New Year's Resolutions: Three Steps to Success

It’s a new year and a great time to start fresh! What was your New Year’s resolution for 2013? If it had something to do with eating healthier, exercising more, or losing weight, you are right in line with many other Americans.

If you are on track so far – congratulations to you! However, sticking to a new habit can be tough. For many people, the real work starts a few weeks after the holidays, as your initial motivation wears off and life returns to its normal pace.

Don’t let that discourage you. It may not be easy, but it is possible to make healthy changes that stick. This year, set yourself up for success. Set specific, realistic goals and make a plan to help yourself achieve them.

Step One: Set a Goal

It’s great that you have made a resolution to improve your health. Start thinking of your resolution as your health goal for 2013. If your goal is very general, increase your chance of success by writing down the specifics. For example, I will walk for 20 minutes after lunch every day. Or, I will always fill ½ my plate with non-vegetables for dinner. Saying I’ll be more active or I’ll eat more vegetables is great – but not specific enough to help you follow through when faced with the obstacles of daily life. 

When setting goals, think about whether or not your goal is realistic. For example, losing 10 pounds in the next week is not a realistic, attainable goal for most people. Healthy weight loss is 1/2-2 pounds per week, so it might be more realistic to lose about 1 pound per week over the next 10 weeks.

Making a lot of changes at the same time can be overwhelming. We suggest a step-by-step approach. If your over-arching goal is to start exercising 45 minutes 5 days a week and you haven’t been active for a while, break it up into smaller goals. Keeping your timeline short for achieving these smaller goals will help you stay motivated and focused.

For example, you could start out walking for 15 minutes at least 3 days a week during January. As your fitness improves and February hits, you can increase the amount of walking you do each day and set a new goal. All the while you are working toward that larger goal of 45 minutes 5 days a week.

Let’s recap! When setting goals, think about 3 things:

  1. What do you want to change and how often will you do this? What are the specifics?
  2. Is your goal realistic and attainable?
  3. Within what time frame will you achieve your goal? Don’t try to change too much at once. One or two small changes at a time is a great way to go!

Write your goals down and put them somewhere visible. This will serve as a reminder to keep you feeling accountable and motivated. 

Step Two: Make a Plan 

Once your goals are set, it’s time to make a plan that will help you achieve them. Consider the following:

  • What do you need to start working toward your new goal?
  • What might get in the way of your plan?
  • What can you do when you hit an obstacle or barrier?
  • When will you start?

It’s important to be ready to tackle your goals and to have a back-up plan. We’ve got a great planning outline that you can use to get prepared and organized.

Remember even with a plan, there will be times when you eat too much or decide to take a day off from exercising. Don’t see this as a failure. Just get back to your routine the next day.

Step Three: Take Action

Start working toward your goals with your plan in mind. For many people, tracking their progress is helpful. Keep a food log or physical activity log – whatever is relevant to your goal. 

Once a new habit becomes second nature, add a new goal to keep working toward that over-arching goal. Let’s say you’ve successfully started filling half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Perhaps your next step toward healthier eating could be to change your bedtime snack from ice cream to a sugar-free popsicle. Without much work, you are cutting calories and carbohydrate by eating more vegetables and lower-calorie treats.

Last, remember to reward yourself for achieving your goals. Your small successes are important! If you successfully lose 10 pounds by March, treat yourself to a manicure or go to that movie you’ve been meaning to see.

More Resources for Success

The American Diabetes Association offers many additional resources that can help you achieve your health goals in 2013.

If you are looking for the basics of healthy eating to control diabetes, our What Can I Eat? brochure is a great place to start. Call our Center for Information and Community Support at 1-800-DIABETES for your free copy today. 

If you are trying to cook healthier for yourself and your family this year, start right here on the Recipes for Healthy Living website. Make sure you are signed up for our e-newsletter so you’ll know when new recipes, meal plans, and on-the-go tips are available each month. Also, don’t forget to check out this month’s on-the-go article Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolution When Time is Tight.

For more help planning meals, try using the MyFoodAdvisor Online Tool. This tool allows you to look up the foods you eat and track your meals. You can also use it to identify healthier alternatives to the foods you are currently eating.

To get motivated and learn more about physical activity, visit the Fitness pages on You’ll also find information and tools to help with Weight Loss.

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