By Sheryl Kraft
Seems like only yesterday that we were making those famous New Year's resolutions—only to break them before they barely had time to take hold.
But did you ever think that maybe the reason resolutions are abandoned is that they might not be all that realistic?
Below, three of the most common resolutions—and how to make sure they stick.
1. I will exercise more.
The reason it might not work: You need to be more specific. What does "more" really mean? Do you now exercise zero hours a week? Therefore, "more" would mean showing up at the gym once a week. That's a good start—better than nothing—but hardly enough to get momentum going. On the other hand, if you're already exercising three or four days a week and you want to exercise "more," be careful not to overdo it. That's the cause of injuries, boredom and burnout.
A better bet: Try for at least three days a week of consistent exercise. It's best to commit your exercise sessions to your calendar the same way you'd designate a dentist appointment or dinner with a friend. You're much more likely to keep your appointment at the gym if there's a time and a date set aside for it.
If you're already an enthusiastic exerciser and want to up your level, remember to give yourself at least one or two days a week to rest your body, or at the very least, use those days to pare down your usual workout to include something a bit more moderate, like walking (instead of running) and gentle yoga (instead of Zumba).
2. I will eliminate unhealthy foods from my diet.
The reason it might not work: Instead of keeping you from gaining weight, having an off-limits list might backfire and cause you to overeat. Why? Because if you ignore all your cravings, eventually you'll find it difficult to do without, break down and possibly binge on those foods. (We all want that forbidden fruit, don't we?) Research shows that the more people were told not to think about a food, the more they ate compared to people who were told to talk about it freely.
A better bet: You can eat the foods you think are "bad." You just have to eat them "right." Here's how:
Watch portions and eat quality, nutrient-rich foods, like bread (whole grain is best), pasta (again, whole grain), potatoes (boiled or baked), peanut butter (stick with a 2-tablespoon portion—about the size of a golf ball—because it's high in calories), cheese (no more than 2-ounce portions and preferably low-fat varieties), chocolate (slowly savor a square or two of high-quality dark chocolate), fruit (although it does contain the natural sugar fructose, it won't raise your sugar levels like table sugar does. Aim for three servings of fresh fruit daily. Great picks: melon, grapes and berries).
READ: Size Matters for Healthy Eating
3. I will manage my stress.
The reason it might not work: There is no one-size-fits-all to managing stress; what works for one person (meditation, perhaps) may not work for you (if you're the restless type). And keep this in mind: before you can manage stress, it's imperative to find the source of that stress.
A better bet: Explore and try different approaches to find something or a combination of things that help reduce your stress. For some people, it's sitting quietly and meditating or having alone time; for others, it's going out and whacking some tennis balls or socializing with friends.
Keep in mind some outside factors that you might not even be aware of could be contributing to your stress, like noise, traffic, exhaustion, information overload, too much caffeine, toxic people or even sadness.