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Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Always Stick, And What People Should Do Instead

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Every year, people make promises that they’ll get into shape and cut back on junk food. Some people tell themselves that they’ll quit their jobs and follow their dreams, while others vow to be better parents, spouses, siblings, or friends. But as the days pass by, they find themselves unable to fulfil their resolutions. What gives?

Carolyn Gregorie, senior writer for The Huffington Post, said most people shoot for the moon when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. “When it comes to health goals in particular, all-or-nothing goals ― which are usually based on unrealistic expectations and don’t leave any wiggle room ― are a setup for failure,” she said.

Only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, she revealed, pointing out that the main reason why resolutions don’t stick is because people are easily derailed by small failures.

“Setting overly ambitious and restrictive goals ― like quitting sugar when you haven’t already been making small changes to improve your diet ― is one major cause of failure,” she explained. “While you might initially feel inspired and energised by setting blowout goals for 2017, the luster of these resolutions fades quickly when we realize how difficult they are to keep.”

Gregorie said small and incremental lifestyle changes might not seem as exciting, but people have greater chances of carrying them out. Dr. Roberta Anding, a registered dietician and nutrition professor at Baylor College of Medicine, even said that moderating resolutions might spell out the difference between giving up by February or creating a lasting lifestyle change.

Anding said that people should approach their health goals as a “reset” so they won’t feel like giving up every time they fail to hit the mark.

“Resolving not to eat something anymore, such as pasta, may not be the most practical goal,” Anding wrote in an email. “A reset allows for a plan B, and the thought is that you set goals that are doable for you, your family and your circumstances.”

If people think about giving up red meat as their resolution for 2017, they should consider indulging in a burger only once a week or cut their meat portion sizes in half. “You can have a favorite food, but the portion size is the key,” Anding stressed. “It allows for social situations, eating out with your boss and family parties.”

She said that a reset allows people to create healthy habits for the long term, and it is more forgiving for those who are unable to carry out their lofty goals.

“January 1 signifies a new beginning. However, each day allows for a new beginning, and hence it is a reset,” Anding said. “If your goal is eating more fruits and vegetables, you can reset this goal every day. If you didn’t achieve this goal, you can re-evaluate every day.”

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