New Years’ is an exciting time to start fresh with a clean slate and a clear head. The concept makes sense, especially if you envision January at the top of a 2020 calendar with 2019 out of sight and out of mind. Supposedly, 60% of Americans feed into this same theme around the New Years’ holiday, around which time they set out to create and execute a list of resolutions. But how many people walk away from this feat feeling accomplished? Statistics show only about 8% of people achieve their resolutions.
Why is this, and how does this relate to diet? As dietitians, we see and hear this a lot, no matter the time of year. People often set out to eat healthier, snack less, or cut out a specific food/food group, often overnight (such as the night of NYE) and vow to practice that resolution “forever”. The problem with resolutions and plans for permanent “clean eating” is that at the first sign of a slip-up – eating a treat you promised yourself you wouldn’t, failing to eat a salad for lunch, or going out to eat and indulging in something you know isn’t healthy – people experience an insurmountable wave of guilt that (most often) causes a subsequent binge on the previously forbidden food or other foods that are not a part of a generally-recognized healthful diet. It’s human nature. It’s the mindset of “welp, I already cheated so I might as well get my fix of this sweet/carb/snack before I cut them out completely tomorrow .” And the cycle continues.
This year instead set you up for success! To do this, trade in the list of resolutions for specific, measurable, attainable goals. The difference between a resolution and a goal is often the “measurable” aspect. Rather than resolving to “eat healthier” in 2020, make it a goal to pack a healthy lunch 4 days a week for each week in January. Another goal might be to go for a 30-minute walk outside 3 times a week or go to the gym 2 times a week in February.
Another way to improve your chances of success this year is to focus on one goal per month. Writing out a list of ten things that you want to do better starting in January only sets a person up for failure; that’s too many habit changes to keep track of for 52 weeks straight. Rather, choose between 4-12 healthy, measurable goals and set out to focus on one at a time, assigning one goal per month for as many months as you choose in 2020. Trust me, you’ll end each month feeling like a champion if you’re able to conquer one new habit for even most of the month.
Here are a few goals we recommend in the new year, and beyond:
January: Get 8 hours of sleep, 5 out of 7 nights a week
February: Lift at the gym 3 days per week, cardio 2x per week
March: Complete weekly meal prep all 4 Sundays of the month
April: Train weekly to achieve 10 unassisted pull-ups by the end of the month
May: Practice “Meatless Monday” all 4 Mondays of the month
June: Hike at least 40 miles between scheduled backpacking trips this month