New year, new me. It’s a popular mantra that we all tell ourselves going into a new year—vowing that this will finally be the year we’ll actually stick to our resolutions.

80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. While that number may seem daunting, it’s simply a sign that we’re not going about it in the right way. It’s also no surprise that a large majority of these resolutions fall within the healthy eating category—43% of Americans say they plan to lose weight and make healthier food decisions.

So if you fall into this percentage of people looking to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle, here’s some advice on how to make 2018 your success story:

Set realistic goals

“I think we have to sit back and say what is realistic in your lifestyle?” says Dr. Joan Salge Blake, author of Nutrition & You and a Clinical Associate Professor at Boston University.

If you’re not already an avid gym-goer, setting a goal to go to the gym five times a week is likely not going to stick, says Salge Blake. Instead, you should tell yourself, “I’m going to make subtle changes that are obtainable and doable in my lifestyle,” she adds.

One subtle change, Blake notes, is to avoid eating late in the day—a habit that’s proven to lead to rapid weight gain. “Many of us consume the majority of our calories later on in the afternoon and evening,” says Blake. “But when you think about this logically, when you need energy the most is when you first get up until 5 p.m.”

Seek some assistance

“Talking to a registered dietitian is important,” says Sandra J. Arevalo, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson. “People try to make changes all the time, but if you don’t succeed you need to know why, and a registered dietitian can help you figure out where the problem is, and offer solutions and ways to achieve your resolutions this time.” You can also hold yourself accountable through one of many popular food-tracking apps. 

Think long-term

Temporary actions don’t usually yield permanent results. Since the word “diet” tends to carry an expiration date, many choose to call their process a habit or lifestyle change instead.

“If you follow one of the [dieting] fads you could possibly lose a lot of weight real fast but you will regain it once you go back to your old eating habits,” says Arevalo.

Make some plans

Of course when we’re on the go, it’s easy to resort to the convenience of fast food. But Salge Blake offers another solution to fast-paced lives—one that still saves time without compromising healthy eating: pre-planning meals for the week in advance.

It’s interesting because people will often say planning takes time—it does take time, but it takes little time compared to the amount of time that is being wasted standing on line getting food on the go,” says Salge Blake.

But Salge Blake is also realistic: “I’m not saying all of them but most of them—your breakfast and your lunch and most of your dinners. I know with dinners you want to have some spontaneity but it can’t be spontaneous every night.”

Give it time

Arevalo remembers a patient of hers who was looking to lose weight. At first, the patient quickly gave up because she felt she wasn’t seeing enough results for the time she was putting in. The second time around, she set a different goal: “She made her resolution to be a different woman, to achieve her goal weight regardless of length of time and she came to see me for help.”

“We worked for a couple of months, setting smart goals at each bi-weekly visit, doing weekly weight checks and keeping a food diary. Time wasn’t her goal this time, just the weight,” says Arevalo.

“Choose to go slow but safe,” she added.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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