Author: Dr. Amanda Grischow, NMD

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and How to Make Them Last All Year

As the New Year begins, people set intentions for self-improvement through the time-honored tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Among the most prevalent resolutions are those related to health. These resolutions reflect a genuine desire for better well-being and understanding the pitfalls can help navigate the journey to success. The unfortunate truth is that many of these resolutions fall by the wayside within a few weeks. Because of this, many people have given up on making their resolutions all together. Let’s delve into the reasons behind this phenomenon and explore effective strategies to make your resolutions stick this year.

Why Resolutions Often Fail

  • Lack of Specificity: One of the primary reasons resolutions falter is their lack of specificity. Vague goals like “eat healthier” or “exercise more” lack a clear roadmap, making it easier to lose focus and motivation.
  • Overambitious Targets: Setting overly ambitious goals can lead to burnout and frustration. Rapid, drastic changes are often unsustainable. Gradual changes are more likely to become lifelong habits.
  • Lack of Planning: Failing to plan is planning to fail. Without a well-thought-out strategy, it’s easy to succumb to old habits. Planning ahead minimizes the reliance on willpower alone, making it easier to adhere to the chosen path.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Unrealistic expectations can quickly lead to disappointment. Weight loss, for instance, is a gradual process, and expecting rapid results may result in discouragement. Instead, celebrate small victories and appreciate the overall improvement in well-being, not just the numbers on a scale.
  • Lack of Accountability: Going it alone can be challenging. Sharing resolutions with a friend, family member, or health care provider creates a sense of accountability. Having a support system can offer encouragement during challenging times and provide an avenue for sharing successes and setbacks.

Strategies for Success: Turning Resolutions into Habits

  • Set SMART Goals: Make resolutions Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART). For instance, a SMART goal would be to “lose 10 pounds in three months by walking 30 minutes five times a week and eating one additional serving of vegetables daily.”
  • Start Small and Build: Begin with manageable changes and gradually build upon them. Small victories create momentum and instill confidence, paving the way for more significant adjustments over time.
  • Create a Plan: Develop a detailed plan outlining how the resolution will be achieved. This might involve creating a weekly meal plan, scheduling specific workout times, or seeking guidance from a healthcare professional or fitness expert. Be flexible with yourself and willing to adjust the plan if the first attempt isn’t working for you.
  • Focus on the Process, Not Just the Outcome: Shift the focus from immediate results to the process of self-improvement. Celebrate the journey, acknowledging the positive changes in habits and behaviors, even if the end goal is not yet reached.
  • Build a Support System: Share resolutions with friends or family who can provide encouragement and support. Joining a fitness class, online community, or partnering with a workout buddy enhances accountability and motivation.
  • If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again: Many resolutions are often abandoned after “falling off the wagon.” If you feel that you haven’t been successful when first attempting to achieve your goals, give yourself some grace. Improvement is the goal, not perfection.

Navigating Common Health Resolutions: A Practical Guide

  • Weight Loss: Instead of fixating on a specific number on the scale, aim to adopt a balanced, sustainable approach to nutrition and physical activity. If you already have healthy habits in place, consider seeing your healthcare provider to investigate non-lifestyle causes of weight gain. Celebrate non-scale victories like increased energy levels and improved mood.
  • Exercise More: Rather than committing to intense daily workouts, establish a realistic exercise routine that aligns with personal preferences. This could include activities like walking, cycling, or dancing. Consistency is key, so find enjoyable activities that can be sustained over time. If you don’t know what you enjoy yet, consider taking a few different types of exercises classes to see what they’re like.
  • Healthy Eating: Shift the focus from strict diets to creating a balanced, varied, and enjoyable meal plan. Gradually introduce more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while minimizing processed foods. Experiment with new recipes to keep meals interesting and satisfying.
  • Quit Smoking: Quitting smoking is a significant achievement that often requires professional support. Explore smoking cessation programs, counseling, and alternative therapies like herbal medicine and acupuncture to help curb cravings. Enlist the support of friends and family and focus on the numerous health benefits of quitting.

A Journey, Not a Destination

As the New Year unfolds, health-related resolutions can transform from fleeting aspirations into lasting habits by embracing realistic goals, cultivating patience, and building a supportive environment. Remember, the journey to improved health is ongoing, and each day offers an opportunity for positive choices.