You start the New Year with the best intentions. You’ll lose 25 pounds by Valentine’s Day, or finally quit smoking, cold turkey. But before long, the optimism you had at the beginning of January gives way to defeat and old routines. Make this your year to succeed by following these tips from Bruce Corwin, MD, Family Medicine Physician on staff at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital.
Get real about goals
If you’re planning on making a change in the New Year, make sure you’re not lining yourself up for a setback before you get started. “Think realistically about what is right for you,” says Dr. Corwin. “A weight-loss goal is fine, but trying to lose 25 pounds in six weeks is not healthy.”
This year, make your goal “Improve my health and wellness” rather than “Lose 25 pounds.” You’ll be making a positive change that you can work on in many different ways instead of being tied to specific numbers or dates. Plus, resolving to change your lifestyle can have a big impact on preventing conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
Put the plan into action
“Think about what’s going on in your life. Will you really have time to exercise every day? Consider how you deal with stress and how you think that will affect reaching your goals,” Dr. Corwin says. From there, try some of these tips:
- Cut the sweets: Replace your three o’clock candy bar with fresh fruit or limit yourself to one or two sodas per week. “Take baby steps when it comes to eliminating things that are bad for you. Picking one unhealthy thing to cut out of your diet is progress,” says Dr. Corwin.
- Say “goodbye” to fried: Trade in the fried chicken for grilled salmon. “Avoiding fried foods is a good way to start eating better,” Dr. Corwin says. “Take the time to learn about good nutrition and how to add healthy food, like whole-grain pasta and fresh vegetables, to your diet.”
- Find a gym buddy: Recruit an exercise partner to go on neighborhood walks with, or take a weekly fitness class. “Being accountable to someone is a great way to meet exercise goals,” says Dr. Corwin. “If you can join a gym, do it. Trainers help keep you motivated, make sure you’re exercising safely and provide a social aspect to your routine.”
- Try a new kind of pack: Take advantage of smoking cessation resources in your community. “You have to want to quit, and you really need a support system in place,” Dr. Corwin explains. Classes and support groups, along with talking to your doctor about medication, increase your odds of long-term success.
Take setbacks in stride and savor your success
Knowing how to cope with falling off the wagon is important, too. Beating yourself up over having a piece of cake when your resolution was to cut out sweets isn’t going to help you stick to your goal. Instead, understand that a slip up doesn’t make you a failure.
“That kind of thinking is counterproductive. Recognize that you’re human, put it behind you and get back on track as soon as you can,” Dr. Corwin explains.
Making a big lifestyle change takes commitment so take time to celebrate your successes throughout the year. Go a month without smoking? Use the money you saved to buy yourself a special reward or open a savings account. Did your healthy eating get your blood sugar in check? Congratulate yourself for reaching a major health milestone.
“The bottom line is you need to be a participant in your own health and wellness,” Dr. Corwin says. When you make that your resolution you’re getting results that matter more in the long term than dropping a pants size ever could.
Need help designing a heart-healthy diet? Attend this FREE event presented by Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. Registered Dietitian Kelly Felker will show you how to choose a variety of delicious and healthy foods and offer useful tips for creating and maintaining a satisfying diet. Learn more.