Don’t Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
Posted 1/4/2016 by UHBlog
Millions of Americans will resolve to quit smoking, lose weight or get fit in the coming year – and most of them will stray from their goals before the end of the first week.
“Any time someone decides to fundamentally make a major change in their life at the stroke of midnight, they’re setting themselves up for possible failure because major changes overnight are difficult,” says internal medicine specialist David Thomas, MD. “Making small changes can be more beneficial and sustainable in the long run because small changes can lead to larger changes as they build.”
For women who are expected to work, take care of children and run households, finding time to develop healthier habits can be more challenging – but not impossible.
“You need to prioritize yourself and have a support network,” Dr. Thomas says. “Share duties. Insist on 30 minutes a day to stay healthy and in the right frame of mind.”
Whether the calendar reads January 1 or May 1, willpower is critical. If you’re the type of person who can’t do it alone, join an accredited diet program to lose weight or Alcoholics Anonymous to stop drinking.
“These groups provide an externally imposed willpower system,” Dr. Thomas says.
Other tips for developing healthier habits include:
- Setting a limit – “If you decide to stop smoking, lose weight, exercise more and become a vegetarian, odds are you won’t recognize yourself the next day, so choose a portion of one of those things,” Dr. Thomas says.
- Making an action plan – Write down your goals, such as, “I’m going to eliminate one cigarette a day for one week and two cigarettes a day for another week. On January 20 at noon, I will discard any remaining cigarettes.”
- Avoiding triggers – There are obvious triggers like all-you-can-eat buffets when you’re dieting. But resolving to become healthier doesn’t mean isolating yourself. Attend a support group centered on your goal – whether it’s weight loss, smoking cessation, alcohol abstention or something else. Or enlist a pal in a friendly competition centered around steps on a pedometer.
Dr. Thomas offers specific tips for conquering common resolutions:
- Quitting smoking – Speak to your doctor about medications that decrease nicotine cravings, such as Wellbutrin or Chantix. Consider a step-down method and set a stop-date to throw out every cigarette in the house.
“January 1 is as good a date as any, but there’s nothing magical about it,” he says.
- Stopping or decreasing alcohol consumption – For non-dependent folks who want to limit alcohol for health reasons, enlist the help of a support network. However, if you’ve been imbibing multiple drinks daily for years, seek medical help.
“Stopping cold turkey can be life-threatening because a person can have seizures and go into alcohol withdrawal, so you want them to be in a monitored situation,” Dr. Thomas says.
- Losing weight – Keep expectations in check: Losing one pound a week is considered a safe rate. Drink a glass of water 15 minutes before meals to trick your stomach into feeling full. Arrange your meal on a salad plate and don’t eat more than one plate of food at a sitting.
- Exercising more – “Start twice a week, 10 minutes a day or do what you can,” Dr. Thomas says. “Slowly step up your exercise program as your body is able. Don’t push too hard too fast. If you get injured, you’re never going to stick with it.”
- Getting more sleep – Set a consistent bedtime and eliminate screen time 30 minutes before lights-out. Daytime exercise induces better quality sleep.
- Flossing teeth – Set an alarm on your phone. If it goes off before bedtime and you haven’t brushed and flossed, head to the bathroom. Or, keep floss sticks in your car and floss at red lights.
David Thomas, MD is an internal medicine specialist at University Hospitals Independence Health Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Thomas or any other University Hospitals doctor online.