Jan 22, 2018 12:00 AM

Author: Wellness and Integrative Health

Each year about a third of Americans make New Year’s resolutions to improve their lives in some way. After six months though, only about half of those who made resolutions are still trying to keep them. What keeps some people going while others quit? In most cases it’s setting realistic expectations and carefully monitoring progress. Let’s take a look at how to stay on track with some of the most popular resolutions out there.

Losing Weight

If you are trying to lose weight you need to remember it doesn’t happen over time. It will take time, and there may even be moments when you gain weight back. “You can’t let setbacks knock you off course,” said Kelly McLeod in Wellness and Integrative Health at University of Utah Health. “Instead take note of what happened and use it to get back to achieving your goal.”

A good support system is also important on your weight loss journey. Having friends or family members reminding and pushing you to reach your goals will help you be more successful. “You can be your own support system as well,” said McLeod. “Write down your goal and keep it somewhere that you will see it every day. That constant reminder will help keep you accountable.”

Eat Healthier

Attention to detail is important in keeping this resolution. Keep a record of everything (yes, everything) you eat using a journal or an app. “You can’t start making changes until you are aware of what you are really eating,” McLeod said. “Once you are you can identify areas of your diet that need improvement.”

Those improvements don’t have to be huge. Start with small goals like adding one more serving of vegetables a week or swapping soda for water. Small changes can then lead to bigger changes later on.

Above all else, listen to your body. Learn when you are hungry, when you are full, and what else may be triggering your desire to eat. “Being able to identify when you are full will help you reduce portion sizes,” McLeod said. “Remember it takes your brain about 20 minutes to recognize that you are eating, so take it slow.”

Exercise More

You don’t need to do a lot of exercise to make a big impact. Start with 10 minute sessions of exercise and work towards adding a bit more time each day. “Continuity is what is important here,” McLeod said. “Get moving every day and build up time each week.”

Working out with others could help make reaching your fitness goals easier. Signing up for group classes or hiring a personal trainer can make you more accountable and help you make sure you are doing exercises properly. “If nothing else get a friend or family member to exercise with you,” McLeod said. “You can encourage each other not to skip any sessions!”

Quit Smoking

The majority of people who try to quit smoking don’t do so on the first try, so don’t be disappointed if you relapse. “Don’t let a slip up derail you,” McLeod said. “Remind yourself daily of the health benefits of quitting smoking and why it is important to you.”

You may want to take advantage of a combination of techniques to help you kick the habit for good. “There are a variety of medications, gums, and patches that can aid in smoking cessation as well as group and individual counseling,” said McLeod.

Reduce Stress

We all could use less stress in our lives. But some stress is to be expected, and can even be beneficial. You need to identify those stresses that are toxic, and the triggers that cause them. “Try to eliminate or reduce these triggers,” McLeod said. “Keep a journal so you can write down your feelings of stress each day. This can also help with identifying times that cause your stress.”

Learning various techniques to reduce stress can help too. These may include breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, or some types of yoga. “Most of them can be done sitting at your desk,” said McLeod. “And they can be done without anyone around you knowing what you are doing.”

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