We tend to fall into the same cycle year after year. New Year’s brings upon New Year’s resolutions and lifestyle changes. If you’re like many people, however, New Year’s resolutions tend to be short-lived.
Why is it that New Year’s seems to be the perfect time for making lifestyle changes for weight loss or better health? Does this time of year make you more ready to make big changes in your life?
In this article, we’ll talk about how to make healthy lifestyle changes. While you may be motivated now to make lifestyle changes after the New Year, you can actually use these tips at any point in the year. Before we lay out tips for change, let’s look at what factors help us make changes (and what factors hinder us).
The Science Behind Making a Change
There’s a lot that goes into making a change (and sticking to it)! Dietitians use tools to analyze whether someone is going to make a change. These tools can help clinicians create personalized plans so that their clients and patients can have the best success. One tool dietitians use is called the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM).
The TTM helps dietitians assess someone’s readiness for making changes. With this model, clinicians find that some people are completely ready to make meaningful changes, whereas others are nowhere near ready. Work through our TTM chart to see if you’re ready to make a change:
Transtheoretical Model (TTM) Worksheet
|There are several phases of the TTM. Depending on which phase someone is in, clinicians have an idea of that person’s thoughts about the change and the actions they may take. |
Let’s learn about the TTM with an example:
Problem: Sarah needs to lose weight.
Desired behavior change: Sarah should exercise more.
|Stage of Change||Description||Example|
|Precontemplation||Someone in this phase isn’t thinking about making changes because they don’t think there’s a problem.||Sarah is not worried about her weight right now.|
|Contemplation||People in this stage see the issue and know that their lifestyle needs to be modified. However, they usually don’t know what to do. They also may make excuses as to why they can’t make changes right now.||Sarah says things like, “I want to lose weight, but I don’t have time to exercise.”|
|Preparation||Someone is getting ready to make a change within 30 days. They may look into how they can accomplish their behavior change.||Sarah just signed up for a gym membership.|
|Action||People in this stage have been consistently doing the change for 6 months.||Sarah has been working out 3 times weekly for 6 months.|
|Maintenance||Someone in this phase has been doing this behavior change for more than 6 months. While there is no guarantee, someone in this stage is the least likely to relapse into old behaviors.||Sarah has made working out 3 times weekly a part of her daily life. She even makes an effort to work out when she is on vacation.|
|Relapse||Relapse can occur at any time during the TTM, especially in the beginning stages. Relapses can occur out of boredom, major life events and stress.||Sarah now works 60 hours per week and hasn’t been to the gym in months.|
In what stage do you find yourself? By knowing which stage you are in, you can better determine how likely you are to actually make changes. To get support with lifestyle change, see a registered dietitian.
Tips on How to Make Lifestyle Changes
Now that you have an idea of science behind behavior changes, check out our easy tips to give yourself a leg up!
Tip #1: Have a plan.
Many people do better if they consciously think about their goals, set boundaries and promise themselves to stick to their goals. Instead of dealing with unhealthy temptations on the spot (like at a party), think ahead. Ask yourself, “How can I follow my healthy eating goals while still enjoying the party?”
Compromise is key. For example, if you tend to overdo the calories from alcohol and dessert, set some boundaries. Here are examples:
- “If I have alcohol, then I will skip dessert (or vice versa).”
- “If I drink alcohol before my meal, then I won’t drink alcohol during and after my meal.”
Bonus: To reduce your sugar intake, click here.
Tip #2: Be VERY practical.
Many people want to change everything about themselves to reach their health goals. For example, someone who never exercises suddenly wants to exercise daily after New Year’s. This is a huge change! Plus, the likelihood of this person reaching their goal is slim. Goals that are way too big or impractical for your lifestyle will often lead to failure.
Start with small goals that you actually believe you can accomplish. This is easier said than done! Here’s an example: If you currently have fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, start making a healthy breakfast at home (like this delicious oatmeal). Starting with one meal per day is a solid step in the right direction.
Tip #3: Set SMART goals.
The more specific your goals, the better you can stick to them. Dietitians use SMART goals. Here’s what SMART stands for:
- Specific: Select specific actions to reach your goal.
- Measurable: What will you do to “complete” the goal?
- Action-Oriented: Your goal requires you to take action.
- Realistic: Be practical.
- Time-Based: Give yourself a specific time frame to do the goal.
|SMART goal example (acronym inserted)||“I will limit soda (S, A) to 5 cans (R, M) per week (T).”|
Need to organize your life and goals? Use our favorite 2020 goal planner!
Tip #4: Add food (rather than restrict).
Adding healthy food into your diet can make you feel less restricted and possibly more motivated to accomplish your diet goals. If your goal is to eat healthier, add these foods into your diet:
- Fresh fruit
- Plain, frozen fruit
- Fresh vegetables
- Plain, frozen vegetables
- Whole grains*
- Fatty fish (i.e. tuna, salmon)*
- Nuts and seeds*
- Healthy oils (i.e. olive oil, avocado)
- Lean protein (i.e. skinless poultry, eggs, lowfat dairy)*
- Plant-based protein
*Indicates that these foods may be allergens to some people.
Tip #5: Use non-food rewards.
When you accomplish your weekly or monthly goal, be sure to treat yourself! However, this “treat” should be a non-food reward.
Instead of having an ice cream binge, reward yourself by getting your nails done, sightseeing or having a DIY spa day. We recommend taking a long bath with our favorite bath bombs.
Non-food rewards are a “win-win” because you reached your goal, and you’re not eating excess calories as a reward.