Struggling with Resolutions? Time for a re-think

Jan 18, 2023


We are half-way through January and how are your New Year resolutions going? If they are feeling hard and you are starting to waver (or have given up already) then you are not alone - 8 in 10 of us will have abandoned our New Year resolutions before February arrives. Less than 1 in 10 people will actually  manage to stick to their resolution.


Let’s face it resolutions are usually really tough, but this is often because we launch ourselves with great enthusiasm into a world of restriction, committing ourselves to quitting snacking, alcohol or smoking forever, or resolving to exercise every day and finally run that marathon. After all, why not ‘Go Big or Go Home!’ This might work for the first week or so until temptation strikes, life gets challenging, or the weather is dismal, and then we lose our resolve, give up and go back to square one with an overwhelming sense of failure.


But it doesn’t have to be like this and there are other more successful ways to approach changing habits and creating a Healthier You.  


It doesn’t matter whether you’re aiming for weight loss, to eat more healthily, get fitter, control your cholesterol or diabetes, or just simply to eat more plant-based foods. The route to successfully changing eating (or other lifestyle) behaviours is to focus on forming new habits which will last a lifetime.   


How do I Make a New Habit?

Habits are something that we do, without thought, as part of our normal daily routine. Habits are easy – we just do them, day in and day out, without needing to make a conscious choice or think about what we are doing.


Behaviour on the other hand is a deliberate chosen way of acting. To change behaviour, we have to make a choice. Whether choosing a new recipe or taking a daily walk, we have to choose to do the new behaviour. This can be hard work and takes lots of will power, and self-control. Which is all well and good when we are upbeat and energised, but when we fade and become tired, stressed, hungry or bored, temptation kicks in and will power rapidly fades away. Suddenly we are on the guilt trip of ‘failed again’ without really realising how this has happened! Does this sound familiar?


Rather than focusing on a behaviour, focus on creating a new routine.


Our habits are usually triggered by a time of day, a place or a feeling. The alarm goes off and you make a cup of tea or coffee. It’s 1 o’clock so you eat lunch. After a long day’s work, you eat a few biscuits with a hot drink before making dinner. You don’t think about it – you just make a cup of tea and eat biscuits automatically. Habits are a response to a cue, and the reason we do them is to get a reward. In this case the cue is feeling tired, and the reward a sweet taste, which for most of us has been associated with comfort since early childhood.


Rather than simply expecting yourself to change, try to think about a new routine that could give you the same feeling or reward. In the case of a feeling of comfort from a cup of tea and biscuits at the end of a day you might be able to create that same ‘ah at last I’m home’ feeling by changing clothes and going outside for 10-minutes to de-stress You are far more likely to succeed by replacing a negative habit or behaviour with a different, positive one that still gives you a reward. 


Creating a new habit requires 3 different things:

  • A cue – what will trigger the new habit? The time of day? The theme tune of a TV programme?
  • The routine – this is the new action or habit.
  • A reward – the benefit gained from doing the habit such as feeling great after a walk. The reward helps the brain to build a positive feedback loop – ‘if I do this then I will feel that’.


Work out what to change and how to do it. Make it something specific, not just a general ‘I’m going to eat more vegetables’, but a specific ‘I will add a bowl of salad to my lunch every day’. Ensure you can measure what you’ve achieved: ‘I will add a bowl of salad to my lunch everyday for the next 2 weeks’. Make it challenging, but something you have a chance of achieving. Is it realistic? Don’t aim to add a bowl of salad if this is something you hate! Set a time to check in on how you are doing – every 2-3 weeks is ideal. Have you managed to stick with your new behaviour? Yes? -  then great! Is it time to build on this and add something new? No, then ask yourself why? What stopped you? Could you do this differently or was it the wrong thing for you? Work out how to build every time to get to the better healthful habits that you desire.


If you want to find out more about changing what you eat, the Dietitians at Nutrition4 offer a wide range of practical workshops to help you on the road to Great Nutrition. Why not take advantage of our current Special offers?

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