I don’t know about you, but New Year's resolutions have never really been my thing especially around diet, fitness, or weight loss. That’s not surprising since less than 10% of people actually succeed with their New Year’s resolution. I guess they’re not anyone’s thing!
I get it though - it’s refreshing to believe that the New Year comes with a new you. Who wouldn’t want to use the extra motivation they feel around January 1st to make a positive change?
Unfortunately, research shows that when it comes to long-lasting behavior change, it’s more effective to make slow and steady changes. I know it’s not as sexy and appealing as making an all-in commitment, but if you’re serious about making a change in your life, you’ll want to start small.
The Risk of Diet-Related Resolutions
It’s no secret that one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions that people set for themselves is to lose weight. But believe it or not, the perfect diet might bring on a significant amount of stress and anxiety. Dieting almost always causes stress, which makes losing weight nearly impossible. So if your goal is to lose weight, think long and hard about your approach to your health. Is your goal reasonable? What are your intentions?
Don’t get consumed by your weight loss goal. Instead of letting your weight loss goal consume all of your mental space, try putting some of that energy into managing your stress. Reducing and managing your stress is actually a huge part of controlling your weight. High stress levels cause your body to release extra cortisol, a hormone linked to all types of things that prevent weight loss like increased appetite and more frequent eating. To make matters worse, stress often causes people to eat impulsively, even if their not hungry. So long story short - setting a diet-related resolution can actually be counterproductive.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Add - don’t subtract. This study about making health habitual suggests that in order to have long-lasting health behavior changes, you should select a new behavior (i.e. eat an apple every day) instead of ditching a current behavior (i.e. do not eat fried food). Sounds counterintuitive, but it makes sense. You can’t form a new habit by not doing something.
Be realistic about your goal. Setting goals that are too big often leads to failure, which can be discouraging. Instead of shooting for the moon, try setting small goals that you can see yourself achieving. For example, if your goal is to start eating more plants, don’t go 100% plant-based overnight. Instead, try eating plant-based until noon or while you’re at home. The success of achieving a smaller goal will give you the confidence to keep making positive changes and building good habits.
Don’t expect changes overnight. Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself about how long it will take to achieve it will ultimately be discouraging. For example, don’t set a 21-day goal for yourself because there are tons of 21-day programs flooding your Facebook feed. According to this study, habit formation can take up to 10 weeks.
Set a daily intention. If the pressure of forming a habit or making a change in your life is overwhelming, try swapping that out with setting a daily intention. Living intentionally allows you to be more self-aware, which will ultimately lead to better decisions for your health. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed because you overbooked yourself over the holiday, set the intention to rest. Put yourself first and focus on the things that really matter. You’ll come back feeling well-rested and ready to make changes on the things that mean the most to you!
What To Do When You’re Surrounded By Diet Talk
Replacing the big “New Year’s resolution” with a smaller (more achievable) goal can be hard, especially if it’s a health or diet related goal. It probably feels like everyone around you is talking all about their promising new diet. Trust me, I get it. It’s tempting to let diet culture sneak in and turn your realistic goal into a full-blown resolution.
Diet culture is overwhelming by nature and it can induce quite a bit of stress. Below are a few things you can do when it feels like diet talk and diet culture are taking over your life.
Be aware of your environment. I’m sure you’ve noticed that diet messages are everywhere. Take the time to notice them and kick them out of your life! Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel less-than-awesome. Maybe spend less time with your friend that’s always trying the latest diet trend. Replace the diet culture media you consume with media that is anti-diet and promotes real health. Replace the negative relationships in your life with relationships that make you feel inspired to be and feel yourself.
Don’t absorb everything around you. You have the right to decide what types of messages you want to absorb and the type people you want to engage with. Just because diet culture and diet messaging is everywhere doesn’t mean you have to take it in. Trust yourself and only absorb the messages that resonate with you.
Set boundaries. Boundaries are necessary if you want to engage in healthy behaviors and relationships. When diet talk crops up in your conversation, simply redirect the conversation by gently letting the person know that you don’t want to talk about diet. Because diet talk has been so normalized in our culture, you might need to give your loved ones a second or third reminder about your boundaries. So while you should be firm in your boundaries, try and be understanding in the process.