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NUTRITION: To keep resolutions, the trick is in the details

Brenda Schwerdt

Many New Year's resolutions are health, diet and fitness related, and now that we are into the New Year, take some time to reexamine those resolutions. Most often, our motivation for our resolution is the highest during the beginning of the year. Try to harness that motivation and keep it going throughout the entire year.

You may have to go back and rewrite your resolution. Make sure your resolution is SMART; specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. The most failed New Year's resolutions are often due to the goal not being specific, such as "get fit" or "eat healthier." Non-specific goals are hard to maintain because they do not provide framework for a plan.

Specific. Examples of specific nutrition related goals: cooking more meals at home, consuming more vegetables or replacing refined grain products with whole grain products.

Measurable. Put an actual number in your goal. If your goal is to consume more vegetables, how many servings of vegetables will you consume per day?

Achievable. Do not set yourself up for failure. If you are only consuming one vegetable serving per day, it is probably not realistic to try for five servings of vegetables every day. Try for two or three.

Relevant. Make sure your goal is relevant to you. Take some time to assess your personal diet pattern.

Time Related. When will you achieve this goal? Will you consume three servings of vegetables every day for the rest of the year?

Write it down. The next step is to actually write down your resolution and place it somewhere where it is visible to you. This step is especially important if your resolution is a specific dietary change and you are willing to put forth the effort of keeping food journals. If you keep a food journal write your resolution on the top of each page as a reminder. A recent study showed that participants who kept food journals lost twice as much weight as the control subjects who did not keep food journals.

Find a method to help hold you accountable. To stay on track for 12 months, 365 days, means holding yourself accountable for that entire time. You can be accountable to yourself, find a friend or find a professional to help.

Hold yourself accountable by setting calendar reminders. Electronic calendars can be set to send daily, weekly or monthly reminders. Or take out a pen and write specific reminders on your personal calendar. If your goal is to eat two servings of vegetables per day, set a daily reminder at the end of the day so you can acknowledge if you met your goal or not. Your resolution may be better set with weekly or even monthly reminders. Set a day each month to assess the progress of your goal.

There are online and social media services that can help you stick to your resolution and track your progress. Some of these services even allow you to select what type of coaching or incentives would best work for you such as; financial commitments, frequent reminders, community support or points to be redeemed in various ways.

Find a friend. Enlist a friend, family member, coworker or even online support to help stay motivated. This does not mean the support person has to have the same resolution it just has to be someone that you will report progress too. Having to report progress to someone on a weekly or monthly basis greatly increases the likelihood of maintaining your resolution.

Even though I said your support person does not have to have the same resolution, it might be beneficial if they do. However, make sure your resolution is personalized to your specific needs. Sharing a resolution could be a way to help ensure you both get to the gym or share recipes.

Enlist a professional. Met with a psychotherapist, registered dietitian or personal trainer. All of these professionals have extensive experience in goal setting and how to maintain goals.

If you have a setback, do not give up. Each meal is a chance to start anew. You have all year to work toward your goal and your goal can always be modified to meet you current needs.

Brenda Schwerdt, RDN, LD, CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s hospital. Contact her at dietitian@slhduluth.com.

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