Rethinking the “New Year, New You” Diet Resolutions

As we head into February, it is likely many of us are trying to stick to our New Year’s resolutions. The indulgence of the holidays, coupled with the onset of a new year, contributes to the common tradition of making diet-focused New Year’s resolutions. The breaking of these resolutions within a few weeks is almost as common as making those goals in the first place.

Before we begin, know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to improve nutrition, fitness, and health right after the holidays. This is referred to as the “fresh-start effect” where goals center around a time-related milestone—like the start of a new year. I encourage and celebrate health goals at any time of year. Now, let me share with you some strategies to help you achieve those goals.

Why we should rethink diet-focused New Year’s resolutions

Most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions before the end of January, through no fault of their own. Resolutions are often too ambitious, inflexible, negatively framed, and attempted without support. Then, we are too inflexible with our resolutions and fail to adapt when challenges arise. And in the end, giving up makes us feel worse about ourselves than before we started.

I want to propose a different way of making health goals, a way that is more achievable, sustainable, and can more easily become lifelong daily habits. There is no physiological reason to wait for a specific date to take a step toward better health. You can start eating slower, choosing a fruit or vegetable, and stopping eating when you’re full at your very next meal. You can decide to implement your “fresh start” goal right here and now.

A better way to set nutrition and health goals

Making smaller, more sustainable changes can lead to more success. Studies show that certain types of goals are also more likely to contribute to—and not take away from—a sense of well-being.

It is important to start by being flexible. It is empowering to adjust the goal itself when reaching an unrealistic target proves too difficult. Take small, achievable steps. Make sure that your resolution centers around positive outcomes rather than negative ones you’d like to avoid. For example, a goal of getting fitter and stronger is a positive, approach-oriented goal more likely to be achieved than an avoidance-oriented goal such as to not get diabetes. And enlist support. You are much more likely to be successful if you have friends and family in your corner.

Examples of better nutrition and health goals

Here are a few examples of small, flexible health goals that can become sustainable over the long term. Whatever goals you choose to make, set them from a place of self-love.

Snack smarter (on most days)

Small snacks can add up to a big impact over time. A recent survey study from The Ohio State University found that Americans averaged an intake of 400 to 500 calories from snacks, with little to no nutritional value. (5) That’s a whole extra meal. Instead of pre-packaged, processed snacks, commit to eating fresh fruit and raw or dry roasted nuts as snacks. There is overwhelming evidence of the healthful effects of eating fruits and nuts, and most people don’t eat nearly enough.

Choose water (a few times a day)

Being hydrated helps with appetite regulation, energy levels, and all of our daily bodily functions. Spice up your water with a spritz of lemon or lime juice, or fill the 1-liter bottle in the morning to have room-temperature water to drink throughout the day when it’s chilly outside. There are various ways to make water more enticing.

Practice eating more mindfully (at least once a day)

Beyond what you choose to eat and drink, is how you eat and drink. By slowing down and savoring the aromas, tastes, and textures of food, you can enjoy food even more. Try having your meals at a table (not at a desk or in the car), ignoring all devices and screens while eating, chewing the food well, and putting the spoon or fork down to relax a bit between bites. Mindful eating may also help to realize when we’re satisfied with food, preventing unnecessary overindulgence.

Listen to your body and be kind to yourself

Part of health and well-being is how you treat yourself and your body. Setting and reaching health goals does not guarantee happiness, nor make you more worthy of love and kindness than you are right now. You are enough and deserve respect. Make self-love, self-care, and kindness—regardless of challenges or discouragement—goals too.

You are the person who is most able to feel gratitude and appreciate yourself every day of the year—whether you reach other goals or not. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You haven’t failed and you don’t have to give up. Keep listening to your body and being kind, no matter what.

Here to help

How we choose our health goals can make a big difference in how long we’ll stick with them, how they impact our well-being, and how much success we see. Remember not to be too hard on yourself when challenges arise, because they will. Allowing yourself some flexibility in how you set and reach your goals, opting for positive goals, and enlisting support can help you improve your health and maintain well-being throughout the year. These can also help you stick to your new healthy lifestyle for longer and be more sustainable so that you are better positioned to achieve those goals. Attainable goals for healthier lifestyle habits can be made any day of the year, including today.

Do you need help setting yourself up for success when it comes to health- or diet-focused goals? Zenergy is here to help! Book a nutritional counseling session with our registered dietitian, Tina McGrew, or a training session with one of our fantastic personal trainers.

Email Wellness Manager Kylon Myers to get started today.