As each year draws to a close, you may find yourself making resolutions
to improve your health. But chances are good those well-intentioned proclamations
begin to go by the wayside before the new year is even a few weeks old.
"It's not hard to make resolutions. But it's very hard to
keep them," says Michael Fleming, MD, past president of the
American Academy of Family Physicians. "It's easy to make excuses to yourself about why you can't
follow your resolutions."
Keeping your vows
If you're serious about resolutions, Dr. Fleming says you can be successful.
But you must set aside the excuses and be self-disciplined.
"I tell people they have to want to do it for themselves," Dr.
Fleming says. "I say, 'Don't do it for me. Do it for you.'"
The most common resolutions are health-related—losing weight, increasing
physical activity and quitting smoking. All require a change in behavior
or lifestyle. And that's often hard for many people to do.
"It wouldn't be a resolution if it wasn't something that was
difficult to do," Dr. Fleming says.
That's why it's important to seek help from family and friends.
Ask them to remind you of your resolutions and provide encouragement.
"Enlist someone to be a coach and a cheerleader. You probably can't
do it alone," Dr. Fleming says.
Tips for success
Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, RD, a former spokeswoman for the
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says you have a better chance of meeting your resolutions if they are
"If your goal is to lose weight, you don't want to start out by
trying to lose 50 pounds," Tanner-Blasiar says. "Start by trying
to lose 5 or 10 pounds."
It's also best if you tackle resolutions one at a time.
"With resolutions, you've got to be sure you're not biting
off more than you can chew," Tanner-Blasiar says.
To achieve resolution success, Tanner-Blasiar offers these tips:
Be patient. It takes time to form new habits. Allow yourself time to set aside your
old, bad habits and adjust to your new lifestyle.
Pace yourself. Sometimes it's easier to gradually make your resolutions come true.
Work in one-week increments. For example, if your resolution is to walk
for exercise, increase your routine by 100 steps a week.
Chart your progress. Write down what you do each day to meet your goals. If it's in writing,
you're likely to hold yourself more accountable. You can also easily
monitor your progress.
Remind yourself. Post notes, pictures and news articles around your home and workplace
that remind you of your resolutions. Ask family and friends to provide
Follow a plan. Make it as easy as possible to follow your resolutions. If you plan to
lose weight, clean out your refrigerator and cupboards of unhealthy food
choices. Set up a diet and stick to it. If you say you're going to
eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day, make sure you have
plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand.
Get some rest. It's easier to deal with stressful changes when you're well-rested.
Try to get at least eight uninterrupted hours of sleep every night.
Seek advice. Don't be afraid to get professional help from a doctor, dietitian
or counselor. If your goal is to quit smoking or lose weight, check out
And most important, Tanner-Blasiar says you should never get discouraged
if you temporarily fall off the resolution wagon. Just climb right back on board.
"If you make healthy choices most of the time, you're still better
off," Tanner-Blasiar says. "Don't beat yourself up if you
have a bad day. Just get up the next day and make a fresh start. Don't
scrap it altogether."