New Year’s (Or Any Time) Resolutions You Can Actually Stick To

Do you set a New Year’s Resolution?

The 1st of the year is seen by many as a fresh start; a time to look forward and set a New Year’s Resolution. New Year’s resolutions aren’t for everyone – in fact, only a small percentage of people set a new Year’s Resolution, and an even smaller percentage will actually keep theirs. This time of year is often criticized or joked about for that very reason – New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, work out more, eat healthier, get stronger, walk more steps, run faster, get to the gym more, cook at home, pack your snacks, are really difficult to keep.

These resolutions are usually hard to keep because people tend to set too many goals at once and their goals are very broad! It can be really easy to go into the new year with several very broad goals in mind (usually worded something like “do this activity more” or “do this activity less”) and because the wording isn’t very specific, that handful of goals suddenly morphs into one big, non-specific goal, which eventually morphs into an even less specific form of whatever goals you wanted to meet, which eventually just dwindles away. Sound familiar?

As a Registered Dietitian, I think any time of year (not just the New Year!) is a good time to set a resolution, or a goal, and it’s my job to help people meet their goals related to nutrition and health. Instead of going into the New Year with a regular old resolution, make a SMART goal.

A SMART goal is a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

Specific – This is the What, How and Why. One reason those goals to “lose weight,” or “get healthier” don’t work is because there are no specifics on how you’re going to meet those goals. It can be really easy to drop your resolution “eat healthier” if you never wrote down the specifics of what that goal meant to you – did it mean you were going to eat salad for every single meal, or give up all sweets? You need to define all the specifics of your goal to achieve it.

Measurable – How will you know you’ve achieved your goal? How will you measure your success?  By being able to measure a goal, you will have tangible evidence that you’re working towards your goal or meeting your goals. Instead of “going to the gym more” you would set a goal to “Go to the gym 3 nights per week.”

Attainable – Your goal should challenge you, but shouldn’t be too out of reach that you never attain it. You should be able to write down the steps to meet your goals. I like how Heidi Greenwood wrote in her recent post: “It may be helpful to view your health goals as if you were training for a marathon.  Not literally training for a marathon, but knowing that to reach your health goals is a process that requires planning, time, and external support.” You wouldn’t set a goal to train for a marathon and then never run more than 3 miles during your training – you would usually follow a very detailed, specific plan that has you meeting certain milestones before being able to run the full marathon. You should do the same with every one of your goals. 

Realistic – This is the one that gets a lot of people. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting a completely out-of-reach goal. Remember, you can always set a new goal after you’ve met your first goal. This is especially true for those goals that might reduce certain habits – a lot of people want to “give up sweets” or “eat better”, so they deprive themselves of the foods they like in an attempt to meet their goals, which ends up in failure. Be realistic with yourself and be flexible with your goal. If you’ve never been able to give up sweets completely, maybe try reducing your sweets intake to a couple squares of dark chocolate per day that you will really savor. Another big goal people have is to “lose weight” and they usually have big goals in mind and not a lot of patience.

Sometimes it’s better for people to focus on goals that are focused more on health and fitness (for instance, lifting heavier weights or packing your lunch), which will lead to weight loss, instead of being so hard on themselves for not losing 10 lbs. in a week. A realistic goal to set is to throw away the New Year’s Diet – if diets worked, there wouldn’t be so many of them.

Time-bound – This means you will have a time frame for meeting your long-term goal, but also for those shorter-term goals and steps along the way. Having a time-frame helps you determine what your steps along the way should be to meet your long term goal.

Once you’ve written your goal, write your actions to meeting the goal.


Eat more meatless meals by making 2 new vegetarian recipes per week.

Action: Bookmark recipes online or in a vegetarian cookbook. Make a plan to shop once a week for ingredients for new recipes.

Walk 10,000 steps every day by March 1st, 2016.

Action: Increase steps by 200 steps per day each week starting January 1st until step count reaches 10,000 steps per day.

I will eat better to fuel my training this year by substituting my usual candy bar and chips snack with a healthier option.

Action: Write out which snacks I will have for the week and pack in my bag: apples and walnuts, cheese stick and grapes, homemade trail mix, peanut butter and jelly, hardboiled egg and a pear, Greek yogurt with berries and granola, etc.

Get stronger by going to the gym 3 times per week.

Action: Find gym and get membership. Make the most of your gym time by getting a personal training plan.

Note on training plans – Fitness isn’t one-size-fits-all, and the team at Sanford POWER develops training programs to help you meet your personal fitness goals. From individual to large-group training, Sanford POWER training programs can help you reduce your risk of injury, improve overall health and fitness, and increase mobility, flexibility and strength.  Call today at 605-312-7800 to find out more on training options.

There are many goals you can set for yourself, but make sure you set a SMART goal instead of a regular old resolution to ensure you’ll be able to follow through with it during the whole year. Does a whole year seem daunting to you? Write down a short-term SMART goal for the month. My smart goal this month is to take time each Sunday to go grocery shopping and prepare food (rice, sweet potatoes, cut up vegetables, hummus/dressings, salad and protein) for the week.

Share: What goals have you set for yourself that you didn’t think you would achieve? How did you achieve it? Do you have any New Year’s Goals?

Read More:

Food and Nutrition Magazine || 5 Tips for a Guilt-Free New Year’s Eve Party

U.S. News Health || Forget About the Weight, Let’s Eat For Better Health

EatRight || Toss Out Fad Diets and Quick Fixes; This New Year Resolve to Develop a Healthful Lifestyle

Meeting with the Sports Dietitian can help you set your own health and nutrition-related goals!