Why New Year's resolutions fail – and how to make sure yours don't.
We all know the drill – another year, another set of New Year’s resolutions that somehow end up on the scrap heap. Georgia Rickard talks to the experts to find out why so many resolutions fail. Then, dietitian Zoe Wilson has our biggest-ever smart swaps special – to help you make over your health in 2018, one step at a time!
Most of us either need or would love to lose a couple of kilos (or a couple more than a couple!), or maybe this is the year you want to drink less, eat more vegies or commit to regular exercise. If you’re thinking about embarking on a health kick, you’re not alone – the beginning of a new year is a common time to kick-start those weight-loss goals.
Dr Laura Corbit, psychologist at the University of Sydney, says this is partly because people tend to stop and take stock of what changes they might want to make over the holidays, “and partly because it’s summer”.
Yet as many of us know all too well, weight and fitness-related New Year’s resolutions don’t always succeed. Why? Well, it’s not the resolutions themselves – research published in the InternationalJournal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders has shown that setting goals can make a big difference to your diet and fitness habits. The problem, says Dr Corbit, lies with the way we set our goals. Here are three of the most common goal-setting mistakes we make – and the easy steps you can take to fix them.
Mistake 1: You’re not specific enough
Most of us know that we need to make our goals specific – but the problem with weight loss goals, says Trudy Williams, Accredited Practising Dietitian and award-winning author of the This=That series, is that we often don’t get specific enough. “It’s not enough to only focus on the end-point of weight loss,” she explains. “If your goal is to lose 3kg by the end of the month, then you’ve got no feedback on how things are progressing until it’s possibly too late!”
Williams recommends breaking down your goal into ‘mini-goals’. “These mini-goals may be around how often you shop for fresh produce; how you manage your serve sizes; how you manage long days at the office; what take-aways you eat; how you de-stress; how much sleep you aim for, or how much wine you consume.”
It might seem pointless to write out and monitor these mini-goals, she says, “but combine them together and you’ve got a powerful recipe for success. It’s a bit like saving money. Alone, $2 doesn’t buy much but pop $2 into a moneybox each day along with the small silver coins and after a couple of months you’ve got more than $120 to play with.”
Mistake 2: You set ‘should’ goals, not ‘want’ goals
“One of the common mistakes people make when setting New Year’s resolutions is listening to external pressures (‘I should lose weight’), rather than to internal motivations (‘I want to have more energy, feel better, choose healthier fuels for my body’),” explains psychologist Dr Dina McMillan. The result, she continues, is that “they don’t set weight-loss goals that really motivate them to succeed”.
“It’s always easier to reach a goal if it’s something you want, not something someone else has told you to do,” Dr McMillan says.
She recommends choosing goals that reflect desires, not ‘demands’ – “and focus on the positive, not the negative,” she adds. “Instead of saying to yourself, ‘I need to lose weight,’ try ‘I want to feel good in my body’ or, ‘I want to get back down to a healthy size 10’. Putting the ‘want’ into the positive increases your chances of success.”
Mistake 3: You aim too high
Most of us are way too optimistic about what we’re going to achieve (such as, ‘lose 20kg by June’), says Dr Corbit. “And if you try to change something that’s not realistic to integrate into your daily life, it is unlikely that you’ll be successful in establishing new ‘good’ habits.” This kind of goal-setting just sets you up for failure, Dr Corbit continues – and makes it harder to stay motivated, lessening your chances of success.
Firstly, plan for setbacks, says Dr McMillan. “When they happen, realise it’s normal and get right back onto your plan of action.”
Secondly, start small. Instead of vowing to exercise six days a week, make your goal a more manageable three times a week. Instead of vowing to eat ‘only low-kilojoule foods’, switch to lower-fat dairy products.
Indeed, research published in the Annals of Behavioural Medicine found that people who made small changes to their diet and exercise routine were not only more likely to stick to their new habits, but actually lost four times more weight than people who tried to make big adjustments. “Habits are thought to develop gradually with practice,” says Dr Corbit.
55 smart swaps to a healthier, happier you!
We’ve shown you why most health and weight-related resolutions fail. Now, we’ve got 55 small steps you can take to make over your health this year. We’ve divided them up into sections – some may be more relevant to you than others. So go on – grab a pen, circle your top 10, 20… or go for all of them – and get swapping!
Instead of white bread
Try a lower-GI option such as multigrain, rye, soy & linseed or sourdough will keep you full for longer.
Instead of white rice
Try quinoa (complete protein and low-GI), Basmati rice (lower-GI), or legumes like chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans – in every cup of dried lentils you add to a family meal, you’ll add 45g of protein and 25g of fibre.
Instead of fegular flour
Use wholemeal flour and you’ll triple the fibre you get (from 5g to 15g per cup), to help keep you full.
Instead of canned tomatoes with flavouring such as garlic & onion
‘No added salt’ varieties cut the amount of sodium that ends up in your spag bol.
Instead of regular beef, chicken or vegetable stock
Using reduced-salt stock can help you save up to 500mg sodium per cup.
Fridge and freezer
Instead of full-fat milk, yoghurt, cheese, sour cream, ice-cream, custard or cream
Opt for the reduced-fat versions and save kilojoules, fat and saturated fat without even noticing.
Instead of using butter on your toast; or even using margarine on sandwiches
Use reduced-fat table spread and cut your saturated fat intake by 2.1g per teaspoon; or try a tablespoon of hommous for an extra 2g hit of protein, or avocado for heart-healthy fats, folate and vitamins E, K and C.
Instead of ordering take-away
Keep eggs on hand – they make a quick and easy meal. Try omelettes, frittatas or scramble them with vegies.
Instead of chicken thigh or Maryland; meat with marbling of fat through the middle
Opt instead for skinless chicken breast and lean meats – try lamb, pork fillets, or kangaroo steaks a few times a week.
Instead of being too lazy to make up a salad at each meal; or running out of fresh vegies
Keep a salad bar on one shelf of the fridge – have one large container of ‘base’ salad, including lettuce leaves, corn, carrot, etc, and store containers of items like sliced beetroot, tomato slices, low-fat cheese and onion to mix things up. And make sure you always have some frozen veg to bulk out your meals and fill you up in emergencies.
Instead of grabbing a banana bread and coffee on the way to work
Grab a pre-made bircher muesli and yoghurt from the fridge as you run out the door – you can make it up the night before (use plastic cups or Tupperware containers) or find them in the yoghurt section of the supermarket.
Instead of feeling hungry after only having a piece of fruit for breakfast because you’re trying to be “good”
Add some extra fibre and protein by adding a handful of muesli, a tablespoon of LSA and a good dollop of low-fat yoghurt to a fruit salad.
Instead of toast with margarine and jam or Vegemite
Add 1 tablespoon of reduced-fat ricotta cheese and tomato to each piece for a serve of veg and 2g of protein. Add an egg to increase the protein further and fill you for longer.
Instead of toasted muesli or a light flakey cereal
Try natural-style muesli to reduce the amount of fat and sugar (and therefore kilojoules) in your bowl; or instead of a light cereal with not much in it, opt for one that is higher in protein and fibre and lower in sugar.
Instead of having the ‘big breakfast’ on weekends with fried eggs, sausages and bacon
Grab a wholemeal pita bread and stuff it with 1 mashed boiled egg, tomato, lean ham and low-fat cheese for a lower-fat but still delicious option.
Instead of grabbing takeaway because you don’t have anything in the fridge to take to work
Keep some tins of tuna and sachets of par-boiled rice in your desk and grab some baby spinach and other salad items on your way to work.
Instead of boring yourself with the same old salad
Stuff a wrap with lots of salad and some reduced-fat ricotta or feta for extra flavour.
Instead of feeling weighed down after eating a huge sandwich
Try using a wholegrain high-fibre crispbread instead of bread for a lighter option, but one that will still keep you feeling full for longer.
Instead of getting a pie from the take-away shop around the corner at work
Make extra at dinner and pack it so you can have healthy leftovers for lunch the next day.
Instead of skipping lunch completely because you haven’t got time to eat
At the very least, sip on a meal replacement shake or long-life milk popper to keep you going until you can take a break in the afternoon.
Instead of overloading on the carbohydrate and protein portion of your meal
Fill half your plate with vegies first – they’ll give you lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and minimal kJs. Check the size of your protein portion – 100g cooked meat/120g fish is ideal. By doing this, you’ll save money too!
Instead of pouring sauce or dressing like it’s going out of style
Use a tablespoon or a pump bottle to spray a small amount over your meal.
Instead of eating more from the saucepan as you tidy the kitchen
Pack extra food away before you eat so you can’t go back for seconds.
Instead of estimating serves of rice and pasta
Use measuring cups to portion out your carbohydrates – aim for one cup cooked as a general guide.
Instead of meals with only one or two colours
Brighten up your plate and widen your intake of nutrients with a variety of coloured vegetables and fruit.
Instead of deciding not to snack because you’re ‘being good’, then getting home and devouring the entire fridge because you’re so hungry
Have a small snack in between meals – but make it a good choice! A slice of cheese on wholegrain crackers, a small tub of yoghurt or a small handful of mixed roasted nuts are all healthy options.
Instead of snacking on sweets
Try small pieces of fruit, such as berries, for a sweet hit without the extra energy and with the bonus of fibre
Instead of munching on chips, cheese and crackers while you’re watching the telly
Try a cup of green tea first. If you really must munch, chop up some vegies and munch on them with some light cottage cheese or ricotta.
Instead of having ice-cream or custard for dessert
Have a small amount or opt for the reduced-fat version. Choosing individual serve packs will help reduce the likelihood of overdoing it. Berries or other fruit will fill you up while giving you a sweet hit – a low-fat fruit crumble is also a great idea.
Instead of eating half a block of sugar-free chocolate because it’s ‘better for you’
Choose your favourite brand and have a little bit but savour it!
Instead of choosing juice, cordial or soft drink throughout the day
Choose water first. Add some fresh lemon or lime juice or a few sprigs of mint to flavour it.
Instead of grabbing a can of soft drink for a sweet end to lunch
Chew on a mint and have a glass of water, a cup of green tea or if you must, choose a diet soft drink or diet cordial instead.
Instead of drinking regular beer (about five per cent alcohol) or regular wine (11–14 per cent alcohol)
Opt for light beer or low-kilojoule wine and save yourself about 200kJ per middy of beer or 880kJ per 150ml glass of white wine.
Instead of drinking a glass of wine every night with dinner
Have at least 2 alcohol-free days a week.
Instead of choosing a full-fat mocha
Make it a skim cappuccino (you’ll still get a chocolate hit from the topping) and save 640kJ, 9g fat and 5.5 sat fat per small cup.
Instead of bolting down your food because you’re starving or in a rush
Set aside 25–30 minutes for meals so you can slow down and allow your stomach time to tell your brain it’s full!
Instead of eating in front of the TV
Eat at the table so you can concentrate on what is going in and how full you are feeling.
Instead of eating from large plates and using 500ml glasses for juice
Buy smaller crockery and glassware – it’s all an optical illusion – you’ll feel just as satisfied with a little less!
Instead of eating because ‘it’s that time of the day’
Ask yourself ‘am I actually hungry?’ before you eat.
Instead of checking the fridge every time you want a break from your work
Go for a brief walk outside instead; or stand up and stretch for a few minutes.
Instead of using lots of oil so your food doesn’t stick to the pan
Buy a good non-stick pan so you don’t have to add oil at all.
Instead of being heavy-handed with the salt
Use lots of herbs and spices to keep your sodium intake in check.
Instead of frying your food
Bust out the barbecue for a healthier cooking method.
Instead of roasting your meat and vegies in the same roasting pan; drizzling olive or vegetable oil in your baking trays or woks
Use a drip tray to hold the meat up and roast the veg in a separate pan so they don’t soak up the fat from the meat; spray lightly with a cooking oil or olive oil spray.
Instead of using butter and shortening for baking
Substitute half of the butter/shortening for apple sauce, low-fat yoghurt or mashed banana to reduce the fat content.
Instead of doing the same thing day in, day out
With any exercise, try mixing up the speed or intensity during the session – one minute faster and one minute slower, for example – or try something new!
Instead of only doing cardio for ‘fat burning’
Include resistance sessions. Weights, resistance bands or even body weight exercises will help you build muscle and speed up your metabolism.
Instead of meeting a friend for coffee
Meet a friend for a walk around the park or along the beach.
Instead of feeling like you’re alone and lacking motivation
Join a club or sign up for a new sport and meet a great new bunch of people.
Instead of exercising only for weight loss
Pick a more positive outcome to train for, such as an event like a fun run or your next hiking holiday.
Instead of thinking of all the things you ‘aren’t allowed’ to eat
Think about all the yummy things you can eat that are better for your body.
Instead of thinking of healthy eating as a punishment to be endured for a short time
Think of a good reason to eat well and be healthy for the rest of your life (such as to be around for your grandkids or to feel more confident and energetic).
Instead of picking a large weight-loss goal, such as 20kg
Break it down into smaller chunks (5kg for example) and reward yourself with something special (non-food related!) when you reach each benchmark.
Instead of being unrealistic with the speed you should be losing weight
Give yourself enough time (aim for about 500g–1kg per week maximum) – remember, it didn’t all go on in one month so it can’t fall off in one month!
Instead of getting upset when you haven’t lost any weight on the scales
Think about other things you’ve achieved – you may be walking up the stairs more easily or your clothes may feel like they fit you better.