Making Habits Stick


Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this year? Around 44 percent of Americans do and not surprisingly, the majority of resolutions revolve around eating and exercise. Sadly, 80 percent of people fail to keep the promises they make to themselves. Why? A resolution is a wish, hope, or resolve to make a change and is usually framed as, “I am going to lose weight,” or “I need to exercise regularly,” or “I am not going to eat carbs.” This is an umbrella or big picture goal/desire and will not work by itself.

The next step is figuring out how to actualize the process through realistic behavior change and creating habits that are achievable over time. Here are things to keep in mind for successful 2016 resolutions:

1. Write it down and be specific. Losing weight may be an overall goal, but how will you really do it? Writing it down is key in helping make your goals a reality. What are the steps you will actually take?

Specifics might include logging your food intake and keeping it between 1200 to 1500 calories or working out for 45 minutes 3 times a week. Throw something fun into the mix such as finding new healthy (and tasty) foods or rewards for meeting your goals.

2. Think sensible as opposed to sensational. Many people try to do too much too fast. As a result, they get overwhelmed and quit. What will really work? What can you do that is sustainable over time?

3. Analyze what can get in the way and how you will deal with it. Do you have family support? What kind of time and energy can you commit to your goal? How can you work around obstacles?

4. Strive for progress not perfection. You will have days when nothing is working. Life is not picture-perfect and forgiving yourself and getting back in the saddle is the best way to keep up healthy habits over the long run.

5. Watch out for falling into behavior loopholes – aka excuses and justifications. Phrasing such as, “It’s just this one time, I didn’t have any willpower, I’m sick, It’s the weekend, What difference does it make,” will derail you faster than a speeding bullet, so don’t let yourself off the hook! Get back to what you know you need to do as soon as possible.

6. Check in daily or weekly. Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind or they will slip into oblivion.

7. Hold yourself accountable. Tell people, get a counselor or coach, go to meetings or keep a chart.

8. Be flexible. Life changes rapidly and what is working today may need to be tweaked or totally overhauled depending on what comes up in your life.

9. Celebrate small victories. Any small achievement deserves success and recognition. Small steps add up over time.

10. Never give up. Falling down and setbacks are part of the process. Get up and keep going. Every day is a new beginning.

For more information on adopting healthier lifestyle changes, contact Kitty Finklea, lifestyle coach, registered dietitian and personal trainer at McLeod Health and Fitness Center, 843-777-3000.