Downsizing your resolutions

One pitfall is to be too ambitious, to set too many resolutions or ones that are too drastic. If we can’t keep one, we berate ourselves and can’t keep any of the others, either. One or two of the most important resolutions is a more attainable goal.

Another resolution snafu is being too vague, making them harder to stick to. For example, instead of “I will lose weight” it can be “I will eat nine servings of fruits of vegetables a day” or “I will go to the gym three times a week.” Break goals down into smaller portions. Work on losing ten pounds, not fifty. The good feeling of success when you meet that goal may lead to better motivation for the next ten. Reward yourself with little gifties, too — like a new plant or those new shoes you’ve been craving, not Twinkies!

Keep in mind that strict, drastic diets may take off a couple of pounds today, but they will bounce right back on as soon as you go off them. If you can skip that daily muffin or latte instead, make small changes like that, you’re much more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off. Don’t completely deprive yourself of your favorites, though, just have less. Eat more home-cooked food, which is usually much healthier than takeout.

Being specific about timing may help, too. If you can’t quit smoking on January 1 promise yourself you will do it on January 12. And try, try again. Even if you have made the same resolution in the past and couldn’t quit, this may be your year. Often smokers quit several times (an average of four) before it sticks.

A food journal or exercise log tracks your progress and gives you encouraging recognition of your efforts.

Or resolve to improve your health in other ways, like walking with friends instead of pounding the treadmill. Being sociable is very, very healthy for us and brings down those killer stress levels. And it’s a no-brainer that enjoyable activities are easier to stick to than ones that feel like drudgery. And remind yourself that exercise is better for so much more than just weight loss, It will make you live longer, be stronger, lower your blood pressure, regulate your blood sugar, soothe inflamed joints, lower your stress and lift your mood.

Resolve to sleep more. It’s good for your brain and your body. Deprivation can increase risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Telling people about your plans helps you stay on track, too, giving you useful praise and extra motivation to not embarrass yourself by giving up too soon.

Instead of the gym and the diet, make resolutions that increase your happiness and the happiness of your loved ones. Resolve to live life to the fullest, to seize the day, and to appreciate each day as much as possible. Learn something new, take a trip, hug your friends and family, or reconnect with old pals.

Or just make silly resolutions like “I will stop licking frozen flagpoles” or “I will watch more cat videos on YouTube.”

But whatever resolutions you may make, if you slip up just pat yourself on the back. If one week you only manage to fit in one good long session of exercise and three vegetable servings, you are still looking out for yourself in a good way. So instead of beating yourself up, jump back on. Remember that successful resolvers aren’t necessarily happier than those who fail, or those who don’t set them at all. Yes, studies have shown that, too.

So be healthy in 2014, so you will feel better, do better and live longer; do it for yourself and for the ones you love.


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