It is the start of another New Year which has to mean one thing, everyone around you is dusting off their same age-old resolutions from previous years, where they vow to lose weight fast, get fit in minutes, save money and stop smoking. As you find yourself faced with the ‘New Year, New You’ slogan everywhere you turn, it is hard not to get swept up and overwhelmed by the barrage of self-improvement mantras, superfood diets and detoxes as you try to get your new year off to a healthy start.
On paper, New Year’s resolutions are a great way to make positive changes in your life, whatever your focus may be. However, there is no escaping the fact that the vast majority of these resolutions fall flat and fail within the first few weeks of January. The UK Business Insider estimates that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February and similarly Forbes estimate that just 8% of people who make resolutions actually achieve them. This leads to the question, are people setting themselves up for failure by setting New Year resolutions? Well, according to these statistics, the answer has to be yes.
The majority of New Year’s resolutions are unrealistic to achieve in people’s everyday lives, which is why a large proportion of people lose faith and energy in them very quickly. Weight loss, which is one of the most common resolutions is a good example to discuss. People tend to make unattainable goals regarding weight loss and healthy eating, i.e. ‘I want to lose 10 pounds in 10 days’ and become frustrated as any weight that is lost quickly, tends to be regained just as fast! Time and time again, research has shown that the key to successful weight loss and healthier eating is to remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint.
The key to success is to keep it simple and realistic. Make small but sustainable lifestyle changes that cause the least interruption to your daily life and allow room for other competing priorities and commitments in your life. It is also important to ensure that the goals that you set are measurable and that you can track your progress, for example, set a goal of losing 2-4 pounds (lbs) a month and actually keeping it off. There has been an increasing focus on the ‘non-diet’ diet approach to losing weight, where people are encouraged to focus on lifestyle habits that can be changed quickly in real-life scenarios, without little effort. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet has, after 20 years, remained one of the most effective ways of improving population health in ‘real-world’ settings. This healthy eating plan promotes sustainable changes in dietary habits including eating less processed foods, shaking the salt habit, choosing good fats over bad fats and consuming more fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish. Sticking closely to the DASH plan and taking on board a few other healthy habits including never skipping breakfast, having healthy snacks nearby, controlling portion size and alcohol intake are all examples of realistic healthy habits. Ditching the diet and making small attainable changes in your everyday life will help you have your healthiest year yet!