9 Strategies to Make Your Diet Resolutions Stick
Last Updated: Dec 30, 2015
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The start of the New Year is the perfect time to reflect on the past, let go of things that don’t serve you well and start to focus on creating new habits to improve your health and well-being. Whether you announce a formal New Year’s resolution or simply start to raise your awareness of healthier habits you’d like to create, setting yourself up for success is key. According to Alyse Levine, M.S., RD, founder of the Eating Rest Plan, there are three main reasons diet resolutions tend to fail: 1) they are too restrictive and have too many rules, such as trying to stick to a strict calorie count or cutting out all carbs; 2) they are often not enjoyable, such as thinking you will get up early every day to do an intense workout that you hate; or 3) they involve deprivation, like giving up all sweets. This year, resolve to make resolutions that are easier to keep. Here are nine strategies that will help you create healthy behaviors for the long-term.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
Setting a successful resolution isn’t just about what you want to accomplish, but why, on a personal level, it’s important for you to achieve your goal. “Research shows that intrinsic motivation is the key when it comes to those who can make a resolution and stick to it. Intrinsic motivation is that thing that drives someone to achieve something great. It is usually personal to them for their own reasons. For example, losing weight to improve your self-esteem is a personal motivation as opposed to losing weight because your family wants you to. Invest in resolutions that are personal to you,” says Misti Gueron M.S., RD, medical nutrition therapist at the Khalili Center. Whether it’s boosting your self-confidence or having more energy to play with your kids, determine your intrinsic motivation and write it down somewhere so that it will personally inspire you to stay on track.
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CREATE A PLAN FOR SUCCESS
“Diet resolutions are often short lived because our daily lives and social connections reflect our old habits. Many think that New Year’s resolutions will magically happen at the start of a new year or that their willpower will magically get them through the unexpected diversions. Taking a little time to plan and organize your physical and social environment will pay off in the long run,” says Misti Gueron M.S., RD. For example, if your resolution is to eat more fruits and vegetables, set a reminder on your phone to grocery shop at a set time each week and choose your favorite fruits and vegetables that are most convenient for your lifestyle. According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council poll, respondents said eating more healthy foods like blueberries is one of the easiest resolutions to keep, with nearly three quarters saying it would be really easy or pretty easy. Decide what healthy resolutions would be easiest and most enjoyable for you, then set a plan for success.
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HAVE A HIGH-PROTEIN BREAKFAST
You’ve probably heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for good reason. Research shows eating a healthy breakfast can increase overall nutrient intake, boost immunity, sharpen memory, improve mood and help with weight management. “Eat breakfast every day. This is a tangible, easy daily resolution that tends to stick because it gets quick results and it is fairly doable for most people,” says Misti Gueron, M.S., RD. To get the most out of your morning meal, make sure you get adequate protein to keep you satisfied and full until your next meal. All too often breakfast foods -- breakfast bars, sugary yogurts, cereals and muffins -- tend to be high in refined carbohydrates, which will leave you feeling foggy, fatigued and hungry in a few hours. Easy-to-incorporate protein foods to fuel your morning resolution routine include eggs, nuts and nut butters, seeds (e.g., chia and flaxseed) and yogurt without added sugar.
REDUCE YOUR SALT INTAKE
If you’re looking to reduce your salt intake, you’re not alone. Reducing salt intake is an important diet resolution for many people. According to the American Heart Association, most people consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day -- more than twice the heart-healthy recommendation of 1,500 milligrams. Too much salt intake has been linked to chronic conditions like high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cancer. To make salt reduction a resolution you can stick with, lemons can help. Research by master chefs from Johnson and Wales University and Sunkist created a blend using lemons that can help reduce salt by as much as 75 percent without losing flavor. For a two to four serving recipe calling for salt, use a blend of a quarter teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of lemon and zest before/during cooking and finish with two-and-a-half teaspoons of lemon juice. (Relationship disclosure: The author, Patricia Bannan, M.S., RDN, works with Sunkist.)
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HOME NOT-SO-SWEET HOME
Rather than resolving to never eat a sweet again -- which would take a lot of effort and create a feeling of deprivation -- a more realistic resolution would be to create an environment in which you can consume fewer sweets without having to rely solely on your willpower. “Ridding your cupboards and freezer of all sweets is one easy and effective strategy that sticks when it comes to resolutions. Research shows that when sweets are within arm’s reach or even within our sight, we are much more likely to consume them than if we have to go out to the store to buy them,” says Misti Gueron, M.S., RD. If you don’t have total control over not having sweets in your home due to those you live with, be sure to store them in areas where you are least likely to see them and put healthier foods you like in eyesight.
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BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY
Supporting immunity is key to your overall health. When you’re sick it makes it all the more challenging to stay on track with your health-and-wellness goals. Our immune health can be compromised by environmental and lifestyle factors, including poor diet, inadequate sleep and high levels of stress. Eating foods rich in immunity-boosting nutrients, such as vitamin C and glutathione, is a resolution worth sticking to. A recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that a daily supplementation of 1,000 milligrams of glutathione was found to increase glutathione levels in the blood and boost the immune system. Foods that provide both vitamin C and glutathione include citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower. However, to get the immune-boosting benefits from these antioxidants, the foods are best eaten in the “raw” form.
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GET IN THE GAME
Gamification of weight loss is a strategy that most are not familiar with, and research is showing that this may be a successful way to achieve a New Year’s resolution when it comes to healthy eating, exercise and weight control. “Gamification of weight loss is when large groups of people are offered financial as well as other incentives to be involved in a competitive challenge with others. Grouping people together in an effort to encourage healthy habits can foster member camaraderie and commonality, challenge and excitement and furthered learning about getting healthier. In these scenarios, many individuals have gotten healthier, minimized or eradicated health problems and changed the course of their lives. Research shows that community support and a commonality among individuals trying to get healthier can foster healthy behavior change for the long term,” says Misti Gueron, M.S., RD.
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EAT MORE MINDFULLY
One of the most important New Year’s resolutions to eating a healthy diet has nothing to do with what you’re eating and everything to do with how you’re eating. “Eat meals more mindfully: Remove physical distractions while you eat -- no phone, TV, book or newspaper -- and try to keep your focus on the actual eating experience (how the food tastes and what is going on in your mouth). It is natural that your attention will wander while you eat, but you want to bring it back to the food at least a few times throughout the meal to check in on whether you are still enjoying the food and whether or not you are still hungry. Being more mindful will enable you to enjoy your food more and enable you to stop eating when you are comfortably full rather than just when your plate is cleaned,” says Alyse Levine, M.S., RD.
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Who you surround yourself with is a critical component of your ability to reach and maintain your goals. “Research shows that without support among our friends, families and within our communities, we are much less likely to create healthy changes with our health and weight. Reaching new health goals is more successful within a supportive environment and with individuals of similar values,” says Misti Gueron, M.S., RD. Take a look at those in your life and make an effort to spend quality time with those that support and inspire you. “When you are feeling discouraged for not making it to the gym and your friend sends a text message that she is waiting for you on the treadmill, it is hard to throw the towel in on yourself and her,” adds Gueron.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What are your New Year’s resolutions? Do you have any strategies that you’ve used to help keep your resolutions? Leave a comment below and let us know. Share your experience on how making lifestyle changes has affected your life -- maybe your knowledge will help others.
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