Beth Kitchin PhD RDN blogs on health and nutrition. Her blogs are fact-based and offer a common sense approach to a healthier life. She's a food lover so don't expect her to tell you what not to eat! Beth is a an Assistant Professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Nutrition Sciences Department and the patient educator at UAB's Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Clinic. She also appears weekly as a guest contributor on WBRC's morning show "Good Day Alabama".
Resolutions are really nothing more than goals. And the way
you set your goals can have a big effect on whether or not you achieve them. At
this time of year, many people set health goals like losing weight or
exercising. But I’m guessing no one ever taught you how to set goals the right
way, so your resolutions will likely fail. Here’s why:
didn’t make your resolutions actions/behavior oriented. If weight loss was
your “goal”, then you are doomed to fail. “I will lose weight” or “I will lose
20 pounds” are not actions. You can’t “do” an outcome – you can “do” behaviors.
Setting behavioral goals such as “I will switch to diet soda or water instead
of drinking regular sodas” or “I will keep a food record and track my calories”
are behaviors that will lead to weight loss. Don’t resolve to “lose weight” but
resolve to cut back on snacks, eat more fruits and vegetables, eat breakfast,
reduce portion sizes. Or, sign up for an exercise or weight loss class. These actions will help you achieve the
outcome – weight loss – that you want.
Set the Bar Way Too High. Not being realistic about your resolution sets
you up for failure. Don’t resolve to run 5 miles every day, 7 days a week. Set
goals that you really, honestly feel you can achieve. It can be as small as
walking 5 minutes a day or adding in one extra piece of fruit every day. After
you achieve that goal, set newer, higher goals. Take baby steps so that you can
feel good about your achievements and stay motivated.
didn’t make a plan and write it down. If you don’t put it on paper (or an
app) you’re less likely to follow through. Charting your progress on your plan
will help you stay on track.
Specific Enough. “I will exercise
more” sounds great but what does it mean? The more specific you are, the more
likely you are to follow through. “I am going to walk for 20 minutes after work
on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning” is much more specific and tells you
exactly what you are going to do.
Weren’t Flexible. What if rains and you can’t walk after work on Tuesday? Will
you go to the gym? Do you have a workout DVD that you can use inside? Having a
backup plan makes is a key to resolution success.
reward yourself. No, just the joy of achieving your goal is not enough. We
are humans and humans like stuff. You
need to reward yourself with something meaningful. It may be as simple as a
bubble bath, binge watching Downton Abbey,
or a lunch date with a special friend.
Didn’t Ask for Help. For some of us, going it alone goes just fine. But
sometimes, you need to recruit some help. Chances are you’ve got friends and
family members who have the same goals you do. For instance, make walking dates
with friends. There is strength – and support – in numbers. You may need to
seek professional help – especially if you are trying to quit smoking or lower
your cholesterol. Seek the right professional to help you.
Unforgiving. If you are too hard on yourself when you don’t reach your
goal, your motivation will bottom out. You should constantly reevaluate and re-set
your goals and keep at it.
Well-constructed goals can stack the odds in favor of
actually achieving your New Year’s resolution. So go forth and set some
realistic, flexible behavioral goals and make it happen!
Beth Kitchin, PhD,
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham