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New Year’s Resolutions That Work

If you’ve ever made New Year’s resolutions and failed to stick with them, you’re in good company.

You may have been unsuccessful because your resolutions were too broad, you lacked a specific plan for execution, you failed to set goals that were especially important to you, or you didn’t believe you could actually reach your goals.

Keep in mind the suggestions that follow as you form your goals for this year, and remember you’re the best role model for your kids in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, if better health is your focus. These ideas can help you start small and build on your achievements step by step.

Make Them

The key to keeping resolutions is to make them realistic and attainable, as well as personally important to you. Research shows that self-motivation is more effective than outside pressure. These tips can help:

  • Begin by assessing your lifestyle. Focus on areas you’d really like to change. For example, if you want to improve your diet, keep a food diary for a week.

  • Focus on small changes you can realistically make. Don’t resolve to exercise seven days a week, for example. Go for three or four times a week, which may be more pragmatic given your time constraints.

  • Break major resolutions into small, specific steps. For instance, if you want to improve your diet (and your family’s), begin by:

—Adding an additional serving of fruit or vegetables to every meal

—Eating a healthy breakfast every day

—Drinking diet soda or sparkling water, not regular, high-calorie soda

—Choosing 100 percent whole-grain bread and pasta rather than white

Keep Them

Once you’ve settled on a few attainable resolutions, these strategies can help bolster your self-motivation:

  • Work on one resolution at a time. Trying to stick to more than that at once could overwhelm you.

  • Let friends and family know your goals, and ask for their support (or even include them in your plan). Even better, team up with someone with similar resolutions so you can work together.

  • Consider joining a support group or working with a therapist. Look for a therapist trained in behavior management, a registered dietitian, or another professional who fits your goal. That person may provide the extra help you need to achieve your objective.

  • Mark your calendar to evaluate your progress. Every few weeks or so, see how you’re doing at meeting your goals. Tweak your plan based on how things are going.

  • Finally, cut yourself some slack. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking, or exercise more, relapses are bound to occur. When they do, don’t give up. Get back to your plan.