Healthy eating resolutions you’ll keep

Forget diets and deprivation; these three tactics will help you make healthy changes that last.
Woman in pink shirt buying lettuce in supermarket

The most popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. But after six months, less than half of people who set this goal are still on track. Does that sound familiar?

If it does, your problem is not lack of willpower. It’s likely that you are setting a goal that’s too vague or unrealistic. (Lose 50 pounds by April? Not likely!)

Psychologists say that many people make resolutions just because it’s New Year’s Eve, but soon give up because they have no realistic plan of action for achieving them.

Even if you get quick results, you may not experience the life-changing impact you were hoping for. That can be discouraging, so you revert to old habits and gain back the weight.

Does this mean New Year’s resolutions are hopeless? Not at all! It just means that you have to rethink how you’re setting goals. Here are some positive strategies for nutrition resolutions.

1. Set a different end goal:
Instead of pledging to lose 25 pounds, set positive nutrition goals such as eating two more servings of vegetables every day, or replacing one can of pop with sparkling water daily. These goals are measurable, achievable and they provide structure. Most importantly, they change the way you are thinking.

It’s more inspiring to buy veggies at the grocery store and try a new recipe than it is to shop for a bathroom scale. By eating more vegetables and drinking less pop you may actually lose weight, but that wasn’t your sole goal.

2. Add instead of subtracting:
Most weight loss diets focus on removing foods — low carb, low fat, no gluten, no sugar, no salt. The rules can make it very hard to enjoy eating! And deprivation? That never works.

Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, think about what you could add to your diet to make it a bit healthier. Maybe you can commit to drinking more water or carrying a healthy snack with you. Set those as positive goals that can add health and wellness to your day.

3. Establish a healthy relationship with food:
Work with a dietitian and/or psychologist who can teach you about “mindfulness” or "intuitive eating." These modalities encourage you to make peace with all foods (eat carbs — woohoo!), and stop struggling with fad diets that don’t work (no cleanses — woohoo!). They teach you to listen to your own hunger and fullness cues so you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.

Research shows that people who follow intuitive eating plans have lower body mass index, better psychological health, improved eating behaviours, and better weight maintenance. You can find intuitive eating practitioners here.

So stop focusing on a number on a scale. Instead, try one or more of these suggestions then focus on how you feel. Do you have more energy? Do your clothes fit better? Are you eating foods you enjoy and feeling happy while doing it? Ahhh, happiness. That’s the best resolution of all.