Find out why New Year’s resolutions don’t work and what you can do to set yourself up to succeed in reaching your goals in 2014.
by Mindy Nichols, RD, CD, CDE
As we enter the last week of 2013, New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner. I would like to suggest a moratorium on New Year’s Resolutions because they rarely work, they can lead to frustration, feelings of defeat and make it harder to make positive behavior changes.
How do we turn possibility into probability? Resolve and skill-development. Remember when we were turning sixteen and excited about driving on the streets of America? We had the resolve and a reward (driving), but we didn’t have the skills to accomplish driving safely. We went 16 years without the skills, and it took two years to develop driving skills acceptably to drive on our highways. You drove with your parent or a teacher, who patiently allowed us to practice turns, parallel parking, and merging into traffic. These are a set of distinct skills that allowed us to make great driving decisions.
Achieving a health goal is like learning to drive. You start by obtaining the skills needed and finding the support to help you develop those skills. Changing your lifestyle to change health requires multiple tactics: it’s not just about the food you eat, or the exercise, or the positive mind-set, or sleeping well. From morning to night, there are disruptions to your destination. Find the change that you can succeed at first. When you feel confident that change is solid, then tackle another.
B. J. Fogg has been studying behavior change for 18 years at Stanford University. He developed a 3-step process called Tiny Habits. Fogg says a Tiny Habit “is a very little thing that you sequence into your life in a place that makes sense and you work to make it automatic.” For example, you plan ahead by setting out the breakfast bowl and cereal box before you go to bed to encourage breakfast, or pack a healthy snack for the commute after work to manage your hunger.
Here’s an example hat includes practice, skill training and support. Hook up with a personal trainer. Scheduling a session each week is a cue to continue learning a new skill: effective exercises. After a few weeks you will start to feel confident with the beginning exercises and can add to those. This will be the first step towards becoming more fit, and it won’t be your last. Success begets success.
Changing your diet can be a daunting task. Break it down, make it simple and plan a SMART goal. Out of all the eating habits you have, which one makes the most sense to change? Small steps move people toward a healthier lifestyle. You may need to gather information to help you set a SMART goal. Use support that you can count on for 30 days. Then practice the new eating habit; you may need to refine and re-tune how you can succeed at any time during this month.
Let’s look at a SMART goal for diet change: I want to eat less sugar during the day. I know that the trickiest part of the day is evening, when I am relaxing around the house. A healthy option that I found is to eat an ounce of nuts occasionally (about a handful) and drinking soup. So I decide on my SMART goal for January.
For example: For the month of January, I will eat only nuts, soups or a small piece of dark chocolate in the evening. This is a SMART and achievable goal. It is very specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, and it doesn’t require you to punish yourself. When the last day of January rolls around, make a new goal for February. Do this every month in 2014. Even better: sit down and write 12 goals today that you may want to try; you can always rewrite SMART goals.
Don’t forget to develop a support network, because every day, every single one of us is trying to live a healthier life by choosing better foods and moving more to attain a better weight or stay at a health one. You may need to take an honest look at your social circle: sometimes the people around us can disrupt our best-laid plans. Your success may depend on your social circles’ habits also.
by Mindy Nichols RD, CD, CDE
Nutrition Education Studio