Living Well: Challenge yourself, but be realistic when setting New Year’s resolutions
Madysen Jourgensen, registered dietitian with Memorial Regional Health, discusses some of the ways people can realistically set goals for better health in 2020.
What are some health-based New Year’s resolutions that can make a big impact on overall health?
Madysen Jourgensen: There are so many nutrition-related resolutions that can make a big impact. Something as simple as decreasing or eliminating sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (soda, juice, sweetened coffees, sweetened teas, etc.) can have a major impact on weight management, bone health and sugar consumption, along with many other health benefits.
Increasing intake of non-starchy vegetables each week, increasing fruit consumption, switching from refined grains to whole grains, and increasing water intake are also impactful. Strive to increase physical activity in any form that you enjoy doing. If you eat out frequently, you can focus goals more on preparing meals at home or meal-prepping ahead of time to substitute healthful foods when tempted to eat out. If you don’t typically eat breakfast, setting a goal specific to including a healthy breakfast meal at least a few days of the week can have a major impact on overall nutritional status.
Why is it important to set realistic goals?
Setting unrealistic goals can be completely self-defeating. When we have the same goal from week to week that we are consistently not meeting, we tend to lose motivation to work toward that goal. If we set realistic goals that we have to work hard to achieve, but that we can meet each week, we are much more likely to continue working toward those goals because we have a sense of fulfillment or achievement each time we meet them.
There needs to be a balance as to avoid making our goals too easy to meet or making them too difficult to achieve.
What are some tips to stay on track throughout the year?
• Write your goals down and keep them somewhere visible. A daily reminder of the goals that you set can make a major impact on motivation to achieve them.
• Adjust your goals as you meet them so that you can continue to build on each goal that you meet.
• If you have a goal that you continuously struggle meeting, think about why you may not be meeting this goal. What are barriers to your success? Is this goal realistic for you? What are some specific things that you can do to work toward this goal? What support might you benefit from in your efforts to reach this goal?
• Remember that we all struggle at times. None of us are perfect and we may stray away from any goals that we may have set. It’s important to recognize that you “fell off the wagon” and to recognize that’s OK! What is important is that you work on getting back on track.
• Find support. Making lifestyle changes are so much easier if you have a support network in place rather than doing things on your own.
What are some healthy resolutions to put on the list that aren’t as common as the typical ‘lose weight’ or ‘exercise more?’
Instead of focusing on weight, you can always just focus on improving your health in general. You can set goals related to increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption, drinking more water, eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages, sitting down as a family for a healthy dinner each week, eating out less and cooking at home more often.
You can make exercise goals related to something meaningful instead of just saying “exercise more.” For example, you could focus on something like: “I would like to be in good enough shape to be able to go hiking with my son next summer. To achieve this goal, I am going to: ______.” Usually, if we focus our goals on being healthier in general and implement change, our weight will follow.
How can you get the whole family involved?
A huge part of getting the family involved is talking with your family about why your resolutions or goals are important to you. Your family is much more likely to support you and become involved if they understand how much it means to you. Make it fun.
What else should readers know as they prepare to make healthy resolutions for 2020?
It is really important to set goals for yourself that are realistic. Ideally, a perfect goal is something that is going to take a lot of work, but is something that you know that you can achieve. By ensuring this balance in your goal-setting, it does make working toward them much less daunting and also makes achieving them that much better. You can always start small. For some of us, very small changes are much more doable and can all add up to fulfill a larger goal. Some of us tend to respond better when we set goals with an “all or nothing” mindset. Do what works best for you.
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