A patient recently asked me for recommendations for New Year’s resolutions. Here’s what I said.
At first, I didn’t really know what to say. Honestly, who am I to tell someone what their resolutions should be? Plus, New Year’s resolutions have become a controversial topic since most resolutions end in failure.
I tried taking the philosophical approach by stating that their resolutions must come from within. I even asked them what they thought their resolutions should be.
By the subtle side-eye, I realized that they saw through my politician inspired strategy. I had to give them some answers with substance. So, I shared my general opinion on New Year’s resolutions and gave them a list of 10 recurring recommendations we make in our clinic.
To understand my view on New Year’s resolutions, you have to start by looking at the definitions of ‘resolution’ and ‘goals’
I’m am not one of those resolution naysayers who go on twitter rants about how they never make New Year’s resolutions—blah, blah, blah.
Regardless of how often people succeed in achieving their resolutions, I have no issues with people using the coming of a New Year as a opportunity to reflect on their goals.
However, when I look at the definition of ‘resolution’, I can’t help noticing the word ‘firm.’ Approaching a resolution as a ‘firm’ decision almost guarantees failure since it transforms an ambition almost into a contractual obligation.
I humbly prefer saying New Year’s goals instead of New Year’s resolutions because the definition of ‘goal’ offers a degree of flexibility. Having a goal doesn’t have the same all or nothing connotations as having a resolution.
In terms of goal setting, I always advise people to use the S.M.A.R.T framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely). Check out my post from last New Year’s Eve for more about the S.M.A.R.T framework for goal setting.
Here are 10 New Year’s goals inspired by my experience in my weight management clinic (in no particular order).
1. Reaching the recommended amount of physical activity.
These numbers may sound intimidating at first, but bear in mind that 150 minutes is only 2 and half hours of physical activity in a whole week.
That’s actually less than the amount of time it takes to watch “The Avengers: Infinity War (a whopping run time of 2 hours and 40 minutes).
2. Eat more fruits and veggies
This is probably the most important goal on the list. If you are trying to be healthy in 2019, fruits and veggies deserve a place on your to-do-list. Just don’t make the mistake of ruining a vegetarian diet if you decide to forgo meat altogether.
3. Get an adequate amount of sleep
There’s nothing good associated with sleep deprivation. You are literally torturing yourself and sabotaging your own productivity.
4. Eat less red meat
Red meat includes beef, lamb, and pork. It also may include a lot of health problems if it’s consumed frequently. I frequently tell people in my clinic about a study associating frequent consumption of red meat with weight gain.
5. Stop skipping meals
Skipping meals is a recurrent issue in my weight management clinic. In the New Year, leave the skipping to songs on your playlist.
6. Eat less processed foods
If the ingredient list on a food item you’re planning on eating looks like the appendix of a high school chemistry textbook, it’s probably a processed food.
2018 showed us the dangers of ‘fake news.’ In 2019, I highly recommend learning about the dangers of ‘fake food.’
7. Recognize that change is possible
I see so many people that focus on foods they can’t live with out. This focus is a sign of food addiction. This year, recognize that you have power over food, not the other way around.
8. Be a role model and help motivate your friends and family members to live healthier
Most people underestimate their impact on their families and friends. I’ve seen patients inspire whole families to become more active and eat healthier.
Being a role model for lifestyle change is a respectable goal for the new year.
9. Drinking less sugary beverages
There’s nothing healthy about pop or soda. It doesn’t matter what you call it as long you know carbonated water packed with high fructose corn syrup is not healthy.
10. Don’t be afraid of the scale.
Yes, no one wants to look at a scale just to find out that they gained weight despite trying to lose weight. However, occasionally weighing yourself can help you gauge if your lifestyle change needs some tweaking.
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I am a physician and trained chef. I specialize in gastroenterology and nutrition. Currently I work as the Associate Director of Adult Nutrition at the University of Chicago.