It’s that time of year again. With the best of intentions, approximately 40% of Americans (University of Scranton study), or roughly 130 million people make resolutions at the beginning of the New Year. Interesting but not surprising, an online poll by Statista indicates that 45% of New Year’s Resolutions are regarding improving health or weight loss and only 8% of those who make resolutions stick to it and say they achieve those yearly goals.
What can we do to increase the odds of successfully sticking to New Year’s resolutions? As noted by the American Psychological Association, unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, and changing behaviors requires time and commitment. One way to increase the odds of success is to work on changing just one thing at a time, rather than becoming overwhelmed and trying to change several things at once.
Remember to keep in mind that you don’t need to be perfect in order to see an improvement! Just do what you can on a daily basis, consistently throughout the year. If you have a “bad” day when you are not engaging in the healthiest of behaviors, remember that tomorrow is a new day, and a new chance for you to focus on improving your health. Take one day at a time and don’t be hard on yourself! Just be mindful of a few key areas to ensure a healthier New Year.
6 key areas to keep in mind to help change unhealthy behaviors:
Exercise regularly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. Regular exercise helps every part of the body, from brain health and weight management to reducing your risk of heart disease and strengthening bones and muscles. Aim for 30 minutes of activity daily. You can break it up throughout the day: 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes afterwards and 10 minutes home with the kids. It still counts! Many studies show that walking daily promotes disease prevention. For adults, the Department of Human Health and Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of high impact exercise. Guidelines also recommend spreading exercise throughout the course of a week. But don’t worry if you can’t keep up. The Mayo Clinic points out that even small amounts of exercise can add up quickly to boost your health.
Eat more whole foods. Whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fish, contain important nutrients that your body needs to function at an optimal level.
Research shows that following a whole-foods-based diet may significantly reduce heart disease risk factors, body weight, and blood sugar levels, as well as decrease your risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Try to gradually add more whole foods into your diet.
Eat more produce. The US government advises that adults eat 1-3 cups of vegetables per day. Vegetables and fruits are some of the most nutrient-dense foods. That means that per calorie, you get a much higher ratio of key nutrients that our bodies need, like vitamins and minerals. if you’re not used to eating vegetables, start slowly by adding one serving of your favorite veggie to your diet every day.
Eat less convenience foods. Many people regularly consume convenience foods, such as packaged chips, cookies, frozen dinners, and fast food, for a quick meal or snack. Although these items may be tasty and readily available, they are also typically high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium and can have detrimental effects on your health if eaten on a regular basis. Fast foods are associated with poor overall diet quality, obesity, and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Try to cut back on these foods or remove them entirely from your diet.
Cut back on sweetened beverages. Sugary drinks are linked to an increased risk of obesity, fatty liver, heart disease, insulin resistance, and cavities in both children and adults. Cutting back or eliminating them is an excellent step to take in improving your health. Try replacing these drinks with water and lemon, or unsweetened flavored carbonated water.
Prepare more meals at home. Research shows that people who cook more meals at home have better diet quality and less body fat than people who eat more meals on the go. According to the National Institute of Health, people who eat 5 or more home-cooked meals per week are 28% less likely to be overweight, compared with those who eat fewer than 3 home-cooked meals per week. If you are not used to cooking at home, start by making one meal a day, a few times a week, then increase the frequency over time until you’re making most of your meals at home.
Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your routine. It won’t happen overnight, so be persistent, take small steps, stay focused and be patient and you will have a healthier year ahead!