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January 17, 2014

Time for a 2014 Resolution Reboot?

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

You meant it when you vowed to eat better, exercise more, and lose weight in 2014, but now your resolve is fading fast. Here's how to regain your enthusiasm for a healthier lifestyle for you and your family.

Why It's So Hard to Change for the Better
Your intentions to improve your life are stuck in low gear. That's to be expected, especially if you set lofty goals for yourself. Chances are, you've made it too difficult to achieve lasting change because you've bitten off more than you can chew. 

We're creatures of habit. Most of us thrive on ritual and routine, which is why we eat the same meal for breakfast every day, travel the same route to work, and watch our favorite TV show every week. Habits make life easier by freeing up the brain to think about other matters that require more attention.

Since we cling so closely to habit, it makes sense that changing too many habits at once - no matter how detrimental they are to good  health - is a recipe for failure.  Change takes a lot of willpower, and you only have so much mental energy to go around. Attempting to alter too many behaviors simultaneously undermines willpower to the point where you stop trying to make any positive change because it's just too hard. 

Live by The Rule of One
The Rule of One is all about concentrating on a single new healthy habit. It may come as a surprise, but research shows that cultivating one healthy habit leads to other healthy habits. 
Which habit should you tackle first?  That depends. Whatever you choose, focus on inclusion.

Staying positive about balanced eating gives you the psychological edge to make changes to your diet. For example, vow to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables or to include three servings of non-fat or low-fat dairy every day instead of telling yourself to cut out all chips, candy, and cookies.

Getting the recommended amount of produce and dairy makes you feel good about your eating habits, which can perpetuate additional healthy behaviors. At the very least, you'll increase your vitamin and mineral intake.

When you include nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains, there's less room in your day for low-nutrient foods, such as chips, candy, cookies and sugary soft drinks. On the other hand, it's not necessary to entirely ban higher-calorie foods. It may be helpful to eat small portions or your favorite foods, as feelings of dietary deprivation often spell the end for healthy eating efforts.

Whatever habit you start with, keep it simple.  If you don't exercise now, don't vow to work out every day at the gym.  Instead, try to walk for 30 minutes on most days of the week for now. Cut yourself some slack. It can take up to three weeks to establish a new behavior. And when you do feel secure, move on to the next one!


Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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