But making a healthy change — and sticking to it — is possible, says Beth Eggleston, health promotion educator at Holland Hospital’s Center for Good Health.
“People do not plan to fail, they fail to plan,” Eggleston said.
1. Be S.M.A.R.T.
Eggleston recommends everyone start with the S.M.A.R.T. acronym when forming their goals. The goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-balanced.
“Instead of saying, ‘I want to lose weight,’ say you want to lose 12 pounds by March 31,” Eggleston said, giving an example of how to turn a goal into a specific one.
Setting attainable goals is also important. Eggleston said expecting to lose 5-10 percent of body weight is a good place to start.
Putting a deadline to that goal helps to motivate people — as long as it’s within a safe weight-loss rate: losing half a pound to 2 pounds a week, Eggleston said.
2. Go beyond the BMI chart
Body Mass Index (BMI) charts place a person’s weight against their height to give a reading of their overall wellness. But the charts don’t take muscle mass into account — and so someone in shape with lots of muscle can fall into an “overweight” category in the BMI.
“I’m not a huge fan of those BMI charts,” Eggleston said. “They can be pretty inaccurate for the elderly and athletes. … It’s really easy to not feel great about yourself when looking at the BMI charts.”
The best way to get a picture of your overall health is to know percent body fat, Eggleston said. And it’s not as complicated as one might think: Holland Hospital’s Center for Good Health offers body composition exams for $10.
3. Have an accountability person
It could be anyone — a friend, spouse or health coach — but having someone in your life hold you accountable for your goals is immensely important when charting a new path in your life.
“Someone to be your cheerleader and be your advocate, too,” Eggleston said.
As about a third of people who make New Year’s resolutions quit by the end of January, staying motivated and on track takes a team.
4. Reward yourself
Find the motivation for your goal to keep yourself mentally strong through the difficult times.
“Maybe you have a picture of yourself when you felt good about yourself, maybe you keep an index card in your wallet listing out reasons for why you do this,” Eggleston said.
Rewarding yourself along the way with non-food rewards is important as well. For Eggleston, that’s new workout gear.
5. Play offense
To avoid temptation, play offense. Instead of trying to play defense as you ward off the cookies and snacks in your pantry or at work, get rid of them. Make your home into a safe space, Eggleston said. When shopping, stick to the edges of the grocery store, where you’ll find more whole foods like fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
Try out smartphone applications like Healthy Out that help you find healthy options when you’re out to eat.
But, if you fall off the wagon, accept it, forgive yourself and move forward, Eggleston said.
“Every food decision is a conscious decision, and we can make our best decision a better one,” she said.