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How to Keep Your New Year’s Health Goals and Create Long-Lasting Change

Sunday, January 3, 2021

A new year symbolizes a fresh start with new health resolutions – whether it be a new exercise regimen, a healthier diet, or specific bodyweight goals.

It’s important to make resolutions that not only improve your health but that you can continue to follow. Oftentimes, people set health and wellness goals that are unsustainable, leading them to soon break their resolutions without enjoying the results.

“The main tip I tell patients is to make achievable goals that will improve their overall health,” said Stephanie Michel, a physician assistant with Iredell Health System. “This could be as simple as drinking more water daily, reducing their calorie intake, eating a more balanced diet, taking their medications as prescribed, or exercising on a regular basis.”

How can you ensure that your New Year’s health and wellness goals last throughout 2021? Here are some tips to create long-lasting change:

Find a diet that works for you, and stick with it
Amanda Downs, a registered dietician with Iredell Health System, provides nutrition education to patients unique to them and their circumstances. She explains that dieting is not one-size-fits-all.

“There is no one ‘diet’ I give to everyone,” she said. “My conversation with an individual is never the same.”

Calculate how much your habit costs
Adding up how much you spend on an unhealthy habit can help you determine if the habit is worth the cost.

“How much do you spend on coffee or eating out when you are out?” said Eva Imperial, a physician with Iredell Health System. “Add it up, and you may see that is enough money over the year to buy something else that you really like, like a getaway trip or something for yourself.”

Shop wisely
When you go to the grocery store, don’t buy what you should not eat.

Take inventory
“Writing your goals down and checking them off as you meet them will help you feel motivated to continue to make changes throughout the year to improve your overall health and wellbeing,” Michel said.

Reduce stress
There may be underlying reasons you are overeating. Make a list of what those may be, and try to address them – you may be stressed at work or home, or have too much going on. Reducing stress – by doing things you enjoy, socializing, and getting enough sleep – can take care of the root of the problem. Other health issues may then improve as you lose weight.

Find ways to exercise
Whether it’s due to having a sedentary job, a certain health condition, or simply idling more than you should, sitting too much can have negative effects on your health.

Patients of Iredell Health System’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation program are often concerned about whether any of their health limitations – such as a coronary event, knee replacement, or shoulder surgery – may stop them from participating in the program.

“We say no matter what’s wrong with you, you can always exercise,” said Program Director Lisa Warren.

Use your support system
Exercise with someone else; find someone to be accountable to, whether it be a friend or family member. Your primary care physician can help you determine health goals and develop a plan, such as how you will lose weight and keep it off.

Keep it simple
Nutrition doesn’t need to be overwhelming.

“Good nutrition and healthy eating are really quite simple, but we have to work hard at it every single day,” Downs said.

Find something that works with your schedule
Remember while you are taking care of others that you are never too busy to take care of yourself.

Make a long-lasting lifestyle change
Find something that is sustainable. You may be able to keep a fad diet for a short time, but returning to your old habits will cause you to regain the weight you lost.

Find something you’re ready to accomplish, such as de-junking your pantry or starting to use your exercise equipment again. With any new health and wellness goal – whether it’s quitting smoking, alcohol abuse, or carb addiction – make sure you are prepared to continue the habit long-term.