Eat healthier, lose weight, drink less alcohol, quit smoking – these are some of the most common health-related new year resolutions. However, while it’s easy to resolve to make positive lifestyle changes on Jan. 1, challenges and barriers to success can emerge in the following weeks and months.
Dr. Marc Feldman, assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says only 46% of Americans who have made these and other resolutions have stuck to them after six months. Here’s why:
- Time restrictions
- Unrealistic expectations
- No plan of action
- Difficulty of change
- Too tired
- Medical issues
- Equipment or funds
Want to make your goals stick? Here’s how:
If your resolution is to lose 60 pounds by spring break, that’s likely not realistic. Instead, set a goal of bringing your lunch instead of eating out or taking a walk during your lunch break.
“These goals help promote behaviors that will lead to long-term weight loss,” said Emily Monfiletto, a senior registered dietitian at Baylor.
Set short-term goals
Build momentum toward your long-term goal. For example, if your resolution is to start exercising, take the first step by building no-cost, achievable activities into your daily routine, like going on short walks, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or doing calf lifts while brushing your teeth. Then, you can tackle a gym membership or running a 5k.
Be SMART with your goals
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time based. “When goals are too generic, it’s hard to even get started,” Monfiletto said.
Turn the goal of “eating healthier” into a SMART goal by tracking food and exercise through an app or journal, developing a plan of action after reviewing data, and making a back-up plan for days that more hectic.
Plan for slip-ups
Roadblocks are going to arise, Monfiletto said, but they shouldn’t derail your resolution. One way to reduce them is to plan for busy days, week or months, and prepare for changes in routine.
“Don’t focus on the slip when it does happen; rather, focus on how you are going to get back on track. Also make sure to celebrate success, even if it seems small.”
A support network is key to success, says Dr. Lizabeth Riley, an assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor. This can come in the form of a social network of friends, attending group exercise classes at a local gym, and even through online- and app-based fitness trackers.
“Were in an electronic age, and so many things at our fingertips can be valuable resources,” she said. “Make use of apps like My Fitness Pal and Lose It. Many of them even have chat and networking functions so you can connect with others.”
Dr. Marc Feldman, Dr. Lizabeth Riley and Emily Monfiletto are with Baylor Medicine. Learn more about healthcare services at Baylor.
-By Dana Benson