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Healthy Living

How To Hack Your New Year's Resolution For Success

Four nutrition professionals share their strategies.

I've never liked the words "objective" or "goal." Perhaps my distaste for such terms can be traced back to elementary school, where the teacher would write the word "objective" on the blackboard in giant letters. Then, we had to talk about why we were doing what we were going to do that day. Why didn't we just do the activity and then talk about it? I wondered. It seemed like such a waste of time.

I feel the same way when it comes to setting a goal weight. All too often I hear clients say, "I need to lose 20 pounds by my wedding" or "I'd better knock off 50 pounds before my high school reunion." But focusing on a weight goal without appreciating every step of the process can leave you with a goal that's attainable but not sustainable. It's the ups and downs during the process itself that teaches you how to get to a place where you feel proud of your achievement. This enlightening journey often gets short shrift – especially when you set an unrealistic weight goal or an unreasonable time frame to achieve it.

When work toward a goal (say, to lose a few pounds), you may start off feeling motivated, optimistic and prepared for any obstacles that may get in the way. Yet, even with the best of intentions and a strong desire to accomplish your goal, once a barrier (like a long-awaited vacation) presents itself, willpowerslides and you resolve to go right back to your goal after the vacation is over. Until the next vacation, that is.

For all too many of us, the same process recurs when it comes to setting a New Year's resolution. Yes, I realize that many of these intentions are made on New Year's Eve accompanied by a side of Champagne or other adult beverages. Still, people make lots of promises this time of year and often abandoned them by the time Valentine's Day chocolates start to appear.

So, if you are a chronic New Year's resolution setter and a before-the-winter-is-over resolution breaker, these tips from four nutrition pros are just for you:

1. Don't make promises you can't keep.

"Don't embark on a complete diet overhaul. Those overreaching goals seldom have a happy ending! Instead, choose one or two things about your diet or lifestyle that you'd like to change for the better, and make those changes first. Everything can be done in time, but why stress yourself out trying to change everything at once? If you take the time to do it right, it's more likely that you'll follow through on making your goal happen."

Abby Langer, registered dietitian nutritionist

2. Set goals within your control.

"Instead of saying, 'I resolve to lose 10 pounds by February,' say, 'I resolve to eat foods that fuel me and make me feel good.' If you were to eat balanced meals with lean proteins, healthy fats and plenty of vegetables and not lose 10 pounds by February, you might be upset and give up. But if you eat those meals, feel great and just happen to lose some weight, that feeling of accomplishment might make you more likely to continue to eat in that fashion. Goals like healthy eating tend to better continue healthy habits than goals like a specific pound weight loss within a specific timeframe because the controllable goals don't tend to disappoint."

Amy Gorin, New York City-area dietitian and contributing blogger for WeightWatchers.com

3. Be realistic – and seek support.

"Don't make a resolution to run a marathon when you have never even run a mile. Perhaps start small by working your way up from running on a treadmill to running a 5K, and eventually build your way up to the marathon. Unrealistic New Year's resolutions leave people feeling frustrated and discouraged, which can prevent them from setting future goals.

"It's also helpful to create a New Year's resolution in which you can seek a team or licensed professional for support. For instance, if your resolution is to lose 10 pounds, seek the guidance of a registered dietitian or join a support group. The support person or people will help by providing motivation and keeping you accountable to your goals."

Kristen Smith, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of 360FamilyNutrition

4. Keep your eye on the prize.

"Display your specific goal in a place where you will see it regularly. Stick a Post-it on the bathroom mirror or make it your phone or laptop wallpaper so that you're constantly reminded of what you want to achieve. We are so easily distracted each day that it's easy to forget the promises we make to ourselves.

"You can also keep your eye on the prize by choosing a reward for meeting your goal ahead of time. If you lose the weight, meet your vegetable goal, work out five times a week or finally break your addiction to social media, reward yourself with a spa day, fun vacation or a new pair of shoes."

Marisa Moore, registered dietitian nutritionist, owner of Marisa Moore Nutrition and contributor to the U.S. News Eat+Run blog

How To Hack Your New Year's Resolution For Success was originally published on U.S. News & World Report.

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