As the new year fast approaches, this is the time when people start to think about all of the health-conscious choices they want to make. Setting New Year’s resolutions can be a good way to hold yourself accountable, but it’s also not uncommon for those resolutions to fail. In fact, as many as 88% of individuals who set resolutions for themselves will fail to achieve their goals – and there are many reasons why this can happen.

Among the most common New Year’s resolutions that I hear about as a family physician are from people wanting to lose weight, exercise more, and eat less junk food. While these are all great resolutions to make, a lot of people look at these and other resolutions as a marathon and will often want to see immediate results. However, things don’t happen overnight. Weight gain, for example, is something that happens as time goes on; therefore, losing that weight will also take time. It’s also important to not make any drastic changes. For example, if you’re someone who eats a lot of meat and wants to go vegetarian and abruptly cuts out meat from your diet cold turkey, you’re more than likely bound to find that a challenge and go back to your regular diet. The same goes for cutting things like salt and sugar to your diet. These are two things that can be addictive, which makes complete removal difficult for some. So rather than making drastic changes such as these, I instead suggest making slow and steady changes, which can be much more effective. If you’re unsure as to exactly how you can improve your diet, you can always benefit from the help of a dietitian – and in many cases you do not even need a referral from your family physician to see one. Residents of British Columbia can also speak with a registered dietitian via telephone at no cost by dialing 8-1-1, Monday to Friday, from 9 AM to 5 PM. For other Provincial call centres, click here. Speaking with a dietitian can be helpful as they will not only be able to provide you with things like nutrition counselling and teach you how to analyze the nutrients that are going into your body, but they will also be able to assist you in coming up with a menu plan that is tailored to you and your health/dietary needs.

Along with healthy eating, getting regular exercise is also an important aspect of losing weight. Because of all the overindulgence in sweet treats and other unhealthy foods that happen over the holiday season, gyms tend to be at their busiest at the beginning of the year. While it’s great to want to get right back into your fitness routine, it may not be as easy for those who are used to living otherwise sedentary lifestyles. In fact, jumping in and doing too much too soon can actually put you at risk of injury, therefore it’s important that you go into an exercise routine knowing this, and make sure you start slow and steady. For example, whatever workout you choose to do – whether running on the treadmill at the gym, going for a walk around your neighbourhood, or lifting weights, you should opt for a minimum of 30 minutes and do this for a week or two. Once your body gets used to this, you can increase your activity level by another 15 to 30 minutes, and so on and so forth.

Not seeing immediate results from the resolutions you set can be discouraging, but it’s important to avoid that nagging voice in your head that will cause you to resist your own personal growth and find ways to defeat that doubt. One way you can do this is to ensure that the goals you set are realistic. For example, wanting to lose 100 lbs in a month probably isn’t doable and would be considered an unrealistic goal. You can, however, lose a few pounds each week. In this case, focusing on the smaller picture can help you get a clearer view of the bigger picture, and you’re more likely to be successful in the goals you set for yourself.

Another common reason why resolutions fail is because people don’t find the joy in setting them and will instead look at them as chores – and if you don’t enjoy the process, you’re also less likely to see positive results. So try to make your resolutions fun, whether it be exercising together with a friend, or even going to a cooking class. Your resolutions should be as stress-free as possible.