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Three Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Stick (and What to Do Instead)

Well, it’s that time of year again, and if you’re like most people you are setting some pretty lofty New Year’s resolutions.  Maybe you want to lose weight? Or exercise more? Or eat healthier?

Sure, this blog is about improving health and vitality as we age, but it’s also about living life to its fullest without regret.  So I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a Registered Dietitian and I despise New Year’s resolutions. Here’s why: 

New Year’s resolutions set you up for failure.

They can initiate a dangerous downward cascade in confidence, making you think you are somehow not good enough, strong enough, smart enough, or committed enough to be successful. 

This is TOTAL BS! You are 100% capable of making lasting changes in your life. All it takes is a small adjustment in how you approach your goals.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Stick and What You Should Do Instead

middle age woman walking down a wooded path.

#1: The resolution is TOO BIG

For lasting improvements, it’s best to focus on small habit changes. This is based on SCIENCE. Yes, you read that right. Science says don’t make lofty New Year’s resolutions because most people (81% to be exact) will fail when the goal is too big (1). 

Instead of aiming to lose weight, try not eating after 7 pm. Instead of exercising for hours, try doing squats and leg lifts while you brush your teeth.  Want to eat healthier? Add in an extra serving of veggies every day or pack nuts instead of cookies for your afternoon snack. 

Start small and add more over time. Make this your mantra for the new year.

#2: You are NOT PREPARED

You must be able to consistently adopt a new habit for 7-21 days for it to stick. This requires planning and thought. Having a strategy that you know you can stick to will make all the difference.  

Woman and man stretching outdoors

Can you realistically run three miles every day?  If not, start with 5 minutes, or commit to taking the stairs at work every day.  Before you sit down to watch TV, get on the floor and stretch for a bit.

Do you see where I’m going with this? 

When you keep your promises to yourself, you increase your self-confidence and self-efficacy. 

You also start to feel better, which encourages you to take more action. And, perhaps most importantly, you are telling yourself that YOU MATTER.

Be prepared with a strategy for those days when life gets in the way. What will you do when you have to work late? Can’t get to the grocery store? The gym is closed?

When you have created a plan in advance, it takes away the stress and decision fatigue associated with the “what now?”

#3: Stand-alone changes are TOO DIFFICULT

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear discusses the value of stacking habits. (If you haven’t read this gem of a book yet- stop right now and run to the bookstore!  It will change your life.).  

Surely you already have some established patterns or habits. Maybe you shower every morning or evening, or take the dog for a walk, or grab a cup of coffee. 

Use these well-established habits to build upon.  

Here are some habits that I’ve created for myself or my clients by using the habit stacking method:

  • Drink a large glass of water every morning before indulging in your coffee or matcha.  
  • When you take the dog for a walk, commit to walking an extra 2 minutes every day until you reach your goal.  
  • Take 5 minutes before your shower to do some squats, or do some wall push-ups in the shower.
  • Do some deep breathing every morning before you rise and every evening before bed. Start with just one minute (about 6 deep breaths).  


Now doesn’t that sound more doable? 

Woman drinking a glass of water.

When you attach new habits to old ones, they are much more likely to stick.

So give it a try! Pick one or two very small habits to stack on top of your current habits. I promise you will be thrilled with the results!

I’d love to hear what new habits you adding and which old habits you are stacking them with. Please share in the comments!

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Want to learn more about creating healthy habits? Check out these articles:
How to Detox Your Lymphatic System with Stretching and Yoga
5 Pounds of Fat vs Muscle: the Truth About Getting Lean
Printable Food List for Anti-inflammatory Diet (FREE)

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