Plenty of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, especially those that pertain to weight, diet and health. But how long do resolutions really last? For most of us, not long enough.
Maybe it has less to do with willpower and more to do with what we’re resolving to do. If you’re attempting to completely overhaul your entire lifestyle, it might prove harder to stick with your resolution than if you’re vowing to change small habits that can have lasting effects. This year, make resolutions you can stick to and ditch those that are unattainable. Here’s help!
3 resolutions to make.
1. Eat more fiber.High-fiber foods—fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes—are essential to a healthy diet. Research suggests that eating more fiber-rich foods might boost weight loss and help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women eat 22-28 grams of fiber per day and men get 28-34 grams, yet the average American only consumes around 15 grams. (For comparison, ½ cup of black beans has 8 grams; an apple has about 5 grams.) To increase your fiber intake, choose whole fruits, switch from white to whole-wheat bread and pasta, add beans to your diet and aim to include vegetables in every meal.
2. Cook dinner at home.
Eating at restaurants is a treat and getting takeout is convenient, but (most) restaurants are not in business because they make healthy food. According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the average meal at an independent or small chain restaurant contains 1,128 calories, 2,269 mg sodium and 16 grams saturated fat. That’s more than half the average daily calorie recommendation for most Americans, close to the recommended daily sodium allowance, and more than 80 percent of the recommended daily limit for saturated fat. That doesn’t leave much room for the other two meals in the day—and forget about snacks. By cooking at home, you can make versions of your restaurant favorites that have much healthier levels of calories, saturated fat and sodium.
3. Exercise at least 30 minutes per day.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most adults need at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity activity—e.g., brisk walking—every week, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. That’s totally doable if you take a 30-minute walk during your lunch break and focus on strength activities on the weekend. Exercise can help control your weight, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and increase your chances of living longer—and remember, you can also split it into two 15-minute segments daily and enjoy the same benefits.
3 resolutions to ditch.
1. Losing 10 pounds in 1 week.When you lose weight, you lose muscle, bone and water—not just fat. Weight loss and weight-cycling (also known as yo-yo dieting) increase bone turnover and bone-fracture risk. Healthy and sustainable weight loss is slow and steady—approximately 1 to 2 pounds per week. Temporary changes may lead to quick weight loss, but without a long-term commitment, the fast weight loss may just lead to future weight gain.
2. Cutting fat out of your diet completely.Fat is an essential component of your diet: it’s needed for energy and for many body functions, such as cell growth and hormone production, and it helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Plus, fat adds flavor to meals and—because it takes longer to digest—keeps you feeling fuller longer. But it is important to choose healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats, which raise (“bad”) LDL cholesterol. That means choosing olives, avocados, nuts and seeds (all rich in healthy unsaturated fats) over solid fats, such as butter, lard and margarine. The Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting your saturated fat intake, with less than 10 percent of calories coming from saturated fats. This means, for a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, you should aim for less than 22 grams of saturated fat per day.
3. Banning dessert.According to Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., author of Intuitive Eating, restricting certain foods can lead to uncontrollable urges and overeating. Therefore, depriving yourself of your favorite foods—or feeling guilt when you do eat them—is counterproductive and may inhibit your weight loss or even lead to additional weight gain. Instead of thinking of foods as “good” or “bad,” think of them as “sometimes” versus “all-the-time” foods. Or, try choosing the healthiest option of your favorite treat, and eating it sparingly. For example, if chocolate is your downfall, make it a small piece of dark chocolate. You’ll enjoy the benefits of heart-healthy antioxidants in the dark chocolate while you get your sweet-treat fix.