Did you know that making New Year's resolutions can be hazardous to your health? (Your mental health, that is.). It can lead to doubt, guilt and discouragement. Think of all the resolutions you've made (and broken) over the years. Most resolutions bite the dust by mid-January. I have another idea that you might like to try. Instead of making "resolutions," choose six "habits" that you'd like to incorporate into your life.
Six sounds like a lot but the beauty of this plan is that you don't have to tackle all six at once. They are sequential. You add one each week until you have accumulated (and hopefully mastered) all six.
One of my clients came up with this plan to help her control her weight and to "eat healthy" throughout the coming year. She did a lot of research and chose six "must have" habits that combined food choices with behavioral techniques to guide her on her way. Here's her plan; you might want to use it as a guide for your own journey.
Week One: Night eating. "The kitchen is closed at seven o'clock every night. I keep myself so busy all evening, I don't even think about snacking." One of her main problems was "night eating," and she knew she had to come up with an alternative plan. So she enlisted the help of a neighbor (always good to have a buddy system) and in nice weather, they go for a walk every evening at 7:00 pm sharp. In cold weather, she walks on her treadmill and treats herself to an episode of her favorite crime show on TV.
Week Two. No snacking between meals. This is a tough habit to break. She conquered "mindless snacking," by incorporating two healthy snacks into her new eating plan. Home-made salsa on a rice cake, maybe a few nuts and a handful of grapes and she's satisfied. Just google "healthy snacks under 100 calories" and you'll get loads of ideas. In winter, a cup of hot soup is also a good choice, it's comforting and filling. Studies show that people who have a cup of soup mid-morning, eat fewer calories at lunch. And if they have the soup mid-afternoon, they eat less at dinner time. A win-win!
Week Three. No more sugar. This was a tough week for her because she was determined to eliminate "processed" sugar from her diet. Did you know sugar seems to be in everything? And it's highly addictive. Books have been written on "sugar cravings," and "sugar highs." She managed to conquer her sugar cravings by sugarless gum and fresh fruit. A couple of slices of fresh cantaloupe can be delectable and satisfying. Add a few strawberries and top it with a big spoonful of plain (not sugary) Greek yogurt. The jury is still out on "diet drinks" so it's probably best not to indulge if you're trying to eat healthy. And she eliminated all "bad" carbs that go right to sugar in your body (cakes, pies, pastries, etc).
HALF WAY THROUGH! And time to evaluate. She looked back over the first three weeks and realized that she had managed to maintain all three "new habits." But the mid-point of any program is always dicey and it's easy to slip back into old ways.
Week Four Drink 9-10 glasses of water a day. This became her mantra. She gave up all sodas, all fruit juices and all forms of alcohol. Her "new" drink is club soda with a twist of lemon or lime and she treated herself to one of those gadgets that lets you make club soda at home. She says she has no desire to go back to her diet sodas, and doesn't miss them a bit.
Week Five. Write it down. Ah, the power of the pen. She kept a food diary as a way of "accountability" and "keeping on track." She could look over the diary at the end of every week and see if she had managed to keep up these new "habits." Happily, she had.
Week Six. Slow down and really focus on your food. But if you do that, won't you eat more? No, you'll eat less. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you've eaten and to quell those hunger. People who eat in a hurry tend to eat more, not less, and they're careless about their food choices. So slow down and enjoy every morsel.
I hope you find this idea helpful and ditch your New Year's resolutions for 2015! Good luck and Happy New Year.