Creating Healthy Habits for the New Year


Have you broken your New Year’s Resolution yet? If you’re like me, you love setting goals. But when it comes to tweaking your habits to achieve results that propel you toward said goals, well that requires more work than dreaming up a goal. It’s so easy to go from “I want to lose weight and improve my health” to setting a resolution to lose 25 pounds in 3 months. Most resolutions fail within a day or two of setting them, which is why if you’ve already broken your resolution for the New Year, well then you’re in good company.

It’s pretty easy to predict which resolutions are going to fail and which are more likely to succeed. Most resolutions fail for several reasons. First we are rarely clear and concrete in what it is exactly we intend to do to achieve the resolution—if you could decide to lose 25 pounds and then do it in one fell swoop on January 1, then the diet industry wouldn’t exist. Second, we tend to be unrealistic in terms of how difficult it actually is to make a lasting change.  Third, we often set lofty, unrealistic goals for ourselves. Finally, we don’t tend to change our environments enough to support a change.

But before you throw your hands up in the air and swear off goal setting (which is really what a resolution is), let’s just focus on what it takes to create a lasting change. To be clear, creating change is completely doable and it’s something you can do anytime throughout the year. In fact I think it’s a healthy practice to pause once a month, sometimes more, just to recalibrate and make sure not only that you’re on track and working for your goals, but also that your goals are working for you.

A resolution typically goes something like this:  Starting January first, I am going to go on a diet and lose 25 pounds in the next 3 months. Then, starting January 1st you run into roadblocks. You’re hungry, your gym clothes don’t fit, you can’t find your sneakers, your child is sick so you can’t go to the store to make your healthy dinner, and the next thing you know you’ve ordered a pizza and you go to bed feeling defeated.

The problem isn’t your resolution (or goal) it’s the fact that you haven’t set up a plan to ensure your success. The best resolutions don’t start tomorrow, they start the very day you think of them. So if you’ve decided you’d like to lose some weight, take the first step. Right. This. Minute. Sit down, and write up your plan. Feel free to identify your eventual goal (25 pounds), but then break it down. Why do you struggle with your weight? Is it portion sizes? Too much junk? Not enough activity? Uncertain how to eat healthy? Whatever the various causes for your problem, get real and write them down. Then, make a conscious choice to tackle one of them for the next week. Only one, seven days in a row. Then if you have that one fairly well mastered, you add in the next step for the next seven days. When you reach a step that challenges you, give yourself more time to master it before adding on a new habit. Make the habit you are shifting as small and attainable as possible.

Then set up a schedule to repeat it. Adopt changes in your environment to support your change. Tell people what you are doing. And then do it, over and over until it is easy. Review what worked and what didn’t, and rework your plan. Continue adding small, sustainable changes supported by environmental shifts, public announcements of what you need and regular tracking of successes and failures. This is how a resolution becomes a new lifestyle!

Here’s to an amazing New Year!

~ Dr. Carrie