The end of a year—and the start of a new one—always brings with it a focus on making New Year’s resolutions. And typically, at least one of those resolutions is health-focused.
But what if setting these supposedly helpful intentions is actually backfiring? What if these so-called goals are inadvertently impeding your progress?
First, let’s look at why so many New Year’s resolutions turn into roadblocks instead of stepping stones. Then, we’ll look at some subtle yet impactful changes you can make to set yourself up for success that lasts more than a few weeks or months.
3 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Sabotage Your Health Goals
1) They’re too big. The clean-slate feeling that comes with a new year can make it tempting to make several significant lifestyle changes at once. Yet trying to make too many changes at once can be overwhelming, says Corey Priest, DC, founder of Overland Park-based In2Great Functional Medicine.
“Be careful of a big resolution,” he says. “Stats prove year-after-year that only eight percent of people actually accomplish their resolutions, which can lead to feeling depressed, stuck or defeated.”
2) There’s more to health than food and exercise. What you eat and how much you move undoubtedly play a significant role in your health and wellness. But there’s so much more to consider.
“Living your healthiest life has many components to it—spiritual health, nutrition, movement, mindset, community and social connections are all areas that can have a dramatic influence on your immediate and long-term health,” Priest says.
That’s why it’s so important to start with a holistic view of your health, then use that information to create personalized goals. More on that in a moment!
3) Quick fixes are a trap. Anyone who’s worked toward a health goal knows the key word is “work.” It’s difficult to make long-lasting changes because they require us to change habits. Instead, it’s tempting to get drawn into a quick fix—a magic pill, drink, or diet that purports to solve all of your health challenges in mere days or weeks.
Spoiler alert: There’s no shortcut for hard work. It’s going to take time, commitment—and some sacrifice—to reach your destination (and stay there). So tell those magic solutions to take a hike!
3 Ways You Can Make Lasting, Health-Focused Changes
1) Set goals, not resolutions. If you already think of resolutions as goals, you’re not alone. “Yet New Year’s resolutions—especially if they’re health-focused— and inadvertently feel limiting or confining. You’re focusing on what you can’t eat or do,” says Priest.
Instead, frame your intentions as a goal or a promise. Dr. Priest recommends breaking your goal down and asking yourself the ‘why’ behind the promise so you can set smaller, actionable goals that will keep you focused along your journey.
2) Understand your health—all of it. Your health is made up of so much more than numbers like weight, blood pressure, and BMI, although those (and other) numbers are certainly important.
Before you set your goals, ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of your health. Then, you’ll also ensure you’re addressing the root causes behind the health changes you want to make.
“Let’s say you want to lose weight,” Priest says. “Is the weight gain due to poor diet or lack of exercise? Maybe it is and those changes for the better won’t be harmful. But what happens when you’re addressing those aspects yet not losing weight? There could be hormonal imbalances, GI or digestive complications, or perpetual toxic exposure from the environment. Maybe you’re dealing with a chronic infection, or are unable to appropriately manage your stress. When you understand what’s happening in your body, you’ll also know the why—and then you can define how you’ll get there.”
3) Prepare to break habits. No matter your health goals, it’s likely you’re going to have to break yourself of longtime habits to see lasting success. Candidly, this isn’t easy to do.
“Breaking a habit can feel impossible because we have to actually change our brain structure to change our habits,” Priest says. “The neurons in our brains work together to form connections over time. When we repeatedly perform a task, those connections get stronger, forming a habit. Recognizing that interaction is a critical step toward making desired changes.”
Here’s some bonus advice in the form of a few questions to ask yourself as you set your health-focused goals:
- Why are your goals important to you?
- How will achieving your goals positively influence your life?
- Do you have someone who can assist and hold you accountable? Or do you need someone in that role?
- Be honest: are you ready to make a change in your life?
- Are you working on a realistic timeframe?
If you’re struggling to answer any of these questions or looking for a way to get a comprehensive understanding of your health, good news—In2Great Functional Health is ready to help. They can run a complete diagnostic so that you have the data you need to set goals designed for your health, your body, your journey. And they’ll support you every step of the way.
As 2020 approaches, forget the resolutions. Instead, it’s time to make—and keep—a promise to the most important person in your life: yourself.