If you’ve been spending time over the holiday season thinking about making a New Year’s Resolution, healthier eating or dieting may have crossed your mind once or twice. You’re not alone! In a Harris Interactive survey, results recently published by Blue Diamond Growers showed that 38% of Americans’ New Year’s resolutions for 2014 will focus on eating healthier. It can feel like there is a lot of pressure on making a New Year’s Resolution, and making it one that you can accomplish over an entire year. However, simply stating your resolution is to “eat healthier” or to “go on a diet” is not ideal when goal-setting.
These resolutions are not very specific and are not measurable. When will you know you have begun to eat healthier? Will you continue to eat healthy once you have achieved “eating healthier”? When will you start your diet? What will your diet consist of? What happens once you have begun dieting? What is your new normal in terms of eating? They also don’t have a timeline attached. How long will you eat healthier? How long will you be on a diet? Do you have specific goals associated with eating healthier or going on a diet, such as increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption or dieting from/limiting your sweets?
Don’t be discouraged! You can still make a New Year’s Resolution surrounding healthy eating, and can be successful with it. Participants of the Stanford University programs Living a Healthy Life (Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP)), Tomando Control de su Salud (Spanish version of CDSMP), or Better Choices, Better Health (online CDSMP), will recognize the process for setting achievable goals or action plans. Some questions to ask yourself are: What specifically will you do? How much will you do? When will you do it? How often will you do it? How confident are you that you can achieve your set goal?
For example, if you know you want to eat healthier in 2014, but aren’t sure where to start, think first about one thing you can specifically do. If you currently don’t eat any fruits and vegetables at all (or very rarely), it may seem impossible to stick to a resolution to eat 1 ½ - 2 cups of fruits every day and 2-3 cups of vegetables every day (half of your plate). Or, it may seem possible, but you may stop doing this after only a short period of time. Make your resolution something achievable in the immediate sense; you can always change it later. Perhaps you resolve to eat one fruit or vegetable serving once a day for three days. If you are confident in this goal, you are more likely to achieve it. At the end of a week, re-evaluate your goal and determine if you would like to try again, maintain this goal, or if you feel confident that you can create a new goal building on your previous goal.
It may seem difficult to make a big life change overnight. So, don’t feel like you have to! Make a small change, be confident in it, and continue doing it if it works for you.
For more information on setting achievable New Year’s resolutions, specifically in regard to healthy eating, check out some of the links below:
Healthy Eating Tips (USDA – ChooseMyPlate.gov)
Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))