Tag Archives: New Year’s resolutions

Time to make your new school year resolutions

Today is the first day of school for my kids and the first official day back for me and my colleagues at USC Aiken. So, it seems like a perfect time to make and plan for New School Year resolutions. It’s also a good time to assess your progress on your New Year’s resolutions and restart (or finally get started) on your goals. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.


It’s hard to believe, but summer is winding down and the start of a new school year is upon us. As teachers, students, and parents know, this is the real beginning of the new year. For those of us involved in education, the first day of school is a perfect time to make new goals for the upcoming year, whether they are related to school or not.

This is a lot like making New Year’s resolutions on January first. Hopefully, you are still on track with your resolution. Sadly, research suggests that only 8% of people actually achieve their goal (more data here).

There are a host of reasons for this. Some of the most common resolutions—quitting smoking, losing weight, and getting in shape—are also some of the most difficult behaviors to change because they require making significant lifestyle modifications. To make things worse, many people set unrealistic goals or try to take on too much at once.

Many people who fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions this year will recycle them next year and try again. In fact, most people who manage to successfully quit smoking or lose weight have tried many times in the past. Sometimes experience, even a bad experience, is the best way to learn what does and doesn’t work.

But there is no need to wait until 2015 to restart your stalled New Year’s resolution or finally get around to doing what you planned months ago. Setting a date to begin a behavior change is an important step in the process so, why not make a New School Year resolution and try again now?

Here is some advice to help make this second chance to start or restart your New Year’s resolutions successful.

Be realistic. Many people fail to keep their resolutions simply because they don’t set realistic goals or aren’t realistic about what it will take to meet those goals. For example, running a marathon is an ambitious goal for almost everyone, especially someone who doesn’t exercise at all. A resolution to work up to jogging five days per week, with a goal of completing a 5k run is more realistic and achievable.

Focus on learning. Making most health behavior changes involves learning as much as doing. Something as simple as eating a healthier meals requires learning about the nutrients that make some foods healthier than others, learning to read food labels to select healthy foods, and learning how to cook and prepare healthy meals. If your resolution is to learn about healthy meals you will be able to achieve that goal and be well on your way to eating a healthier diet.

Manage your time. Most health improvement projects require taking time to learn about, implement, and maintain those healthy behaviors. If you resolve to manage your time to include exercise or meal preparation in your daily schedule you will be much more likely to meet your goals. Trying to add these new activities as “extras” to your already busy day will inevitably lead to them getting squeezed out.

Plan ahead. Most people already know that changing health behaviors can be challenging, even under the best circumstances. It’s no wonder that holidays, travel, and other life events can complicate or even derail an otherwise successful diet or exercise program. Make it your resolution to think about what you can do before, during, and after these (and other) disruptions occur to keep yourself on track.

Hopefully these steps will help you keep your resolutions, achieve your goals, and make this a happy, healthy year. As a bonus, you can take January 1 off!

Just in time–New Year’s resolutions that will actually help you achieve your goals.

There are just a few more hours until you have to get started on your New Year’s resolutions.

There are also a few more hours to make New Year’s resolutions, if you are a procrastinator.

The most common resolutions are changes to improve health, including quitting smoking, losing weight, and starting an exercise program. Many people who make these–and other–resolutions get off to a good start, but most will end up failing to meet their goals.

While there are many reasons why people don’t keep their resolutions, part of the problem might be that these should not be the only New Year’s resolutions you make. Resolutions should be the things you need to do to achieve your goals, not the goal itself. Here is an example:

Losing 20 pounds is a good goal for many people. But what that really means is learning about a healthy way to eat, shopping for and preparing appropriate meals, finding time to exercise each day, and focusing on turning these behaviors into lasting habits. In this example, learning how to shop for and prepare healthy meals would make an excellent resolution that would lead toward the goal of losing 20 pounds.

The idea of making resolutions that are steps in the process leading toward a goal instead of the goal itself is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week. Here are a few resolutions that can help you achieve your health improvement goals, whatever they may be:

Be realistic
Many people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions simply because they don’t set realistic goals or aren’t realistic about what it will take to meet those goals. For example, running a marathon is an ambitious goal for almost everyone, especially someone who doesn’t exercise at all. It is possible that someone could get in shape to run a marathon, but it will take a long time. A resolution to work up to jogging five days per week, with a goal of completing a 10 k run is more realistic and achievable.

Focus on learning
Making most health behavior changes involve learning as much as doing. Something as simple as eating a healthier meals requires learning about the nutrients that make some foods healthier than others, learning to read food labels to select healthy foods, and learning how to cook and prepare healthy meals. If your resolution is to learn about healthy meals you will be able to achieve that goal and be well on your way to eating a healthier diet.

Manage your time
Most health improvement projects require taking time to learn about, implement, and maintain those healthy behaviors. A major reason the people fail to really get started with or sustain a weight loss or exercise program is time. If you resolve to manage your time to include exercise or meal preparation in your daily schedule you will be much more likely to meet your goals. Trying to add these new activities as “extras” to your already busy day will inevitably lead to them getting squeezed out.

Plan ahead
Most people already know that changing health behaviors can be challenging, even under the best circumstances. It’s no wonder that holidays, travel, and other life events can complicate or even derail an otherwise successful diet or exercise program. Make it your resolution to think about what you can do before, during, and after these (and other) disruptions to your routine to keep yourself on track. Planning ahead and thinking “what if” can make the difference between giving up and catching up on your diet or exercise program after a vacation.

Have a happy and healthy New Year!

The Health & Fitness holiday gift guide.

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, you are not alone. As of last week, the average shopper still has half of their gift buying left to do. The good news is that there is still time to pick out perfect gifts for your friends and family, including gifts that will help them meet their health and fitness New Year’s resolutions.

There are many good gifts that can help people get started on their exercise or weight loss programs. Gift guides including gadgets, apps, clothing, and other gear, like this one from Greatist.com. Many of these tools would no doubt be useful for getting people motivated, providing feedback, and even some healthy competition through social networking.

But these are not the things that people really need to begin and be successful making diet and activity changes. After all, no one ever quit an exercise program or failed at losing weight because they didn’t have the right nutrition app or the latest activity tracker. The real reason people struggle is because of factors like time and support from family and friends in the real, not virtual, world.

In my Health & Fitness column this week in the Aiken Standard  I provide a practical gift guide. These are the things you can give your friends or family members to really help them make their healthy lifestyle changes:

1. Time. The most common reason that people quit an exercise program or struggle with weight loss is because of time. That includes time to exercise, obviously. But it also includes time to plan, shop for, and prepare healthy meals and snacks. This year, give the gift of time. Commit to helping your friend or family member plan time to focus on their program and dedicate yourself to taking on some responsibilities to help them do that.

2. Help. In addition to helping find time, you should commit to actually doing things to facilitate your friend or family member’s health improvement program. Taking on chores and projects around the house, picking up the kids after school, and helping with shopping and cooking are examples of things you can do.

3. Support. Anyone who makes a major lifestyle change needs the support of others to be successful. Your role can be to provide encouragement, ask about progress, and take your friend’s program into account when planning meals and other activities together. You should also be ready to provide a gentle (or not-so-gentle) nudge when you see them getting off track.

4. A buddy. People who take on an exercise program with others are more likely to stick with it and be successful. So get involved with your friend or family member. Going for a walk together during a break at work or developing a healthy eating plan as a family is an excellent way to play along. Chances are, these healthy changes will benefit you, too.

So, if you really want to help someone in your life make lasting healthy changes, use the remaining shopping days to come up with a plan. Leave the stress of shopping to everyone else!

Simple ways to start your New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s resolutions can be easy to make, but difficult to follow through with. This is due, in part, to the fact that some of the most common resolutions—losing weight, starting an exercise program, eating healthier, and quitting smoking—are some of the most difficult behaviors to change.

It is also because the process of making these changes can be complicated. If you want to lose weight you need to decide which diet you will follow, which may require buying specific foods or learning to prepare meals in a particular way. If you plan to eat out you will want to learn which foods fit with your diet. Maybe you will be counting calories or tracking points. That all takes time and practice, which might delay you from getting started.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways for you to jump-start your New Year’s resolutions. In my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week I share a few simple steps you can take to get started. This can give you time to figure out the details and learn new skills to help you succeed in the long run.