With the holidays behind us, many people have begun thinking about goals for the new year. New Year's Resolutions are a sticky subject for lots of people. We've all had the experience of setting a goal for the new year only to fall flat on our face by the time February rolls around. However, the New Year does seem like a perfect time to "start fresh," so many people attempt to make new health goals during this time. Here are some tips to make sure you're on the right track as you evaluate your goals for the coming year.
1. Set Attainable Goals
One of the biggest mistakes people make is making goals that they simply can't keep. If your goal is to exercise 6 days a week and you're currently not exercising at all, it will be easy to be derailed by a missed day at the gym. Starting small by, for example, trying to walk 15-20 minutes 2 or 3 days a week, can help you build momentum as you try to incorporate new habits. If your goal is to eat more vegetables, don't resolve to eat them at every meal. Perhaps make a goal to plan a few into your weekly meal plan, or to prep them one day a week to start. It's much easier to build on small wins than to to pick yourself up after perceived failure.
2. Make Them Positive
Goals to do things like "quit eating sugar" or to "lose ten pounds" are by nature not motivating. The second we tell ourselves a food is off limits, it becomes all the more tantalizing. Rather than focusing on habits that you want to quit or things you want to cut out, focus on things you can add. For example, instead of, "I want to eat fewer processed foods," which can demonize processed foods and make you feel like a failure when you eat them, resolve to cook more at home. Instead of a goal to lose weight, try adding something that actually helps to improve your overall health, like time to engage in a hobby to help reduce stress, a quick walk after work, or some snacks during the day to help prevent becoming overly hungry.
3. Expect Imperfections
So your goal was to cook at home twice per week and it only happened once (or not at all!). This happens to everyone...you're not alone! It doesn't mean you're a failure or that your goals are worthless, and it certainly doesn't mean you'll never change. Many people get derailed at this point because they see an old habit creeping back and feel defeated. Nutrition and health aren't all-or-nothing. Rather than giving up, try to learn from the experience. Why didn't you cook the night you'd planned to? Did you forget? Try setting a reminder on your phone. Maybe you had no idea what to cook or forgot to get groceries, so you resorted to getting takeout. Perhaps next time you could plan a meal or two before going to the grocery store so you have what you need on hand. By examining why a goal or intention wasn't met rather that determining you'll never succeed, you'll likely gain insight into ways you can be successful in the future. It's a process, and it's not perfect for anyone.