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Making Healthy Resolutions Stick

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Are you planning to ring in 2023 with a healthy New Year’s resolution? Maybe your resolution is to manage your weight, eat better, start exercising, or stop smoking. And, maybe your resolution sounds a little familiar because it’s the same as last year.

Oftentimes, we make our resolutions with intentions to stick to them, and then once March rolls around, our life gets too busy, and we give up.

“Unfortunately, studies show that less than 10% of people making a New Year’s resolution are successful in achieving it. Why? For most, making a symbolic gesture of improving oneself on the arbitrary day of January 1 is unlikely to succeed without a real plan to implement,” said Anthony Elkins, physician at Iredell Primary Care.

Since weight management is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, Elkins offers six tips below for sticking to your healthy weight loss goals this year. This advice can be applied to all other healthy lifestyle resolutions and behavioral changes as well.

#1: Set realistic goals.
It’s important to remember that managing your weight is not easy, so be sure to set reasonable goals.

“Setting the bar too high is likely to be met with failure and abandoning your efforts. So, instead of resolving to lose 100 pounds, a smaller realistic goal of 10 pounds is more attainable. Once the 10 pounds is lost, set a new goal for another 10 pounds and so on,” said Elkins.

This same goal-making process can be used for other resolutions too. For example, if your resolution is to run a marathon this year, and you are not a runner, start off by training for a 5k. After that, you can work your way up to a 10k, then a half-marathon, and finally a full marathon.

“Achieving small, stepwise goals is rewarding and motivates you to achieve the next goal,” said Elkins.

#2: Have a plan.
You should begin all healthy lifestyle changes with a plan. The plan should include how your change will be implemented and how to handle setbacks. If your goal is weight management, your strategy should include healthy eating and physical activity.

Elkins recommends planning to prepare your own meals at home instead of eating out or getting takeout.

“Choosing healthy recipes from a cookbook, going to the supermarket to purchase the ingredients, and preparing the meals personally will give you control over your food intake,” said Elkins.

“Eating for convenience, such as getting takeout with coworkers or picking up fast food on the way home from a hectic day at work, may be easy, but will be less successful in achieving your goals,” he added.

Exercise should be included in your weight management plan as well. You can even schedule it on your calendar like an appointment so you do not forget.

#3: Track your progress.
Tracking your progress keeps you committed to your goal and motivated.

“When managing your weight, it helps to track your food intake to ensure your calories and macronutrients meet your goals,” said Elkins.

Elkins recommends using a free mobile app, like My Fitness Pal, and logging everything you eat and drink for a few weeks.

“The app will produce reports on how many calories you ate, where the calories came from, and when they were eaten. After doing this for a few weeks, most people will become familiar with the nutritional value of food that such diligent tracking is not needed long term, unless a change in the eating plan is made,” said Elkins.

You can also use fitness trackers, like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, or apps such as Map My Fitness, to track your exercise, heart rates, step goals, and number of miles ran or walked.

To track your progress, you can also keep a written food journal and tally the foods and beverages you consume each day. Seeing what you eat each day might help you identify where you can cut back and what you can change in your current eating plan.

#4: Surround yourself with support.
Creating and staying committed to a healthy lifestyle is difficult and does not happen overnight. That’s why it’s essential to surround yourself with support — ­whether that be friends, family, trainers, exercise partners, doctors, coaches, counselors, or dietitians.

“Having a workout partner, either a real person or an online fitness community, can be motivating, even competitive. Like-minded people with similar values, goals, and behaviors share successes, failures, and support in sticking to it,” said Elkins.

#5: Be consistent! Focus on the progress, not the end result.
According to Elkins, successful behavior change often takes 3-6 months, so consistency is key. Staying consistent in your efforts is even more important than reaching your individual short-term goal. It’s crucial to stay focused on your progress and accomplishments, even if you do not meet your initial goal.

If your diet is too restrictive or if your exercise is too extreme, it can be hard to stay consistent.

“We are striving to create a healthy lifestyle that can be continued long term. Exercise should be fun, not a chore. So if you hate running, don’t take up running. Exercising in the form of a sport, or participating in a group class at the gym, may be both physically active, social, and supportive all at once,” said Elkins.

#6: Setbacks are not the end of the world.

Do not give up if you temporarily stray from your goal. You should expect setbacks every once in a while. When setbacks happen, get back on your plan the next day. In fact, Elkins advises adding breaks into your plan.

“For example, I do not recommend exercising seven days per week. The body needs time to recover. Missing an exercise day on occasion will happen, and it will not ruin your efforts,” said Elkins. “Having a plan that allows for days off from exercise and having food indulgences is not only ok, it is recommended. As long as these days off or indulgences are on your plan, it’s ok.”

Sticking to your healthy New Year’s resolutions can be difficult, and sometimes your goals can be hard to accomplish, but if you give up, you will never accomplish them. Just remember all the reasons you made the resolution in the first place and get back on track.

If you do find yourself at a crossroads and feel like giving up, Elkins lists some of his favorite quotes to keep you motivated.

  • “Your desire to succeed must be greater than your desire to stay the same.”
  • “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
  • “You are up to you.”

Elkins practices at Iredell Primary Care, located at 114 Gateway Boulevard in Mooresville, and is accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Anthony Elkins, please call the office at 980-435-0406. Elkins cares for patients of all ages, from infants to elderly.