Every year millions around the world take a New Year’s vow to eat healthier and exercise more. As the fireworks set off at midnight, and 2017 turned into 2018, did you make a similar resolution? Here’s some tips for meeting your New Year’s resolutions and having a happy and healthy 2018.
1. Setting Your Goals
The resolution ‘eat healthier’ is far too vague. Often, it is not the difficultly of the resolution that causes its failure, but instead, its quality. If you want to get serious about your New Year’s resolutions, you’ve got to smarten up! SMART goals are specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely.
In order to make your goals specific, include detail. Convert ‘eat healthier’ to ‘eat less fast food, cook more at home and buy only fruit, vegetable, wholegrains, lean meat and dairy’. Now you’ve got something to work with. For example, its January 3rd and you’re doing your first grocery shop of the year. You go to buy the usually white bread. Then you realise, your resolution is to buy only whole grains. This gives you direction towards healthier choices, making the resolution easier to follow. You’ll find it much easier to eat healthy when you define what it means to eat healthy.
Make it Measurable
Having a measurable goal keeps you accountable. It will help you know how you are going, if are you on track and if you have fallen off the horse. An example of a measurable goal is ‘lose 10 kg’ or ‘only eat chocolate once a week’. By measuring your weight or recording the number of times you’ve had chocolate this week, it’s easy to gage how you are going with meeting your goal.
Believe You Can Achieve
I would argue that making goals achievable is the most important factor for punching them. With the excitement of starting a new year full of promise and hope, it is easy to bite off more than you can chew. Often people make ridiculous goals for themselves that are nearly impossible to achieve. Don’t over estimate yourself! Instead, opt for small changes, that are manageable. For instance, ‘I’m not going to eat anything deep fried this year’ is not an achievable goal. ‘I will limit my deep-fried food intake this year, by only eating fish and chips on the last Friday of each month’. This way, you can still enjoy the foods you love, while making healthier choices. Too often we have an ‘all or nothing approach to nutrition’. You don’t have to eat all healthy all the time, a healthy diet can include ‘junk’ foods that aren’t so good for you so long as they are enjoyed in moderation.
Keep it Real
Keeping your resolution realistic means choosing goals that you can actually see yourself doing. Building on our previous example, limiting deep fried food to once a month might not be realistic if every week the family gets deep fried food for dinner (or something similar). In this case, it isn’t realistic to limit fast food to once a month, if the only dinner provided once a week, is deep fried. In this case you must modify the resolution. For example, ‘when we eat fish and chips for dinner, once a week, I will have 10 chips, and no more’. Having realistic goals is important for staying on track.
Setting a time limit on your resolution is very important for holding yourself accountable. If you have big goals like losing 10kg, break it down into smaller time frames. For example, lose 3 kg by March, another 3 by June and another 3 by September. By adding the time factor, you’ve set a date to measure how you are going and monitor if you are on track. Mark the dates on your calendar to remind yourself!
2. Be kind to yourself
Having SMART goals gets you a step closer to sticking to your resolution. But it doesn’t get you all the way there. It is completely unrealistic to predict no setbacks. These are bound to happen throughout the year. Maybe you go through a rough time, maybe you get extremely busy. When we feel pressure, often our resolutions go out the door.
What’s important is to get back on the horse. It doesn’t matter if you have moment of weakness and eat a whole block of chocolate. Just go back to sticking to the resolution the next week. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
People are tempted to rebound from times of weakness with stricter rules to ‘make up’ for the recent binge. This might include banning themselves from certain foods for a month etc. This type of compensatory behaviour is often detrimental to healthy progress and instils an unhealthy attitude towards food that will not be conducive to meeting your goals.
3. Set multiple goals
Break down your resolution into smaller chunks. You could try daily, weekly and monthly goals. For example, each day I want to meet my 2 fruits and 5 veg. Each week I want to have eaten only 1 unhealthy meal. Each month I want to have lost 1 kg. Breaking your resolution into smaller mini goals means they are easier to manage.
4. Be organised
If you have a SMART goal to eat healthier, then you need to put the measures in place to help you achieve this. Be organised with meal preparation during weeks you know you will be busy in order to give yourself the best chance at sticking to your resolution. Plan what you are eating for the week, write a grocery list and stick to it. Have a few healthy frozen meals stocked up in the freezer for those days you just do not feel like cooking. This will make you less reliant on unhealthy take out options.
5. Write them down
Some say writing your goals down is the first step to achieving them. By doing this, you have created tangible evidence of the goal. Put them somewhere you can always see them to remind yourself every day. Don’t forget, it’s okay to alter your goals as you travel through the year, so maybe use pencil instead of pen!