We’re in that odd period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve where the days just seem to run together, particularly if you’re among those lucky people who are enjoying some time off from work, tinkering with their gifts, hanging out with close family members and diving into those leftovers one last time. In just a few days, it will finally be 2021, which means 2020 will, at long last, be behind us. After an extremely tough year, many have set their hopes on January 1, 2021 as a sign of better days ahead. Of course, with every January 1st, we’re faced with the idea of making New Year’s resolutions. Some resolutions lead to the lifelong changes people have always hoped they’d make – others don’t. Change is hard, after all. But maybe with all the other hopes this particular New Year brings for better things, the notion of making a lasting resolution carries more hope, too.
It helps to start with the right mindset. Two of the toughest resolutions – losing weight and exercising more – typically are two of the most popular. If weight loss is your goal this New Year, Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says there are some strategies that will help you keep on track these next few weeks – the toughest weeks of all – and build habits that will last the entire year. “You’ll want to start by focusing on the ‘why’ and not the ‘how,’” Tillman said. “Spend some time thinking about why being healthier and losing weight are so important to you. Is it solely about weight loss, or are you trying to feel better and improve your overall health? Finding your reasons for setting your goal will help you zero in on reasons to continue your workout or diet when it starts getting tough because it gives you that perspective and, hopefully, renews your commitment to change,” she said.
“Once you have the ‘why,’ then you can start to look at the ‘how,’” Tillman continued. “Remember that it’s important to set realistic goals and to do so with positive language. For instance, instead of saying ‘I’m never eating pizza or ice cream again,’ focus on thinking about what you will eat in place of those things, such as more fruits and vegetables, and water instead of sodas. Deciding to completely eliminate something from your diet tends to lead to cravings for the very same foods you’re trying to avoid, which can be challenging for your willpower. Maybe it’s as simple as telling yourself ‘I’m going to pack my lunch more often, rather than relying on fast foods’ or ‘I’m going to walk for 30 minutes today,” rather than just joining a gym and working out as hard as you can every day,” she explained. “These are extreme examples, and extremes tend to lead to higher failure rates. Eating ‘perfectly’ and exercising intensely every day are not realistic goals for most people,” Tillman added.
Tillman says she recommends people break their diets and workouts into percentages. “I always tell people about the 80/20 or 90/10 rule,” she said. “This means that 80 or 90 percent of the time, you should do your best to make healthy food choices and get constant, regular exercise. However, the other 10 or 20 percent of the time, you should try to allow yourself a treat, or take a rest day from your workout. Remember, you’re trying to make yourself feel better, not punish yourself.”
And, if you do find yourself struggling and losing track of your goals, Tillman says it may be time to consult the experts. “If you have a significant amount of weight to lose or you have medical problems, a good registered dietitian and a certified personal trainer can be great resources to help you get started on a realistic plan toward long-term, successful healthy living,” she said.