An estimated 41% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, most of which center around health-related goals. However, only 9% feel they are successful in keeping or achieving them. Why is it so challenging to stick with New Year’s resolutions? It may not be related to goal-getters discipline; it may be that the resolution itself isn’t SMART enough.
Setting a SMART goal is a way to guide your resolution to be more Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Defining these parameters ensures that your goal is more achievable over time.
Popular health-related New Year’s resolutions
- Lose weight
- Eat healthier
- Exercise more
- Be healthy
These are great goals, but they need to be SMART. They do not define what “healthy” means. There are no actionable words. It is not specific, and it does not set a deadline. Before setting your SMART goal, take some time to define the why behind the goal.
Define the “why”
If your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, first figure out why you want to lose weight. Then, ask why this resolution is important to you, what you will gain by achieving this resolution,
and if this resolution aligns with your core values. Some examples are:
- Increased confidence
- Improved relationship with food
- Decreased medications
- Prevention in disease
- Increase activity with family members
Now that you clearly understand your “why,” setting your SMART New Year’s Resolution will be easier. Here are three ways to set yourself up for success in 2023:
Make your New Year’s Resolution SMART
If your goal is to lose weight by eating healthy in 2023, apply the SMART method to make the resolution more attainable.
Making your New Year’s resolution specific applies a clear focus to your efforts. It answers who, what, when, where, and why. Do you want to change the number on the scale, or do you wish to change your body composition–focusing on adding lean muscle mass and decreasing fat mass?
You want to track your progress toward your goal. Make it measurable–define how much or how many. How will you know you have reached your goal?
Your goal should challenge you, but it shouldn’t be impossible. Have you attempted to lose weight before? If you did, what was successful and what was unsuccessful? Keep that in mind when creating your resolution. Be realistic. Don’t set an overly ambitious goal you know that you cannot achieve.
This is the point where you need to reference your “why” again to ensure your resolution aligns.
Is your goal important to you? Or is it a goal you need or even want to achieve? Will it bring you closer to your overall goal?
The deadlines you set for your SMART goals will prevent less critical tasks from getting in your way and hindering progress. You’ll be able to keep your priorities straight when you have the sense of urgency that comes along with a deadline.
Focus on SUSTAINABLE change.
It’s great if you achieve your New Year’s resolution, but it’s even greater if you can sustain it. A sustainable rate of weight loss is half a pound to two pounds per week, which equals about two to eight pounds per month. So if your New Year’s resolution is to lose 30 pounds in a month, this is an unrealistic and unsustainable goal. Instead, 30 pounds in 4 months is a resolution that has the potential to be achieved and sustained over a more extended period.
Often, individuals begin a new fad diet for their New Year’s resolution as a tactic to decrease weight. Unfortunately, fad diets offer fast unsustainable results with restrictive eating plans. In addition, a fad diet is often difficult to adhere to for a month, much less a year. Instead of adopting a drastically new way of eating, consider your current choices and make adjustments. For sustainable changes to your nutrition, focus on the following:
Protein helps regulate appetite and maintain muscle stores. Therefore, ensure you consume a lean protein source with each meal/snack.
Fiber helps regulate appetite, bowel movements, and blood sugar levels. Ensure you have a source of fiber with every meal. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber.
Anti-inflammatory fats like olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds help regulate blood sugar levels, are heart-protective, and help you feel satisfied after a meal. Prioritize mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats over saturated and trans fats.
Don’t forget to prioritize foods you consider fun. Typically, fun foods are more decadent, higher in calories, and lower in nutrients. To feel more in control around your fun foods, normalize them by intentionally incorporating them into your lifestyle. This will help you feel more in control when you are around them in social settings or eating out, which can help you achieve sustainable weight loss.
Enlist help and accountability from a dietitian
Dietitians are food experts. Before beginning any weight loss plan, it is important to consult with your dietitian to figure out the best diet plan that works for you and your individual health goals. Dietitians can also be a source of accountability and help you set sustainable health-related New Year’s resolutions to help you become the healthiest version of yourself in 2023.
Courtney Hammons Butts, MS, RDN, LDN
Weight loss dietitian at Courtney Butts Nutrition.