It is estimated that only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions accomplish them. And while budgeting, reading books and visiting new places may top some resolutions lists, statistically the most popular resolutions each year are focused on physical health – eating right and exercising.
Because a good plan will beat good intentions every time, Dr. Donald Fabacher, a primary care physician at the Ochsner Health Center in Destrehan, weighed in on some ways to set health-oriented resolutions that will stick all year.
“People often view resolutions as symbolic of a fresh start, and then dive into those resolutions with enthusiasm. Exercise and eating healthy are two of the most popular resolutions, but with time, that fresh enthusiasm starts to fade,” he said, adding there are two reasons why resolutions may fail.
“People often set unrealistic goals, rather than taking small steps toward success,” Fabacher said of one possible roadblocks to success. “Also, they may not be specific in what they hope to achieve. Often people set an overall goal that can take significant time to accomplish and forget to celebrate the small successes along the way.”
That can lead to frustration, he said, and to giving up on the resolution.
Fabacher said maintaining personal health should always be a priority, but that it is especially important during a pandemic.
“COVID-19 has shown us that people with underlying conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are more likely to have severe symptoms should they come down with the illness,” he said. “Eating healthy, exercising and losing weight can help you stay healthy and decrease your risk factors for chronic conditions. We need to get in the mindset that we want to prevent disease and not chase it.”
Nutritionally speaking, Fabacher said it is important to work on forming healthier habits.
“Low carb, short-term diets allow you to lose weight quickly, but don’t really help you to keep it off,” he said. “The food choices we make are a habit. We often are on auto-pilot when it comes to what we decide to eat.”
Changing one thing at a time, such as switching soda for water or adding a green vegetable to every meal, is advised.
“The goal is to consume more food from the earth by eating vegetables, fruits, grains and lean sources of protein like fish and chicken,” Fabacher said, adding drinking enough water is also very important. “Hydration has a big impact on your energy level and alertness. It’s recommended that adults drink at least eight, 8-oz. glasses of water a day.”
Fabacher offered five tips to help set realistic health goals in 2021.
“First, start small. Make manageable and achievable goals for yourself so that you don’t get overwhelmed and give up,” he said. “And start simple – try to get more steps in each day or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Small steps can lead to big results.”
He said it is also important to find a workout routine that you enjoy and that fits into your lifestyle.
“Whether you hit the gym or find an app to work out with from home, more options are available than ever,” he said.
The second tip Fabacher suggested is to be specific with your goals and write them down, and the third tip is to set time aside each day to work on your goals.
The fourth suggestion, Fabacher said, is to celebrate milestones and mini wins on your way to achieving your overarching goal.
“There will be times when you fail along the way – we’re all only human,” he said. “Forgive yourself and recommit to making healthier choices the next day.”