8 Tips for Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness December 27, 2016

After weeks of calorie laden holiday meals, skipping a couple exercise sessions and perhaps enjoying a few too many libations, the New Year often represents a fresh start and a chance to set some healthy New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, all too often those resolutions are on the back-burner within weeks.

Brian Babka, MDBrian Babka, MD, a sports and exercise medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group in Warrenville and Geneva, offers eight tips to keep you on track, accountable, and successful:

Start slow with smaller realistic goals on way to bigger goals

If you haven’t been off the couch in a while, resolving to run a marathon will set you up for failure. Try a smaller obtainable goal, such as walking three times a week, to help you get to the bigger goal. “Realistic goals will help decrease burn out and injury, both physically and psychologically,” says Dr. Babka. “Smaller goals lead to more consistency and help the change become habit.”

Be specific in both small exercise/activity and diet changes
A vague “Eat Healthy” goal may leave you floundering. Instead, set some specific healthy eating goals, such as “don’t skip breakfast”. Try decreasing or eliminating one unhealthy thing from your diet. “A good place to start is eliminating soda or cutting back to one cup of coffee instead of two,” says Dr. Babka. On the exercise front, there are numerous great “walk to run” apps and programs that offer specific goals and track progress each week.

Find ways to double dip with family, friends and pets

Enlisting family, friends and pets can make healthy resolutions fun and keep you more accountable. Have fun family competitions (Sunday night plank off, etc.), include the kids in healthy meal prep, or commit to daily dog walks.

Remember rest and recovery
Allow your body, and mind, to repair and strengthen in between workouts. However, this isn’t an excuse to stay in bed all day. “Use light active rest/recovery rather than a ‘zero’ day,” says Dr. Babka. “Take a walk, go for a light swim or leisurely bike ride.”

Do not check weight daily
Your weight will fluctuate, which can become frustrating. “A daily weigh-in is chasing a number instead of creating a better lifestyle,” says Dr. Babka. “Checking weight every couple weeks to once per month can be more rewarding.” Weight isn’t the only way to gauge your health. Focus on how you feel instead of the numbers of the scale. Do you have more energy? Are you sleeping better? Are you more mentally alert? These are indications of a healthier life.

Do not get frustrated, as the consistency will lead to adaptation

Keep a log of your accomplishments and review them when you are feeling frustrated. “Stay positive and visualize success. Eventually the fitness, strength, speed will come,” says Dr. Babka.

Recognize Change

“It will become apparent when healthy decisions start to grow off each other, and it will eventually become a new life habit,” says Dr. Babka. “Recognize and celebrate change. You will not want to undo previous decisions and hard work.”

Find the inner athlete within yourself

Find your sport, your passion, an activity you love that will keep you motivated. “We are all athletes,” says Dr. Babka. “Remember the active you will always be faster and stronger than the ‘on the couch’ you.”

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