According to an article in Psychology Today, research shows that fewer than half of the people who set New Year's resolutions actually stick to their goals after 6 months. And after a year, the number declines to about 10%.
Yikes, those aren't good odds.
But the article goes on to explain that reaching goals and creating positive change in our lives can happen much easier if we set specific goals, share our goals with others and focus on the benefits of achieving the goals. It seems that wanting to change a habit or something in your life is just not enough to spur long-lasting change. There are a few key ingredients to being able to follow through with a goal or resolution. It's essential that there is some sort of personal epiphany that happens, for example, "I just don't want to be overweight anymore — I can't go on this way." Having courage ("I'm willing to take this leap to lose 10 pounds"), believing in yourself ("I CAN lose 10 pounds") and being determined ("I WILL lose 10 pounds") are also keys in setting yourself up for success.
From my experience as a dietitian and nutrition counselor, I've found that it's also very important to ask yourself a few questions before setting a lifestyle goal, in order to carve out an action plan and follow through with your resolution. I wrote about how to set realistic resolutions for the new year last year, mentioning three questions that I feel are important:
Why are you setting this goal (why do I want to lose weight?)
How will you achieve it (how will I lose weight? Better nutrition? More activity? Drinking less alcohol?) and
When will you work towards it (how often and for how long are you willing to work on this goal?)
When it comes to improving your diet (or any other health-related change that you make in your life), there is no quick-fix solution. Improving your diet and/or achieving healthy weight loss (which I'm guessing is one of your New Years resolutions if you're reading this post), takes practice, patience, and perseverance—after all, you are changing some lifelong, ingrained habits. Here are some of my top healthy eating habits that you may want to adopt. Choose no more than two or three at one time so that you don't become overwhelmed and start with ones that seem very doable and work your way up to more challenging ones.
Breakfast remains the single most important meal of the day as it jump-starts your metabolism, gives you energy and fuel to function, focus and concentrate, and if it contains a good source of protein, will help to ward off cravings and later-in-the-day snacking. If your goal is to drop a few pounds and maintain your weight loss, breakfast is essential.
If you're already eating breakfast everyday, you may want to ditch your breakfast cereal and opt instead for a more healthy and sustainable breakfast such as oatmeal, a veggie omelette, or a yogurt and fruit smoothie. Breakfast cereal may seem like the fastest, easiest option, but this processed, often sugar-ladened option seriously lacks in the nutrition department. Here are some great kid-friendly breakfast ideas.
Typically in North America, our supper meal is the largest meal of the day and we tend to skimp on our breakfast and lunch. What we should be doing instead is bulking up our breakfast and lunch meals and decreasing the size of our dinner. When we increase the size of our earlier meals (specifically by adding a bit more protein and more veggies/fruits), we will automically taper our eating near the end of the day because we are more satisfied. As we wind down from our day, so do our metabolisms, slowing down the rate at which we burn calories, so it only makes sense to eat more earlier in the day (when we're actively burning calories and when we actually need the energy), rather then when we're preparing to rest for the night.
Controlling your portion sizes is key to losing weight, but it's hard to decrease portion sizes when you're used to eating a certain amount at each meal. A really easy way to decrease portion sizes (and become a more mindful eater) is to use smaller plates and bowls—you will automatically serve yourself less. And because we typically eat what is in front of us, this is a great way to eat less but still feel satisfied. I never—with the exception of when we have company over—use our large plates or bowls (because I always eat more than I need). Instead I use our lunch size plates, small bowls and small wine glasses.
Being a "Fooditarian" means trading in your processed packaged franken-foods (think breakfast cereal, processed cheeses and meats, pre-packaged TV dinners, and boxed mac n cheese) for real whole foods instead. Start small trading in one go-to food (let's say store-bought crackers) for something more nutritious and homemade (like these amazingly delicious homemade crackers) and eventually work your way towards avoiding most processed packages food-like items. This takes time, so start slowly. And remember, having crap food once in a while won't hurt you, but if you're having it most of the time, it will.
Once a week, on Sunday, I commit to making one dish that will last us the week (or that I can stock pile in the freezer for down the road). Whether it's a soup (like this Crock-Pot Lentil soup), healthy muffins (like these banana bran muffins) or a meat dish that can be added to pizza, sandwiches or salads (like this slow-cooker pulled chicken), batch cooking will enable you to eat healthier all week long and will keep you from ordering in.
This is a great way to ensure that you are getting your veggie quota for the day and also helps to fill you up without eating too many calories. Veggies are nutrient dense, low calorie gems and by making it a habit to fill your plate with at least 50% veggies at one (or more) of your meals, you will not only improve your health and decrease your risk of chronic disease, but you will also shrink your waistline. Try this delicious Lemony Broccoli if you need some inspiration.
Happy New Year!!