use your weekly planner to determine your grocery list.
Chart your progress. The more monitoring you do – and feedback you get – the better you’ll do. Keep a daily food and exercise diary for January and February. Charting your progress provides awareness, focus and motivation.
Anticipate roadblocks. Don’t expect to be perfect – there are bound to be a few glitches along the way. However, you can make change easier by making a list of potential obstacles – junk food in the house, grocery shopping on an empty stomach, skipping breakfast and so on. Identifying trouble spots makes it easier to avoid them.
Don’t expect to be perfect. All-or-nothing thinking is a detriment to resolution success. If you allow yourself to lapse occasionally, rather than beating yourself up, you’ll be much more likely to pick up where you left off.
Focus on the positive. Instead of dwelling on the sacrifices, focus on the positive changes you’re making such as your healthy eating habits, the improvements in your fitness level, and the increased amount of energy you feel.
Follow up with yourself. Once you’ve achieved your goal, give yourself a big pat on the back. But don’t get overconfident. Just because your clothes feel great, or your cholesterol number is in the healthy range, stay on top of your healthy habits. It’s a slippery slope that can lead you back to your starting point.
Resolutions are a process, not a one-time effort. Even if you are successful you need to follow-up on your habits over the months and years to come. Do whatever works for you – e.g., keep a food diary periodically or check in with a dietitian for ongoing support.
If you book your Annual Health Assessment between January 9 and January 31, you will be entered for a chance to win your choice of one of the following add-ons: 10 personal training sessions; Liver Health Assessment; or Genetics and Genetic Counselling.
To learn more about the new Nutrition Station as part of the Annual Health Assessment, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (416) 350-3621. Our Nutrition Team’s training, skills and knowledge allow us to sift through the overwhelming amount of nutrition information that bombards us every day and translate evidence-based findings into practical and easy-to-understand diet advice.
Gain a critical understanding of your current health, as well as any future risks.Read More