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Make your resolutions a lasting success

Keeping resolutions requires patience and perseverance.

As each year draws to a close, you may find yourself making resolutions to improve your health. But chances are good those well-intentioned proclamations begin to go by the wayside before the new year is even a few weeks old.

"It's not hard to make resolutions. But it's very hard to keep them," says Michael Fleming, MD, past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "It's easy to make excuses to yourself about why you can't follow your resolutions."

Keeping your vows

If you're serious about resolutions, Dr. Fleming says you can be successful. But you must set aside the excuses and be self-disciplined.

"I tell people they have to want to do it for themselves," Dr. Fleming says. "I say, 'Don't do it for me. Do it for you.'"

The most common resolutions are health-related—losing weight, increasing physical activity and quitting smoking. All require a change in behavior or lifestyle. And that's often hard for many people to do.

"It wouldn't be a resolution if it wasn't something that was difficult to do," Dr. Fleming says.

That's why it's important to seek help from family and friends. Ask them to remind you of your resolutions and provide encouragement.

"Enlist someone to be a coach and a cheerleader. You probably can't do it alone," Dr. Fleming says.

Tips for success

Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, RD, a former spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says you have a better chance of meeting your resolutions if they are realistic.

"If your goal is to lose weight, you don't want to start out by trying to lose 50 pounds," Tanner-Blasiar says. "Start by trying to lose 5 or 10 pounds."

It's also best if you tackle resolutions one at a time.

"With resolutions, you've got to be sure you're not biting off more than you can chew," Tanner-Blasiar says.

To achieve resolution success, Tanner-Blasiar offers these tips:

Be patient. It takes time to form new habits. Allow yourself time to set aside your old, bad habits and adjust to your new lifestyle.

Pace yourself. Sometimes it's easier to gradually make your resolutions come true. Work in one-week increments. For example, if your resolution is to walk for exercise, increase your routine by 100 steps a week.

Chart your progress. Write down what you do each day to meet your goals. If it's in writing, you're likely to hold yourself more accountable. You can also easily monitor your progress.

Remind yourself. Post notes, pictures and news articles around your home and workplace that remind you of your resolutions. Ask family and friends to provide verbal reminders.

Follow a plan. Make it as easy as possible to follow your resolutions. If you plan to lose weight, clean out your refrigerator and cupboards of unhealthy food choices. Set up a diet and stick to it. If you say you're going to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day, make sure you have plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand.

Get some rest. It's easier to deal with stressful changes when you're well-rested. Try to get at least eight uninterrupted hours of sleep every night.

Seek advice. Don't be afraid to get professional help from a doctor, dietitian or counselor. If your goal is to quit smoking or lose weight, check out support groups.

And most important, Tanner-Blasiar says you should never get discouraged if you temporarily fall off the resolution wagon. Just climb right back on board.

"If you make healthy choices most of the time, you're still better off," Tanner-Blasiar says. "Don't beat yourself up if you have a bad day. Just get up the next day and make a fresh start. Don't scrap it altogether."

reviewed 11/29/2017

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This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual's particular health plan.