The secret to making a New Year's resolution you can stick to

Emma Brown - Nutritionist | 01 Jan, 2022

It will come as no surprise that 'lose weight' frequently tops the list for one of the most popular New Year resolutions. Whether we want to lose a couple of pounds or a few stone, many of us would like to make some changes to look and feel better about ourselves.

But why, if this resolution is so popular, does it remain top of the list year after year? Sadly, recent research shows that just 26% of people keep all of their New Year's resolutions. This is a common trend, in that very few people do actually see their resolutions through each year. So when another January comes around, we pledge (yet again) that this year will be the one when we really crack it.

Why do weight loss resolutions fail?

To dig deeper into why so many dieting attempts fail, we asked our members what had caused them to fall off the dieting wagon in the past. These are the reasons they gave:

  • Distracted by stress / stressful event – 39%
  • Boredom – it was too restrictive – 18%
  • A special occasion / holiday came up – 17%
  • I wasn't losing weight – 17%
  • Too time consuming / not practical – 10%

The results show that there's no single definitive factor why people give up. Reasons are many and varied and affect us at different times.

You can give yourself a fighting chance of success by starting out with realistic expectations and a positive mindset. You know yourself better than anybody, you know your strengths and weaknesses – what you'll stick to and what you won't. Setting yourself achievable goals is vital – as is accepting that this is a lifelong lifestyle change – not a short term diet. If you start with this mindset, you are more likely to stick with your plan, even when you have slip ups along the way.

Here are my top 5 tips for making a resolution you can stick to:

  1. Set measurable goals – Set yourself specific goals to aim for – and make these measurable. So don't just say, 'I'm going to start exercising more'. Say, 'I will go to the gym three times a week and do one swim, one spin class and one weights session'. You'll get a greater sense of achievement when you do this.
  2. Don't be unrealistic – Following on from being specific, make sure the goals you set are realistic. If you hate spinning, don't set yourself a goal to do a spinning class every week. If you know that making it to the gym 3 times in a week will be a struggle, start with a goal of once a week – anything more is a bonus! Setting unrealistic targets which you constantly fail to meet chips away at your self-esteem and confidence. Conversely, success breeds success – it empowers you to believe you really can achieve what you set your mind to.
  3. Accept from the start you'll slip up – It's unrealistic to think you will embark on your new lifestyle and never slip back into old habits from time to time. Life happens – it throws us curved balls – so it's important to accept that failure is part of the journey. Now this isn't an excuse to fall off the wagon every week! But remember that slipping up is not failure; failure is not picking yourself up and trying again. Don't get derailed, draw a line under it, and get back on course. The shorter the time frame between your lapses, the less damage done.
  4. Find activities you enjoy – When it comes to getting more active, this doesn't have to mean joining a gym or taking up running. The secret to getting regular exercise is to find something you get real enjoyment from. Go for a walk with a friend and catch up. Try a sport you loved at school. Make use of the tennis courts in your local park. Give a dance class a go. Whatever it is, find that one thing you really love and start by focussing on that. If you force yourself into activities you find a chore, you won't keep them up for long. Remember – the best form of exercise is the one you do regularly.
  5. Don't go on a diet – What I mean is, choose an eating approach that doesn't feel like a diet. The word 'diet' has so many negative associations – restriction, hunger, no social life, who can live with that? With Nutracheck there are no banned foods, we advocate eating everything in moderation. If you fancy chocolate, then have some. If you fancy crisps, that's fine. Just stay within your calorie allowance. It's a much healthier attitude to food than cutting things out and classing foods as 'good' or 'bad'.

Just one final thought to leave you with! Although many New Year's resolutions fail, the simple act of setting yourself a goal has been shown to significantly increase your chances of success. Being vague and not having anything specific to aim for makes it less likely you'll to stick to a strategy to get to where you want to be. It's the old saying 'Failing to plan is planning to fail!' So get thinking about your New Year's resolution, bearing these tips in mind!

Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.