How Dietitians Want You to Approach Your New Year's Resolutions
Dietitians share the resolutions they wish you'd make, which include eating more brunch and celebrating your achievements—with champagne.
'Tis the season to set lofty goals for the year ahead...and then lose steam by February and feel like a failure. Harsh? Yes, but realistic. (Although, to be fair, setting those big lofty goals can work in your favor sometimes.) Every January, millions vow to lose weight, eat better, and get fit. But aren't you tired of these same #basic resolutions every single year? Maybe you're guilty of setting the same 10-pound weight-loss goal, or maybe you're still looking for the resolution that makes you feel good about yourself instead of something so focused on appearances, numbers, or benchmarks. Regardless, there is more to goal setting this time of year than these usual suspects. In fact, the Shape editors set New Year's resolutions that have absolutely nothing to do with bikini bodies.
Let's be clear: Setting goals and working to achieve them is a totally healthy and inspiring thing to do for your own personal growth. And if that includes losing some weight that's been really bugging you, that's fine. That said, there are many ways to approach a new calendar year and what you focus on as you go into it. What's the best use of your time and energy as you look ahead to the next 12 months? While I'm all for setting goals, I encourage my clients to think outside the "get skinny" box.
Here's how you can evaluate your own resolutions.
Should you set a New Year's resolution at all?
Some people find the energy from the buildup to a new year motivating, but maybe you find it overwhelming. Giving this arbitrary start date more meaning has a sneaky way of ramping up the pressure, which can ultimately backfire. And besides, if something is important to you, why wait for January 1?
"It can be a good idea to look back over the past year, and come up with some goals for the coming year," says Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., intuitive eating coach. "The problem with many New Year's resolutions is that they're unrealistic and involve some type of crash diet, restriction, or a total life overhaul."
New Year's resolutions put a lot of pressure on someone to jump right into long-term goals," says Robyn Nohling, R.D., a dietitian and nurse practitioner. "I like to reframe 'goals' as 'intentions,' and then, from there, you can break down those intentions into medium- and short-term goals." Medium-term would be things you want to accomplish in the next two to three months, and short-term goals are the small, baby steps you will take this week. "Setting small, sustainable, realistic goals is really the key to success in anything," says Nohling, adding that there can be more important pursuits than losing weight and getting toned. (Related: This Trainer Wants You to Know It's Normal for Motivation to Come and Go)
Shift your focus.
Rather than outward-focused resolutions (e.g., this will be the year that six-pack finally shows up), Rumsey suggests switching your priorities to building a healthier relationship with food and your body. "I'd love to see more people practice self-care and self-compassion," she says. "We lead busy, chaotic, and stressful lives, yet most people do nothing to manage that stress. I want people to take more time caring for themselves, whether that's getting more sleep, scheduling a massage, starting a meditation practice, or just doing some deep breathing throughout the day." Need help getting started? Learn how to make time for self-care when you have none. "When you truly care for yourself in all realms besides the physical—mentally, emotionally, relationally, spiritually–you'll be happier and more fulfilled," says Nohling.
And ICYMI, a big recent diet trend was no diet at all—the anti-diet is basically the healthiest diet you could ever be on. This way of eating is all about avoiding restriction (on calories and on certain foods) and instead focusing on eating foods that make you feel good. "I'd love to see people resolve to reject the diet mentality," says Rumsey, which includes the quick-fix books, and unhealthy or triggering fitspo on social media. "Instead, start reading and learning more about intuitive eating, and follow accounts that empower you and share body-positive messages."
Make resolutions more fun.
A lot of these typical New Year's resolutions are ZERO fun. That's for a lot of reasons, many of which stem from the issue that setting sky-high goals can make achieving them a slippery uphill battle of frustration. But no one ever said resolutions need to be hard. One year, I was so over feeling stressed and miserable in an unhappy relationship, that the only resolution I made for my first new year as a single lady was to "eat more brunch." It wasn't about the brunch food (although, that was a lovely bonus), but about having new experiences and connecting with other people. It helped me be more social and feel open to dating again when I didn't think I'd ever get over that cynical mindset.
Another year, in addition to setting some professional goals, I vowed to celebrate something every month—with or without champagne. I was used to speeding through life without noting any accomplishments or what I'm proud of, so this forced me to focus on the positive. The more positive energy you have, the more positive energy you tend to attract. So this helped me put a can-do spin on the year regardless of any setbacks that came my way.
Don't be hesitant to ask for help.
Make this the year you start asking for help when you need it. You've probably conditioned yourself to think you need to do everything yourself, including achieving the goals you've set for yourself this year. Often, getting help isn't taking the easy route to success, it's a necessary step. You might want to start working with a dietitian or a therapist, or you could outsource things that take up too much of your precious time—time you could spend on your personal goals. Maybe it's having groceries delivered or paying someone to clean your home once a month. Whatever it is, these seemingly trivial things can have a major effect on your quality of life.
Go easy on yourself.
A large detriment to these first-of-the-year goals is that plans change. Priorities change. Life changes. If you need to ditch a goal halfway through the year or even a few weeks in, wave goodbye and never think about it again. While you may have trained yourself to think of this as some kind of failure, it's not. It's you listening to your inner voice, whether it's coming from your growling stomach or an achy heart, adjusting, and not feeling bad about trying something else next week, next month, or next year.