New Year's Resolutions: Making Healthy Changes Last

As the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, many people have a laundry list of resolutions to achieve in the New Year. Many of these resolutions are health related, such as losing weight, eating healthier and participating in more regular physical activity. While setting New Year’s resolutions and goals is a great way to get motivated to make positive changes, often we find ourselves back to our old eating and exercise habits before the end of January. Here are some tips to developing great health goals and advice on how to make them last.

Tip #1: Keep a written list of goals:

Having a handwritten or typed list organizes your thoughts and provides visual feedback on whether or not you are working to achieve the goals. You will gain a tremendous amount of satisfaction when you can “scratch” that resolution off of your list.

Tip #2: The fewer the goals/resolutions, the better:

Aim for 2-4 goals at the most. Having too many issues to tackle will become overwhelming and will not allow you to put enough time and attention into adequately achieving the goals. Instead, focus on less than a handful of specific goals, write them on your paper, and then come up with ways to put the goals into action (see tip below).

Tip #3: Make these goals/resolutions specific and measurable:

Developing goals that are specific and measurable is key to achieving success with your resolutions.  A resolution such as “eat healthier” is indeed a positive goal for the New Year, but it is not specific and does not explain how you will measure the success of “eating healthier.” Instead, make your goal “eat at least two pieces of fruit per day” which is specific and can be easily measured.

Have short term and long term goals. 12 months is a long time and having a goal to “be a certain weight” by the end of the year lacks the day to day motivation that you will need to actually achieve that goal. Instead, have small goals that will lead into larger goals. For example, start with a weight loss goal of 10 pounds by the end of February, or you can even start as simple and specific as “I will lose 2 pounds this week, and every week, until the end of February.”

Tip #4: Set new goals when others have been achieved:

Congratulate yourself for achieve your goal! But don’t let this victory derail your hard work. Use it as motivation to create a new set or goals or a revision to your previous resolution.  If your goal was to lose 20 pounds, now aim for 30! Remember to keep it specific and measurable, so “30 pound by the end of June” is better than just “30 pounds.”

Tip #5: Find out what keeps you motivated:

If your motivation is falling short, find a friend or relative to participate in your healthy lifestyle mission with you. Having a partner helps keep you on track and using others as a support system for the emotional and physical stress that weight loss and other lifestyle changes can produce is extra important to making these changes stick.

When working on your resolutions individually, be conscious of what internal or external factors help keep you going. Can you only workout at the gym when you have a good book to read or new song on the ipod? If so, aim to always have those support tools with you to prevent “excuses” from popping up.

When you feel like you have plateaued or lost all motivation – enlist the help of professionals.

Even the most determined individual can hit a point where it is hard to keep up with healthy lifestyle changes. When you feel like you are ready to quit or feel yourself slipping back into bad habits, find a Registered Dietitian to work with who will review the progress you have made and come up with a new and improved plan to set you back on the right track! You are never too old or too smart to ask for help from a professional!

Best of luck with your New Year health resolutions!

Email Gail at for any questions, concerns or advice about making healthy lifestyle changes.