Ring in the New Year With SMART Resolutions


The new year is almost here, and for many of us, that means resolutions. Our registered dietitians offer tips to help you start 2018 on the path to great health.

Do you set New Year’s resolutions with the best intentions only to find that by March you’ve lost your momentum? If this is your experience, first off, you’re not alone.

Only 8 percent of Americans keep their New Year’s resolutions. Working toward goals for self-improvement is a good thing. Why, then, is it so difficult to stick to the plan? Renown Dietitians Stephen Compston, RD, LD, CDE, and Caitlin Bus, RD, LD, CDE, gave us some practical guidelines for ringing in the new year with realistic resolutions. 

What are some tips to stay on track as the year progresses?

“It’s important to make your resolution ‘SMART,’ which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely,” Compston says. “For example, instead of saying ‘I want to exercise more’ make it more specific and measurable. Change it to ‘I will go to the gym and exercise at least 30 minutes each day, 3 times per week.'”

Bus reminds us to not overwhelm ourselves when setting those goals.

“It’s easy to get overly ambitious and come up with a list of resolutions with no plan for reaching your desired outcomes,” Bus says. “And a resolution without a plan or specificity equates to nothing more than a wish. You don’t have to overhaul your life and set five goals at once. Focus on one or two objectives at a time — you can always set additional goals as the year progresses. Narrowing your focus and setting an attainable resolution or two is simple.”

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What can we do to make sure our goal is attainable but still pushes us?

“Break up your resolution into smaller goals that don’t require months of vigilance before getting a pat on the back or seeing results,” Bus says. “Creating a timeline with individual action steps you can check off periodically will help you feel more successful.”

Compston recommends assessing where you are today in your health goals — and setting a realistic goal based on that.

“If you aren’t exercising at all right now, don’t aim to do five days a week — try two days to start,” he says. “Then, as you hit your goals, you can increase them. The same goes for healthy eating. It takes time and commitment to eat healthy. Start by limiting the number of times you eat out each week then work up to meal planning and preparation.”

What are some easy tips for people looking to jump start their resolutions to get healthy and lose weight?

“To start, eat whole foods as much as possible, because the more processed a food is, the less healthy it is for you,” Compston says. “Another simple tip: Move more. The more you move, the more calories you’ll burn each day. You don’t have to jump into high intensity boot camp workouts, just get yourself walking and moving.”

Bus suggests involving others in your goal-setting, which can be helpful by creating more accountability.

“Some individuals find that publicizing personal goals on social media provides needed motivation,” Bus says. “But you don’t have to make a Facebook or Twitter announcement to create that momentum. Simply sharing your goals with a friend or family member can increase your likelihood of success. And it creates more than accountability — you’ll also get support and encouragement from those you care about most to help propel you forward. Making your objectives known may even motivate others around you to set their own goals or stick with the ones they’ve made.”


What is the biggest mistake people make when setting their weight loss goals?

“The ‘all or nothing’ attitude is a big threat,” Compston says. “People end up ‘cheating’ on their diet and decide to blow the rest of the day instead of getting back on track. It’s OK to slip up, just don’t let it be an excuse to stop your efforts altogether. Keep pushing yourself and as you achieve one resolution or goal, set a new one to keep pushing yourself.”

And while it’s easy to dwell on your shortcomings, Bus recommends steering clear of negative thinking. 

“As you work toward your goals, focus on the positives instead,” she says. “Keep a list of your accomplishments. No one’s perfect, and it’s unrealistic to assume you’re going to set goals and execute them perfectly. Give yourself some space to be human. Celebrate your successes along the way — no matter how small.”

Change can be hard and stressful. Don’t punish yourself or give up altogether because you have a bad day or two. Get right back on that proverbial horse and keep going. Remember: Three steps forward and one step back is still two steps forward.