We made it to a new year! Since the calendar just turned over a lot of people are thinking about new goals for the new year. And, I’m willing to bet that most of those people are making goals for better physical health. I recently read a Forbes article that said out of 1,005 adults polled at the end of 2022 over half of them said their top New Year’s resolution for 2023 was to lose weight, improve fitness or improve their diet, the rest of respondents said they wanted to improve their mental health.
Well, guess what? All of those things are related. You can’t improve your mental health without improving your physical health and vice versa. Our bodies are incredibly wise and incredibly interconnected. So, if this is you this year–making goals for better health all around then here are some ways to make those changes stick.
3 Ways to Make Your Diet Changes Stick
- Start small. All too often people make a goal that is great for their health, but is too broad. In order to be achievable, goals need to be SMART, i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. What this means is don’t just say you want to lose weight. Instead, break that goal down into smaller chunks. For example, if your big goal is to lose weight then smaller SMART goals to make this achievable might be: increase vegetable intake to 6 cups per day for one week, walk 20 minutes after meals for two weeks, eat 30 grams of protein at breakfast for one week. The big prize is won by smaller steps taken daily.
- Make a plan, don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Everyone sets off to achieve their goals with a lot of enthusiasm and optimism. If we didn’t have these things we’d never start in the first place. But, that optimism and enthusiasm wanes and can turn into disappointment, guilt and shame when goals aren’t reached. And, goals are not often reached without a plan. If your goal is to eat healthier foods then meal planning may be your new best friend. If there’s a plan in place for your weekly meals you’re much more likely to follow it than deviate to the fast-food chain that’s near your house. And, if you follow your meal plan you’re more likely to have leftovers in your fridge that are just as fast as take-out, but are much more nourishing and stick to your long-term health goals. So, don’t just fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to changing your diet and health…make a plan.
- Have grace for yourself and don’t go all or nothing. When you go all or nothing on a health goal I can assure you that shame is close behind. Why? Because shame is the emotion that tells us that we are somehow bad and sabotages our goals. For example, if your goal is to stop eating sugar after the holidays so you go cold-turkey on sweets only to eat a cupcake on day five you may feel guilt first, which says, “I did something wrong.” But, shame is a close friend of guilt, which may quickly turn “I did something wrong by eating that cupcake” to a shame spiral, which says, “I’m a bad person for eating that cupcake and I’ll never be able to reach my no-sugar goal.” Shame can paralyze and sabotage us, which can cause us to stop trying to reach our goals. Instead, having grace for yourself in this situation may be to recognize that your body is probably addicted to sugar after eating so much of it over the holidays, so to override this physiological issue will be much more difficult if you go all or nothing on sugar. Grace sounds like, “I ate a cupcake and feel disappointed in myself and yet I made it five days and can get back at it.” Also, don’t forget to make small goals, i.e. maybe instead of quitting sugar cold-turkey, you only eat sugar once per day or you switch to healthier versions of sugar like maple syrup. Small steps for big gains.
Make goals stick
Overall, getting your health goals to stick just takes a little extra thought and planning as well as some grace for yourself when things don’t go exactly as planned. And, sometimes having a partner or professional to support you on your journey can make all the difference in the world.