It’s officially 2018, which for many of us means a brand new slate. After all the saying is, “new year, new you,” right? In the new year we set goals, we make new promises to ourselves, and we tell ourselves “this is the year!” Yet often by early spring we find ourselves diverging from the plan we once swore to follow. Sound familiar?
A big part of the problem for many of us is that we don’t set realistic goals. If we barely worked out in 2017, we’re probably not going to hit the gym 6 days/week in starting January 2, 2018. It’s important to set smaller, more approachable goals, which ultimately lead to a larger goal.
So, if you want to be more physically active in 2018, a better idea would be to begin with working out 2 days/week and slowly increase that amount as you feel comfortable and confident that you can maintain that regimen.
Set a Schedule
Secondly, if you’re adamant about reaching a goal, make a schedule for yourself. If you ultimately want to workout 6 days/week, set some sort of timeline that you feel comfortable following. Maybe by spring you’ll be working out 3 days/week, and by summer, 4 days/week, etc.
Write it down somewhere where you can see it like on a wall calendar, or set reminders in your phone. Do not write it on a piece of paper and stuff it into your desk drawer that you clean out once each year. Remind yourself that you have a goal and that you can in fact reach it.
Another way to keep your eyes on the prize is by not obsessing over your goals. For instance, if you want to eliminate sugar from your diet in 2018, don’t let the 2 grams of sugar in your morning oatmeal ruin your day. Certain foods like yogurts, fruit, and even vegetables, naturally contain some sugar, and it will be counterproductive to obsess over it because sugar-free apples will never be a thing… I hope.
Focus on your victories, like not reaching for the m&m’s at the office, or passing on Friday morning donuts.
Remind Yourself: It’s a Process
Another issue people tend to run into is biting off more than they can chew… literally. This often leads to feelings of discouragement, or makes you feel like you simply “just can’t.” For instance, if you decide that 2018 is the year you will learn to make home-cooked, healthy meals, you probably shouldn’t start with the season with an elaborate, labor-intensive menu.
Allow yourself to become familiar with your kitchen by starting with simpler recipes, incorporating side dishes over time, and eventually experimenting with more complicated cooking methods. We all know what it’s like to overcook, undercook, and mix flavors that should never be mixed! Or at least I certainly do. It’s OKAY to make mistakes, after all, you can’t improve if you never make a mistake!
I’ve had plenty of clients who have gotten discouraged after cooking and a friend didn’t want seconds, or a significant other asked for takeout. Just remember it’s all part of the process and you can’t make progress if you let yourself give up!
Make Sure Your Goal is YOURS
Lastly, make sure you truly want to achieve a goal before you sign yourself up for it. If a gluten-free diet isn’t for you, don’t let a friend talk you into it. You’ll end up with a cabinet full of gluten-free products that outlive their shelf-life and an expensive grocery bill.
Be strong about what you believe is best for you. You don’t (and shouldn’t) adopt someone else’s new years resolutions simply because it’s trending, or because they swear by it. Whatever your goals may be, make them for you, and you only!
Leah Silberman is a registered dietitian nutritionist and the founder of Tovita Nutrition, a virtual nutrition counseling service. Leah received her B.S. in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her masters in clinical nutrition from New York University. Her goal is to help others create healthier dietary habits that are pragmatic for their individual lifestyles. She strongly believes that the first step in making dietary changes that are actually sustainable is to understand the fundamental relationship between food, nutrition and health.