How to Make Smarter New Year’s Resolutions (plus 3 to Make Your Own)

We all know the drill: January 1 rolls around and we feel compelled to make resolutions. We go gung-ho for a week or two before we bring back our old ways. Resolve that this year, 2014, you will make New Year’s resolutions that work.

How do you do that, you ask? What works best is when you think about where you actually are and where you want to go, and then make goals (or resolutions, if you will) that bridge that gap. If you reach too far, it’s easy to miss the mark and then get discouraged. By being realistic about your current lifestyle and what typically prevents you from making the changes you’d like to make, you’ll set yourself up for success. It’s also helpful to break down a larger goal into smaller steps. Instead of creating an overwhelming goal like “lose weight,” take a close look at the behaviors that are keeping the weight on and select one or more to change. For example, maybe you notice you do a lot of late-night noshing. Try and think about why that is. Maybe you tend to eat when you’re tired or stressed? Come up with some replacement behaviors that address the real problem (like getting ready for bed earlier, or writing down your worries).

Here are some examples of those intermediate goals and how to make them achievable:

Move more: It’s hard to commit to a new exercise routine for an entire year. It might be better to broaden your definition of exercise, focusing overall on moving more. If you currently work a desk job, maybe you’ll commit to taking a 10-minute walk every two hours, or getting a standing desk. It might mean carving out time when you’ll move (say one extra hour, three times a week) and then you can decide whether you want to spend it walking, doing jumping jacks and push-ups, trying a new dance class or tramping in the snow.

Eat more fruits and vegetables: This one sounds harder than it really is. All it takes to eat more fruits and vegetables is a little planning and follow-through. Think about your typical meals. Which ones usually feature fruits or vegetables? Why is that? Maybe you always eat a side salad with dinner, or slice fruit onto cereal. Those are great places to start, but what other meals can you add extra fruits or vegetables to? (Some ideas: you can tuck extra veggies into a casserole or a sandwich, or make a soup for lunch.) What’s holding you back from eating more of them? You might need to try new recipes to learn how to cook them in ways you enjoy them. Once you figure out what aspect of the goal needs work, you can set specific goals (for instance, eat three servings of vegetables a day for the next two weeks).

Swap at least one beverage per day with water, seltzer or herbal tea. Do you have a beverage vice? Maybe you drink too much coffee, or soda, or want to curb your alcohol intake. You could go cold-turkey (and in some cases, like if you think you have a real substance abuse problem, that’s exactly what you need), but if you’re simply trying to be healthier, start small. In this case, think about which beverage will be easiest to give up and swap it for something healthier. Addicted to that morning cup of coffee? Try edging out the 3 o’clock brew for herbal tea. Once that becomes easy, you can target a new drink and go from there.

Kerri-Ann is a registered dietitian and nutrition coach who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

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