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Happy no-resolution New Year: plan for success

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Many folks view the New Year as a chance to start new habits. Interestingly, many resolutions revolve around issues of wellness—losing weight tops the list of the 10 most popular resolutions. Getting more exercise or staying fit, quitting smoking, spending less, getting more organized and spending more time with family are other popular resolutions.

However, even though about 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, less than 10 percent actually succeed in achieving their goal. Unfortunately, resolutions tend to be abandoned quickly. So if resolutions fail, why make them?

Resolutions fail for various reasons: they are too vague, they did not include a detailed plan to actually accomplish the goal, folks did not have a support network to assist in the journey of reaching their goals, they did not have a deadline, etc. So this year, skip resolutions, and instead focus on creating a plan.

The difference? A plan outlines the steps you have to take. Take for instance the desire to eat healthier this year. A resolution would end there, and attempts to achieve this would probably fail a few weeks into the New Year. However, by focusing on planning to make this happen, you can emphasize the specific steps that need to be in place to be successful. What would these steps be? Perhaps the following:

1. Meatless Monday*. Designate one day each week for meatless meals. To make this happen, choose at least 25 different vegetarian recipes, and have them available so they are easy to find when you are getting ready to prepare them. Just 25 different recipes will give you enough variety to enjoy a meatless recipe once per week for a whole year!

2. Fish Friday. Designate one day each week (or more) to eat fish—preferably not fried fish. To make this happen, visit your local grocery store, and become familiar with its fish and seafood selection. Talk to the personnel that staff that department, and enlist their help in educating you about different types of fish. Mark it on your calendar, or set a reminder on your smartphone to alert you to pick up fish on your way home from work. Find fish recipes ahead of time to help you accomplish this step.

3. Pantry Purge. Look at your pantry. Are the snacks, chocolates, chips and all similar foods on the easiest to reach shelf? They were at my house! We usually kept the nuts, dried fruit, corn chips, etc. on the shelf that was the easiest for our young daughter to reach, but we adults noticed we were noshing on nuts and dried fruit too often because they were so readily accessible. We moved the ‘miscellaneous’ item shelf to the highest shelf in the pantry and moved the staples to within reach. In the few weeks since we moved these items out of sight, we have notice a marked reduction in our unconscious ‘grab a handful’ of snacks. Cleaning out your pantry also allows you to have a better idea of what is in your pantry and to plan your menus according to what you have on hand.

4. A salad a day. Make a plan to have a salad every day. How? By always including salad ingredients on your grocery list and by having your favorite salad dressing (if you use any) available. Many times folks fall short of consuming the recommended daily servings of vegetables because they don’t have time to cook vegetables or don’t know how to. Cutting up fresh greens and throwing in some radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes or cabbage can be easy and fast.

Making a resolution to eat healthier would have probably resulted in a strong first effort and a slow gradual decline. By focusing on the steps to achieve that goal, a person can feel more focused and more rewarded. Why? Because they are able to accomplish each step and scratch it off their list of steps to fulfill. This gives folks a sense of accomplishment and motivates them to keep going.

This happened to me this year already! I have already gone through my recipe box and tossed recipes that we never seemed to get to, donated recipe books that we never used and moved recipes we really wanted to try to the front of our recipe binder. We cleaned out our pantry, moving healthy items to within reach and in sight and moved our discretionary foods out of sight and out of reach. Each week I try to find one more step to fulfill that fits with my plan to eat healthier.

Perhaps it is just semantics, a change in word, but basically what it boils down to is making goals that focus on one behavior change. Trying to change too many things at once is not a strategy that will lead to success. Good luck to you and a happy New Year to all!

*Meatless Mondays is also a national campaign that encourages the consumption of a plant-based lifestyle. For more information visit www.meatlessmonday.com.

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