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By: Erika Wincheski, University of Maryland Dietetic Intern  Date: 2/13/12

More than a month into the New Year may be a good time to take stock of those resolutions we made to improve various aspects of our lives. I don’t know how it is for others, but despite all the advice floating around about how to stick to our commitments, it still can be very challenging to avoid disappointment.  According to a recent study, about 75% of Americans maintain their resolutions for at least a week, with 71% hanging in there for two weeks. Not surprisingly, the percentage keeps decreasing as time increases.

Everyone has hopes and dreams for improving themselves. Unfortunately, when the year comes to a close, the resolutions optimistically made in January often begin to look more like distant dreams rather than achievements.

The most successful resolutions are the ones that are thoughtfully mapped out, with a roadmap full of little stops along the way, like my road trip from California to Washington D.C. this past August. Without some planning, my 3 ½ days of travel probably wouldn’t have been as successful. I had to think about the distance my car could travel without running out of gas, food and accommodations, so that the trip didn’t take longer than planned or go over budget. Small, measurable and attainable steps helped me achieve my overall goal of moving across the country for completion of my dietetic internship.  

You can apply those same principles to your resolutions to make sure you will give yourself the greatest chance for success.  

Things to Think About

Identify what you would like to change and remember you can apply change on any day of the year…

Examples: Lose weight, become better organized, and engage in more public speaking opportunities.

Smart planning tip: Ask yourself, “Is my idea or goal measurable and realistic?” If not, adding in this specificity will help you achieve your goal, maybe you want to do four public speaking engagements over 12 months or one a quarter. If you want to lose weight, 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week can be achievable for most people. 

Consider what may be inhibiting you from achieving your goal…

Smart planning tip: Now that you have developed an achievable goal, take an audit of your lifestyle to determine where changes need to occur.

For example: Maybe your snacking has gone overboard and you enjoy too many higher-calorie coffee drinks, or just have a busy schedule and time is an issue. There is nothing wrong with small frequent meals during the day or drinking a more indulgent beverage, but more balanced choices could be made by modifying behavior only slightly. For example…Small steps = big changes. Serve or select smaller portions to help curb calories and keep your weight on the right track.

Make the change…

Now that you’ve identified opportunities for change, go ahead and dive in.

Smart planning tip: When making changes start with small steps. Choose one change that you want to make the first week and make a habit of it. For example, if you are trying to lose weight by choosing healthier snacks, start by prepping tasty simple snacks on the weekend that you can portion out throughout the week. Individual grab-and-go portions of baby carrots or nuts and dried fruit are easy options. Once you’ve made this a habit, consider adding in a different behavior change like getting in 30 minutes of physical activity; start with just 10 minutes and as the weeks progress, add a few more minutes each week. If your goal is to get organized, start with one area of your life first, like organizing your closet, before taking on the garage. Success in completing one small step can keep you motivated to make more changes.  

Celebrate successes along the way by identifying smaller goals that fall under the same umbrella as your main “resolution.” 

If your goals aren’t being implemented the way you had planned, you can always make adjustments.

Evaluating your progress is a great way to retool and adjust your goals. Life is always changing and your goals can too! Try different ideas out and see what works for you. If you goals include a healthful diet and active lifestyle, consider using free tracking tools like USDA’s new SuperTracker

Have you been successful in keeping your New Year’s resolutions? Tell us about your success and how you did it.




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