Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions

From Better Homes and Gardens

With the chime of the clock at midnight, you whip out your resolutions list. Sure, it’s the same as the one you wrote last New Year’s—lose weight, exercise more, eat more healthfully—but maybe this year will be different. To inspire you, several leading health experts provide tips to help you succeed in January and beyond.

Find a buddy.

Experts say New Year’s resolutions are easier to keep when you have a partner. “Choose a person you really like, whose company you enjoy and who is likely to keep you motivated with encouragement and positive feedback,” suggests Hinda Dubin, M.D., clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Decide together on a resolution-related activity—for example, walking together every other morning. You’ll have so much fun laughing, chatting and pulling each other along that keeping your resolution will be easy.”

Splurge on occasion.

“Allowing yourself to enjoy a small treat, such as a chocolate-covered strawberry or two, a tasty cookie or a small piece of good chocolate, helps ward off the feeling of deprivation, a surefire New Year’s resolution buster,” says Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., co-author of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works. Tribole says many treats hold fewer than 200 calories as long as you keep the portion size in check. For the most satisfaction, select high-flavor foods and enjoy every bite.

Keep the good stuff on hand.

Stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthful foods and beverages that you’ve resolved to eat and drink, such as cut-up fresh veggies, whole-grain cereals and a pitcher of cold water. “At the same time, get rid of as many personal temptations as possible,” advises Kerry Neville, R.D., a nutrition consultant who served as spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It’s easier to eat more healthfully when nutritious foods are on hand. By the same token, it’s hard to cut back on cookies and chips if they’re front and center in your cupboard.”

Create your own personal cheerleading squad.

Ask friends and family to cheer you on—it will help motivate you. “Tell family, friends and coworkers about your resolutions and ask them to be your support system,” says Karen Miller-Kovach, R.D., chief scientific officer of Weight Watchers International. Be sure to tell them what type of support works best for you, such as calling you weekly, giving you a push when your motivation flags, listening to your challenges or offering daily inspiration. Miller-Kovach says being accountable to others helps keep your commitment strong.

Jot it down.

Use an inexpensive spiral notebook or file cards to write down the foods you eat and the exercise you do each day. “A food and activity diary allows you to see what you’re doing and lets you tweak your eating and exercise routines,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., a New York nutrition consultant. “In the food section of the notebook, each time you eat, write down the time of day, type and amount of food, how hungry you are and what you’re doing while you’re eating.” If you’re watching television, talking on the phone or paying attention to something other than your food, you’re likely eating too much, Taub-Dix says.

Take baby steps.

Put action before motivation. Take a small step toward more healthful habits, even if you’re not yet ready to make all the changes. “If you wait until you feel motivated, you’ll never stick to your resolution,” Dubin says. “Instead, take a few small, doable steps, such as getting on the treadmill for just 10 minutes or avoiding dessert a few times per week.” Motivation and inspiration will follow your success at making small changes.

Go nuts.

People who eat peanuts and other healthful fat sources, such as olive oil, are more likely to stick with their diets, say Kathy McManus, R.D., and her colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The scientists found that adults whose diets included moderate amounts of fat lost more weight and were more likely to remain on their diets for at least 18 months. Why? McManus suggests that nuts and oils make healthful foods like salads and vegetables more enjoyable to eat.

Set realistic goals.

Don’t aim for perfection. “Make sure that your resolutions are tied to behaviors that are realistic for you,” says Robyn Flipse, R.D., author of Fighting the Freshman Fifteen. “The easiest way to determine what’s realistic is to ask yourself if it makes you happy. Why? You’re going to continue doing things you enjoy longer than tasks you view as punishment. So, if you like to dance, go ballroom dancing at least once a week or take tap dance lessons, instead of coercing yourself to go to the gym.”

Keep tabs.

Make friends with the bathroom scale. People who maintain weight loss say they check their weight on a regular basis, as often as once a day. Other findings from the National Weight Control Registry—a database of adults who’ve lost at least 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least one year—show that keeping tabs on weight helps people nip weight gain in the bud before it gets out of hand.

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