Why is it so hard to keep the resolutions we make for improving our health? Studies show that the brain can’t handle too many goals at one time. This may help to explain why it’s such a challenge to follow through when you’re trying out several complex health-related resolutions all at once.
Health resolutions can include cutting out several foods from your diet, dramatically restricting calories, and launching an entirely new exercise routine to lose weight and get in better shape. But when you make a lot of dramatic changes at the same time, you are bound to lose focus and ultimately abandon one or more aspects of your resolution. This can lead to disappointment and frustration. Before you know it, you may decide the whole thing is not working and quit. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there.
But there are things you can do to help increase success:
- Set realistic expectations: Clearly defined, manageable goals are the basis for most successful efforts
- Make changes slowly and steadily: Promoting overall health is most successful when it becomes your way of life. This means there’s no hurry and no finish line
- Start with modest changes: First start off by limiting the foods from your diet that you’ll miss least, and adding the healthiest foods you like best. Then add some other changes - gradually. It might be tempting to start off with a radical change, but remember you are in this for the long haul, so taking it one step at a time is helpful
- Adjust your goals along the way: To truly succeed at sticking to your health resolution, celebrate your goals along the way and create new ones that will keep you striving with reasonable expectations. Refuse to quit when you have a setback
- Make your goals more meaningful than metrics: Your goals can be about more than just a number, such as lost pounds, pant sizes, and miles walked. Instead, choose something truly meaningful and personal to your life. Better than losing 10 pounds, become a healthier, slimmer you who feels great at the beach with friends. Better than running a mile a day, get fit so you are comfortable and in good shape for weekend hikes with your family
- Focus on what you enjoy: Take a walk with someone you love spending time with. Go swimming, or try camping with friends and family. Find activities that you enjoy and have fun doing
Before you make a health-related resolution, talk to your doctor. He or she might have a fitness or nutrition expert who can work with you to establish attainable goals.
Also, check out your personal network; there may be someone you know who’s into fitness, or made a positive lifestyle change. They’re often interested in talking about their achievements and can help point you in the right direction.
So, when it comes to health resolutions, set reasonable goals, be patient, celebrate yourself, and don’t give up!
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- 2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Define your goals. Accessed April 7, 2014.
- 3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Define your goals. Updated September 13, 2011. Accessed April 7, 2014.
- 4. Charron S, Koechlin E. Divided Representation of Concurrent Goals in the Human Frontal Lobes. Science. 2010;328(5976):360-363.