By Caroline Young, MS, RD, LD, RYT
A 2016 study found that of the 41% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, only 9% feel they were successful in keeping them by the end of the year1.
That stat seems like a good reason to start thinking outside of the box for new and more sustainable ideas. It’s admirable to set goals for the year ahead, but it’s easy to fall back on the defaults (i.e. eat better or exercise more). And there is good reason why the diet and fitness industries count on January as one of their most lucrative time periods, which is then followed by a drop-off period. In fact, they count on our failures to change.
So, why not create a fresh resolution that just might stick?
Here are a few ideas to get your resolution wheels turning:
1) I will focus on what I can add to my diet, not take away.
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions people have is to go on a diet, or restrict a certain food group (like carbs) or ingredient (like sugar). The truth is, all foods can be a part of a varied and balanced diet. Instead of focusing on deprivation -- which can lead to binging, unnecessary feelings of guilt and preoccupation with food -- why not focus on what you can add instead2?
For example, if you are lacking in the veggie department, resolve to add at least one more serving of vegetables per day. Or if you don’t hit all the food groups, commit to making sure your meals have what you need --- fruit and/or veggies, protein, fat, grains and dairy. Check out MyPlate to learn more about each food group. Do you find yourself ravenous by the time lunch or dinner hits? Add in a snack between meals to hold you over and prevent overeating – grab an apple with peanut butter or a handful of nuts and dried fruit.
Read more about eating to nourish yourself (mentally and physically), instead of depriving yourself.
2) I will find a form of exercise that makes me happy.
Exercise has seemingly endless benefits, including improved mood and focus, and reduced disease risk3. Still, only one in five adults in the U.S. meets the recommended amount of physical activity each week4.
If you are part of the majority and wanting to move more in 2020, what if you chose a form of movement based on how it made you feel? What if enjoyment and invigoration were your motivators, instead of obligation or punishment? The more you enjoy the exercise, the more likely you will be able to continue doing it5.
For instance, if you resolve to run more or start running in 2022, but you do not like running, give yourself permission to try something else. Explore other options and the multitude of ways to move our bodies – yoga, dancing, gardening, walking, skipping (yes, skipping!), jump-roping, rollerblading, hiking -- and the list goes on and on.
Exercise should not be something that is stressful (mentally or physically), but something that adds joy to life.
3) I will practice at least one form of self-care on a daily basis.
While both nutrition and exercise certainly fall under the self-care umbrella, they are just one part of our well-being. Between tending to our careers and families, it is easy for us to forget to tend to ourselves. If you feel like you don’t have time, ask yourself what you could take off your plate. What can you say “no” to in your life that no longer serves you, so you can create space for yourself? After all, the better we take care of ourselves, the better we can take care of others. Self-care looks different for everyone, but here are some ideas:
- Doing daily or weekly journaling sessions.
- Getting massages.
- “Unplugging” one day per week (no e-mails, social media, etc.).
- Spending time outside.
- Enjoying a meal out with a friend.
- Watching funny videos.
- Taking bubble baths.
- Taking a few minutes alone in the mornings or evenings.
- Trying a calming activity, like Tai Chi, gentle yoga or coloring.
- Go out dancing with friends.
- Read for pleasure.
Some days, it may be a few minutes of self-care, and other days it may be hours (or the whole day!). Remember emotional and mental health are equally as important as physical health.
Here’s to a 2022 of increasing that 9%,
 Thinking of changing your behavior in 2017? Try Moving First. Society for Personality and Social Psychology. (2017, January 22). Retrieved November 21, 2022, from https://spsp.org/news-center/press-release/thinking-changing-your-behavior-2017-try-moving-first
 Binge Eating. MentalHealth.gov. Updated August 22, 2017. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/eating-disorders/binge-eating, Accessed December 18, 2017.
 The Benefits of Physical Activity. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm. Updated June 4, 2015. Accessed December 18, 2017.
 Facts About Physical Activity. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/facts.htm. Updated May 23, 2014. Accessed December 18, 2017.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Four types of exercise can improve your health and physical ability. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved November 21, 2022, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/four-types-exercise-can-improve-your-health-and-physical-ability