Begin your New Year on the Right Track by Committing to Better Health
Have you ever exercised on New Year's Day to make sure you kept up the habit all year long? Or started the year with the latest fad diet, sure this would be the one to stick? You wouldn't be alone. Many of us start off the year on the right foot, telling ourselves this will be the year we'll eat healthy or get active.
Yet unless you make a true commitment to your health - including a plan to develop healthier behaviors - you're likely to end up dropping that new fitness routine or diet goal in just a few weeks or months, and ultimately right back where you started this time next year.
Considering one-third of the cancer deaths in the U.S. each year can be attributed to diet and physical inactivity habits, including being overweight and obese, focusing on your health is a great way to start the new year - no matter how many times you've tried in the past. This year, to help turn those resolutions into a reality, try four quick tips to help you stay on track: set and write down specific goals, track your progress, plan for temptations, and create a support system.
Make specific goals
If you set specific goals, it's easier to know when you've accomplished them - and easier to give yourself kudos for doing so. For example, if your goal is to eat healthy, try setting specific sub-goals, such as eating at least two servings of fruit a day or choosing whole grains over refined.
"The more specific you are in identifying your goal, the more successful you will be in developing an effective plan of action to achieve it," says Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society.
You'll be more successful, Doyle says, if you also take long-term goals and break them down into short-term goals. For example, instead of focusing on losing 60 pounds this year, focus on losing 5 pounds each month. By setting manageable goals, you're more likely to achieve them - and to stay motivated to make even more progress.
Track your progress
Keeping a food or exercise journal can keep you honest about how much you're eating or exercising. It can also help you pinpoint problem areas. For example, you may be spending too many calories on snacks or not eating enough whole grains. A journal can also help you see how close you are to meeting your goals - which often is closer than you think.
Plan for temptations
Once you identify problem areas, find ways to counteract them by planning in advance. Doyle suggests not trusting your willpower alone to overcome temptations: "If you're trying to eat less sugar but that 'hot doughnut' sign tempts you on your way to work, find a different route." The problems you've had maintaining good eating and exercise habits may not mean you have little willpower, but that you're relying too much on it.
Create a support system
Whatever your goal, you'll need a support network - with both people and information - to help you reach it. If you've set an exercise goal, find a friend to join in the plan and help keep each other accountable. Or if you're trying to eat healthy, encourage your loved ones to do the same and try out new recipes together.
The American Cancer Society's website is chock-full of resources to help you get healthy, including calculators to help you determine your ideal body weight, how many calories you need to eat each day, and what your target heart rate should be during exercise. You can also find articles and videos focused on staying well and sign up for our Healthy Living newsletter.
Lastly, remember getting healthier is a goal you can achieve. And starting the year focused on your health means you're on the right track to improving it. To learn how the American Cancer Society can help with your goal to stay well and adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors, visit cancer.org or call us any time at 1-800-227-2345.
*Smoking Quiz www.cancer.org/Healthy/ToolsandCalculators/Quizzes/app/smoking-habits-quiz
* BMI Calculator www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/calculators/app/body-mass-calculator
* Calorie Counter www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/calculators/app/calorie-counter-calculator
* Nutrition and Activity Quiz www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/quizzes/nutrition-activity-quiz/index.htm
* Sun Safety Quiz www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/quizzes/app/sun-safety-quiz
* Target Heart Rate Calculator www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/calculators/app/target-heart-rate-calculator