How to Keep Your Healthy New Year's Resolutions

Friedman School experts explain how to make good on intentions for better eating and exercise

This article originally appeared in the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, published each month by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. To get more expert guidance on healthy cooking, eating, and living, subscribe here.

Research suggests only half of Americans stick to their New Year’s resolutions after one month. According to USA Today, the top three resolutions in 2023 were to exercise more, eat healthier, and lose weight. Here are three strategies to increase the likelihood of achieving your goals this year.

Don't be overly ambitious. Start with one or two small, doable changes, and add more as those begin to feel natural.

Be specific and actionable. Be clear about how you will put your resolution into action. For example:

Exercise More: I will go for a 20-minute walk after breakfast/work/getting the mail on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Eat Healthier: I will add at least one fruit or vegetable to every meal while cutting the portion size of other foods on my plate.

Lose Weight: I will not bring foods that trigger me to overeat into my home. I will keep fruits and vegetables in plain sight so I am more likely to choose them when I want to eat.

Take Inventory. Record what you eat and how much you move on a few different days. Inventory your pantry, fridge, and freezer to find things that could be replaced with healthier choices. Find your starting point, and don’t set your goal too far above it. “If your goal requires a big change from your current behaviors, it’s less likely you will be successful,” says Tammy Scott, research assistant professor at the Friedman School. “Instead, identify small changes you can make that will gradually move you toward your ultimate goal.”

Exercise More: I am currently inactive, so I will start by finding an activity I enjoy once a week. When that becomes routine, I’ll add another day.

Eat Healthier: I currently eat out or have take-out for dinner many days of the week. I will aim to cook at home at least three nights a week. I will find recipes ahead of time and add the ingredients to my shopping list.

Lose Weight: I tend to skip lunch because I am busy, which leads me to make less healthy choices later in the day. I will plan my lunches for the week and prepare them ahead of time.

Identify obstacles. Obstacles can range from lack of time or unhealthy food in the pantry to procrastination or self-doubt. Identify obstacles in advance and create a plan for removing them.  

Exercise More: I will lay out my work-out clothes the night before and put my sneakers by the door.

Eat Healthier: As I finish less healthy foods in my pantry, fridge, and freezer, I will replace them with healthier options.

Lose Weight: I will write down why I want to lose weight. A reminder of why I started in the first place will help get me through challenging times.

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