It’s coming. The tsunami of New Year’s resolutions that often leaves us defeated – “I will exercise more, I will eat healthier.” All honorable goals set in an effort to achieve optimal health. Why, as the calendar year advances, do we watch our resolve fall quicker than the Times Square Ball on New Year’s Eve?
According to John Norcross, PhD, a behavioral scientist who has conducted research on the sustainability of New Year’s resolutions, there are several key indicators that predict success in achieving goals – employing strategies and achieving self-efficacy. These factors are at the root of behavior change and are critical for long-term success.
Some suggestions to encourage successful dietary changes in the New Year include:
- Set specific behavior goals – Focusing on outcomes, like weight loss, is rarely effective and can drive unsustainable habits [we’re talking to you juice cleanse!] Identify the outcome you desire then select behaviors that can help you achieve it – a consultation with your registered dietitian can help you map out a plan.
- Practice batch cooking – Prepare healthy ingredients, like steamed broccoli, cauliflower, quinoa, and roasted Brussels sprouts, at the beginning of the week and keep them in your refrigerator to easily assemble quick, healthy meals. Also, plan to make extra servings of your dinner to enjoy as lunch the next day.
- Prepare your environment – Remove temptations like salty snacks and sweets from your home and replace with healthy alternatives, like pre-washed/cut fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, and homemade dips like hummus. Stock your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry with unprocessed, whole foods.
- Buy a small cooler – This is one of the greatest “calls to action” for those who work. The night before, pack your cooler with healthy snacks and lunch so you are not tempted to consume grab and go snacks in the office. Greek yogurt, fruit, pre-portioned bags of nuts, and hard-boiled eggs make great snacks.
- Avoid eating processed foods – Employing the above four strategies makes this one easier to achieve. Crowding your environment and plate with healthier, whole foods puts them front and center and makes processed foods less desirable.
Confidence that you can live a healthier lifestyle comes with determination and practice. Explore those areas where you lack self-assurance and make a plan to address them. If you are contemplating change in the New Year you have already taken the first step to changing your behavior. Draw on your deepest motivation and start strategizing now!