By: Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD
We’ve reached December, so you may be thinking about your goals and resolutions for the new year. Often, this is associated with weight loss or fitness goals but weight-based goals do not always result in better health. [1,2]
If you’d like to set a resolution that shifts your habits to something beneficial for the long-term, focus on these strategies to avoid some common pitfalls.
Skip the Scale
The number on the scale is a simple, objective measurement that is easy to track. No wonder it’s so enticing to check! But weight is not a behavior, so while the number may change, what really matters is your overall lifestyle. Building resolutions around these factors, instead of the scale, might lead you towards better health and happiness in the New Year:
- Fill your plate with nourishing foods. This flips the script on a restrictive mindset and invites you to add, not subtract, from your plate. Aim for vibrant colors, balanced nutrition, and a variety of foods can create more satisfying eating experiences.
- Trying new recipes. Getting creative in the kitchen can be a fun way to set weekly goals and instill new habits. If you need some inspiration, check out these delicious recipes that feature peanuts:
- Get moving. There are many benefits to exercise and movement that have nothing to do with a lower number on the scale. We often kickoff a new fitness routine alongside a diet, but if your goal is to improve wellbeing for the long term, consider finding a sustainable source of joyful movement that you’ll look forward to participating in for months and years to come.
Play the Long Game
Speaking of long term commitments, no one wants to fall off the wagon just a few months into the year. Try to expand your view of health to think beyond the beginning of a new year. It takes time to notice big changes and little things do add up. While it may feel frustrating to stay patient while you progress at what seems like a glacial pace, reframing your timeline for your goals can be key to sustaining new habits.
Stay Focused on Yourself
It’s very easy to fall into the comparison trap. But rather than being motivating or inspiring, it can leave us feeling disconnected, disappointed, or frustrated if we think we aren’t measuring up. I recommend these steps to help you stay focused on yourself:
Clean up your social media. If you spend a lot of time online, you’re likely seeing the highlight reel. Keep in mind that what people choose to share is often the “cream of the crop” and rarely tells the full story. Unfollow accounts that leave you feeling inadequate or jealous, and consider spending less time overall on social media platforms. This preserves your time and energy for your goals without clouding your vision with what others are doing.
- Set boundaries. Many people like the accountability of sharing their goals and resolutions with other people. If this sounds like you, go for it! However, it can also invite others to voice their opinions. If you’re not open to receiving advice, it’s important to make this known and ask for your personal boundaries to be respected. This is easier said than done and it can take practice. Perhaps this even becomes a secondary resolution as you begin to voice your needs more openly.
In addition, you might also focus on goals in other areas of wellness. We sometimes forget that our emotional, mental, social, and financial health contribute to wellbeing in significant ways. 
The end of the year can be a good time to reflect on what your goals and values are. Journaling, meditation, or connecting with trusted friends or family members can offer clarity on what you want to prioritize for a new season. Although the vision of health often involves drastic interventions or challenging new routines, taking a gentler approach to goal setting might be the solution you’re looking for.
This year, you can avoid repeating the cycle of resolutions of years past and instead focus on supporting healthy habits year round. Start this lifestyle change by filling your plate with nourishing foods, reframing your timeline for long-term sustainable change, and focusing on your personal health journey!
Cara Harbstreet, MS RD LD is a nationally recognized food & nutrition expert based in Kansas City. She owns and operates Street Smart Nutrition, where she specializes in creating fearlessly nourishing meals and inspiring clients to become more empowered and informed about their food choices. In addition to her private practice, she is a cookbook author, speaker, and media consultant. Follow Street Smart Nutrition on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest to stay connected and learn more about a non-diet approach for health and happiness.
- Mensinger, J. L., Tylka, T. L., & Calamari, M. E. (2018). Mechanisms underlying weight status and healthcare avoidance in women: A study of weight stigma, body-related shame and guilt, and healthcare stress. Body Image, 25, 139–147. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.03.001
- Montani, J.-P., Schutz, Y., & Dulloo, A. G. (2015). Dieting and weight cycling as risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases: who is really at risk? Obesity Reviews, 16, 7–18. doi: 10.1111/obr.12251
- Stoewen DL. Dimensions of wellness: Change your habits, change your life. Can Vet J. 2017;58(8):816-862