What to do next if you are struggling with your New Year’s resolution

We asked Registered Dietitian Andrea Holwegner from Health Stand Nutrition Consulting what she would suggest would be most helpful to focus on if you are feeling off track with your New Year’s Resolution to eat better. She offers these helpful tips!

Is it common to feel off track with a New Year’s resolution?
Absolutely. At the start of the year many of us set goals to improve a bunch of goals including goals for our health, fitness and eating habits. But as the weeks march on it can be challenging to stick with our goals.  Often we find ourselves back to square one and defeated and frustrated. The good news is you can regroup and revise and get going again.

When and how should someone move forward if they are feeling stuck?
Researchers in the field of behavioral psychology have observed what is now known as the “fresh start effect.”  This is the concept that people are more likely to take action towards goals after a temporal landmark (the start of a new distinct period of time) that represents new beginnings or sometimes a special occasion.  Setting a goal on the New Year, a birthday, the first day after a long weekend, the beginning of the month or the start of the week are all examples of new distinct periods of time.

If you feel like you have fallen off track from your New Year’s resolution, the good news is you definitely don’t need to wait until the New Year to get going again. You can use the “the fresh start effect” and find another temporal landmark to get going again.

As I like to say failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. Look at failures instead positivity and commit to failing forward. Think about the goal you set, examine what you’ve learned and recommit to a more supportive but clear goal.

Why do you think so many people struggle with accomplishing a healthy eating goal?
From my experience as a Dietitian for over 20 years one of the reasons many of our clients have failed previously with healthy eating goals is the goals they set were too vague.  Often times goals they have written are confusing to determine if they were clearly on track and winning or losing.

For example, a goal to “eat healthier” or “lose weight” or “exercise more” is confusing. They are destined for you to feel like you are failing as they are unspecific and undefined. A better goal would be saying “I’m going to eat a ½ cup or more of vegetables in my lunch 5 days per week for the next 31 days” or  “I’m going to walk the dog 30-60 minutes 4 days per week for the next 1 months.” Now you will clearly understand how you will measure success. As boring as you might think setting SMART goals are (specific, measurable attainable, relevant and timely), they really work.

My question to you is what new temporal landmark (aka new distinct time period) will you select to get started again on your goal? Then think about how can I revise my last New Year’s resolution into a written SMART goal?

What can someone do to set positive goals if they have struggled in the past?
Rather than setting negative punishing goals that provide restrictive limits on food what would happen if you instead focused on goals that were positive, inspiring and nurturing?  What would happen if you stopped labelling foods as good, or bad and forbidden never to be eaten?

Instead of making a goal to “stop eating nacho chips” instead make a specific goal such as “for the next 30 days eat nacho chips slowly, mindfully, away from distraction (no smart phone or TV). Focus on savoring each bite to begin fully appreciating this soulful food choice.”

Can this strategy really work for everyone?
When you practice this you begin making food your friend. Ironically you will find that less becomes more. Allow yourself to fully enjoy fun soulful foods such as potato chips and chocolate that you eat for taste and enjoyment. Our company mission at Health Stand Nutrition is to help empower you to create a healthful and joyous relationship with food and your body. I promise this is possible!

While it can take time (and plenty of practice and patience if you’ve had a strained relationship with food and your body), work on reframing enjoyment of these foods. In time you will see overeating nacho chips will lessen and you won’t need to stuff down a family-sized large bag all at once. As you practice you will begin to appreciate that you can enjoy some again tomorrow, feel satisfied with less and that you don’t need to be at war with food.

If food is a struggle for you, reach out to us and book some one-on-one nutrition counseling with a Registered Dietitian on our team who can assist you with support.

What else is a barrier for people to succeed in their goals for healthy eating?
Many of us set grandiose goals that were destined to fail not because they were not good ideas, but simply because they did not work with the available time in our calendar this week. As you look at your calendar for the upcoming week in pursuit of your goals, be very realistic about your available time. While there are plenty of time-saving tips that can help you achieve a healthier diet, ensure the goals you set have enough breathing room for life to happen.

Your schedule will inevitably change. Your motivation to take time to cook healthy meals will sometimes waiver. Expect this (it even happens to Dietitians too!)

One strategy our Registered Dietitian team at our practice uses is the concept of a “backup meal.”  These are speedy meal options for time-crunched or changing schedules.

What are some healthy ideas for back up meals?
I’ve written previously about backup meals here in this post on Backup Healthy Meal Plans In a Crunch. In a best-case scenario planning meals ahead for the week and taking time to head out grocery shopping would be awesome, but we all know that life isn’t perfect or predictable.  Having a list of 3-5 healthy backup meals you can make at ANY time is key.  This means ensuring you have these ingredients on standby at all times.

In my house one of the backup meals we always have on hand is eggs (usually served with multigrain/sourdough toast and raw veggies and dip or as a breakfast burrito in a wrap with raw or sautéed veggies).  Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein, are fast to make and have a long-shelf life making them ideal for a backup healthy meal anytime. One egg contains 6 grams of protein, and only 70 calories. If you’ve been avoiding eggs because of concerns linking them to raising blood cholesterol or heart disease, the latest research shows that healthy adults can enjoy an egg every day without increasing the risk of heart disease.

What is your favorite way to serve eggs as a backup meal?
You can keep it super simple and toss scrambled eggs with grated cheese and tomatoes or salsa into a wrap or I like the recipe for your Breakfast Burrito with black beans and corn on your website.  For making breakfast burritos I like to keep extra wraps in the freezer and jars of roasted red peppers in the pantry in case I’m out of fresh.

Andrea Holwegner is the founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. established in 2000. She leads a team of experienced Dietitians that help busy employees with meal planning success, weight concerns, eating disorders, digestive issues, sports nutrition, heart health, diabetes and more. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education.  www.healthstandnutrition.com