With 2023 around the corner, let’s talk about some New Year’s resolution ideas. It is common to create resolutions that are centered around health and wellness. In this post I give you 10 ideas for resolutions that are focused on health and well being, but not on weight loss.
The Tradition of Creating New Year’s Resolutions
According to Oxford Language, a resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something.
The week after Christmas is often when people start to think of what they want to do for their New Year’s resolution/s. Many people choose to focus on their health and wellness, which I think can be a very good thing. However, the rich holiday food many of us have been indulging in inspires goals that are only focused on weight loss. Most of us are familiar with the cultural phenomenon of people joining gyms, buying new exercise equipment and vowing to finally loose the weight in early January. Within four weeks, many people fall off the bandwagon and return to their normal habits. Next January they start all over again with similar New Year’s resolutions.
Are New Year’s Resolutions for Everyone?
I find it interesting to watch those around me talk about New Year’s resolutions. Some people avidly look forward to making resolutions and others don’t give it a second thought.
I like the idea of setting personal goals and I think that if you enjoy making New Year’s resolutions, go for it! If you have no interest in making resolutions, that is okay too. Personally, I usually do not make New Year’s resolutions. I find myself making personal goals and fine tuning my goals year round. I do however like to reflect on what my hopes are for the new year.
Why You May Want to Avoid Choosing Weight Loss as Your New Year’s Resolution
Weight loss can be a healthy goal for many people. After all, being overweight and obese puts you at higher risk for many different health related conditions and diseases. But I do think that weight loss must come from a place of motivation and desire for progressive and sustainable weight loss. Try to not pursue weight loss because of the annual cultural phenomenon we experience.
Ask yourself why you want to lose weight. Ask yourself if you are ready to make true lifestyle changes. Are you ready to commit to those changes for the long run? If you are looking for a quick fix and a temporary diet then you may want to consider some other resolutions this year.
10 New Year’s Resolution Ideas Focused on Health and Well Being
New Year’s Resolution Idea #1:Increase your servings of fruits and vegetables each day
This will look different for everyone. For example, if you currently do not include fruits or vegetables in your diet most days, this could look like increasing to 2 servings of fruit and 1 serving of vegetables each day. Or if you currently eat a moderate amount of fruits and vegetables you may want to increase to 7 servings per day. This goal might look like eating a serving of fruit at each meal, a serving of vegetable at lunch and dinner and another vegetable serving during your afternoon snack.
New Year’s Resolution Idea #2:Limit how often you eat out
Perhaps eating out makes it more difficult for you to maintain your health goals. If you eat out 5 times a week for lunch you can consider limiting this to one outing per week. You would then choose to pack a lunch the other 4 days. Or if you eat out for dinner 3 times a week but you wish to limit this, you can choose a goal to eat out just one night week.
New Year’s Resolution Idea #3:Learn to Cook
I have met many patients that do not know how to cook. They rely heavily on restaurants and fast food to meet their needs. While some people are just not interested in cooking, I think that cooking is an important life skill. Learning how to cook may also increase your enjoyment in cooking. How often do we assume we do not like an activity when we really just don’t know how to do it well?
If you do not know how to cook, I encourage you to consider taking cooking classes. Start with the basics and continue for as long as you like. Become familiar with several recipes that you can rotate through. When a recipe becomes familiar to you it feels easier to make. Also, make sure you start with easier meals that do not require numerous steps. Save the fancy recipes for the cooking connoisseurs and chefs!
New Year’s Resolution Idea #4:Start Exercising Regularly
While exercise is often associated with weight loss goals, choosing to exercise on a regular basis can come from a place of wanting to improve overall health and well being too. If you do not currently exercise, check with your doctor if it is safe to begin. When you have the all clear, start with something that interests you.
Exercise can be something basic like walking (and yes, walking is great exercise!), or it can be something you consider to be fun like tennis, bike riding or going to the roller skating rink. If you do not currently exercise you may want to start with a goal like walking 3 days a week for 20 minutes each day. If you already exercise here and there, try to be more consistent by planning which 3-5 days you will exercise each week. When making an exercise goal, be sure to be specific about how many minutes you will exercise each day.
New Year’s Resolution Idea #6:Limit Added Sugars
Let’s say you want to limit added sugars to improve your health and perhaps to decrease cravings. This goal can be approached in different ways. One way is to follow the 2020-2025 dietary guidelines goal to limit added sugar to 10% of total calories. If you know your calorie needs, you would calculate 10% of that and then divide by 4. So for example, if someone needs 2,000 calories per day, 10% of that would be 200 calories. When you divide by 4 you get 50 gm of added sugars per day. This requires looking at nutrition fact labels and keeping a running tally throughout the day.
Another way to limit added sugars is to decrease servings of dessert. If you have a sweet tooth like me, and you could enjoy dessert almost anytime of day, every day, you may want to start by limiting dessert to one serving per day. Or if that is too challenging you can portion out your serving size so you are eating less dessert. For example, if you often eat cookies after dinner because you have that annoying sweet tooth, perhaps you can limit it to the suggested serving size on the package instead of allowing yourself to eat out of the cookie box.
One last idea for limiting added sugars is to decrease how frequent you drink soda pop and/or juice. If you drink 3 soda pops a day, limiting to one a day could be a great starting goal. Or if you drink one soda pop a day maybe you can decrease to just 3 cans a week. Another option could be to reduce the size of your pop; if you choose a large pop at the restaurant you can opt for a small or medium instead.
New Year’s Resolution Idea #7:Less Screen Time
Consider reducing screen time by first figuring out how much time you typically spend on screens. This includes computers, your TV, smart phone, tablets, etc. Then choose how much you’d like to decrease your screen time by. It is usually difficult to reduce screen time at work if you use a computer on a daily basis. You can change how much time you spend on screens at home and also on breaks at work. If you spend 4 hours a day on the screen after work, you might choose to limit this to 2 hours. If you tend to spend a lot more time on screens during weekends, perhaps you need to reduce this by half or more.
You may also consider pairing this goal with increasing time outdoors. There is a fun trend among parents who want their children to spend at least 1,000 hours of time outdoors each year. They track hours spent outside every day (you can find trackers online to help). If divided by 365 days, that is almost 3 hours a day! But you can also try for 500 or 250 hours a year if 1,000 hours feels like too much. Here is a link to a website that provides free tracking sheets: 1,000 Hours Outside Trackers.
New Year’s Resolution Idea #8:Decrease Stress
Stress affects our physical health too. We often make poor eating decisions based on stress, we also tend to sleep less and experience a decrease in overall mental health. Perhaps this year you can focus on ways to decrease your stress.
This can look like pursuing a job change, setting up barriers in unhealthy relationships, pursuing healthier sleep habits or learning how to include relaxation and rest into your regular schedule. Or maybe you can pursue therapy/counseling to help you find healthier ways to cope with stress. Don’t forget the importance of pursuing your spiritual needs when seeking to reduce stress; prayer, scripture reading and meditation can help aid much needed stress management.
New Year’s Resolution Idea #9:Eat Less Meat
Many individuals choose to eat less meat for health reasons, but also for animal rights and to help the environment. If you are used to eating meat on a daily basis you can choose a goal to eat non-meat protein at one or two meals each week. Or in reverse, you may choose to eat meat at one or two meals a week and all other meals would be meat free. Another option for individuals that usually eat meat at every meal, is to choose to limit meat to just one meal a day.
When reducing meat you will need to plan ahead for what protein you will replace it with. Black beans, pinto beans, lentils, eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts and seeds are all great ways to get protein in your diet without meat.
New Year’s Resolution Idea #10:Choose more whole grains
If you are looking to improve the quality of your diet you can consider replacing white refined grains with more whole grains. If you do not eat any whole grains currently, you may want to start by replacing one to two servings of white grains per day with whole grains. Note: Whole grains have more fiber than white refined grains. Increasing fiber progressively is important to prevent stomach upset and bloating. It is also helpful to drink more water when increasing fiber in your diet.
If you eat some whole grains but mostly white grains, you can aim to make at least half of your grains whole grains. Or for those who want more of a challenge, try making white grains the exception; make almost all of your grains whole grain, enjoying an occasional serving of white grains.
Examples of whole grains are: brown rice, whole what pasta, barley, oats, and breads made with whole wheat or other whole grains. Other foods like quinoa (which is a seed) and corn (which is a starchy vegetable) are also considered whole grains.
Tips for Success with New Year’s Resolutions
To be successful with your health and wellness resolutions, here are some tips:
- Do not choose all or nothing type goals. For example, instead of trying to go from eating out 5 nights a week to not eating out at all, try substituting 2-4 nights that you eat out with home cooked food. When we choose all or nothing goals, we set ourselves up for failure. Try to be reasonable; if you really enjoy eating out then taking all restaurant trips out of your diet will not be sustainable. In other words, you will not be able to maintain that goal long term.
- Good goals are always measurable. Make sure you are specific with your plans. For example, if you choose an exercise resolution, be sure to pick the number of days and number of minutes you will exercise. Or if you are choosing a weight training goal choose number of sets and repetitions for each muscle group.
- If you are decreasing or limiting something, think about what you might be able to replace the behavior or habit with. For example, with decreasing screen time, you will want to think ahead about what you will do with that time instead. If you are seeking screen time when you are tired, consider other ways to rest; this may look like going to bed earlier and simply getting more sleep, or it can look like reading a book or magazine you enjoy, doing puzzles/fun brain teasers, journaling, or pursuing a hobby that is slower paced and relaxing to you. If you typically seek screen time because you are bored consider what hobbies you can pursue, friends you can visit, exercise you would enjoy, tasks/projects you want to get done, or how you can spend more quality time with your children.
Happy New Year!
I hope you have a wonderful and blessed new year. Whether you pursue New Year’s resolutions or not, I hope that you feel inspired to set personal goals year round that will help improve your overall health and well being.