With the chime of the clock at midnight, you whip out your resolutions list. Sure, it’s the same as the one you wrote last New Year’s — lose weight, exercise more, eat more healthfully — but maybe this year will be different. To inspire you, several leading health experts provide tips to help you succeed in January and beyond.
Find a buddy
Experts say New Year’s resolutions are easier to keep when you have a partner. “Choose a person you really like, whose company you enjoy and who is likely to keep you motivated with encouragement and positive feedback,” suggests Hinda Dubin, M.D., clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Decide together on a resolution-related activity — for example, walking together every other morning. You’ll have so much fun laughing, chatting and pulling each other along that keeping your resolution will be easy.”
Splurge on occasion
“Allowing yourself to enjoy a small treat, such as a small piece of good chocolate, helps ward off the feeling of deprivation, a surefire New Year’s resolution buster,” says Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., co-author of “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works.” For the most satisfaction, select high-flavor foods and enjoy every bite.
Keep the good stuff on hand
Stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthful foods and beverages, such as cut-up fresh veggies, whole-grain cereals and fruit. “At the same time, get rid of as many personal temptations as possible,” advises Kerry Neville, R.D., a nutrition consultant who served as spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It’s easier to eat more healthfully when nutritious foods are on hand.”
Create your own cheerleading squad
“Tell family, friends and co-workers about your resolutions and ask them to be your support system,” says Karen Miller-Kovach, R.D., chief scientific officer of Weight Watchers International. Be sure to tell them what type of support works best for you, such as calling you weekly, giving you a push when your motivation flags, listening to your challenges or offering daily inspiration. Being accountable to others helps keep your commitment strong.
Jot it down
Use a notebook to write down the foods you eat and the exercise you do each day. “A food and activity diary allows you to see what you’re doing and lets you tweak your eating and exercise routines,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., a New York nutrition consultant. “Write down the time of day, type and amount of food, how hungry you are and what you’re doing while you’re eating.”
Eat healthy fats
People who eat peanuts and other healthful fat sources, such as olive oil, are more likely to stick with their diets, say Kathy McManus, R.D., and her colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The scientists found that adults whose diets included moderate amounts of fat lost more weight and were more likely to remain on their diets — perhaps because nuts and oils make healthful foods like salads and vegetables more enjoyable to eat.
Set realistic goals
Don’t force yourself to go to the gym if you despise it. You’re going to continue doing things you enjoy longer than tasks you view as punishment. If you like to dance, go ballroom dancing or take tap dance lessons instead of getting on the treadmill.
(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at www.bhg.com.)
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Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.