Small Changes Do Add Up
Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAN, Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training
For the New Year, a few small changes in your eating habits can yield big results.
Do you remember the resolutions you made last year? If you’re like most people, you probably vowed to eat better, get more exercise – and maybe floss more often. So, looking back, how did it go? Did you accomplish all you set out to do? Or, did you start the year out strong – then fell back on your old patterns?
You’re not alone. With nearly 80% of resolutions failing by February, it’s not surprising to find yourself making the same resolutions again this year.
This may surprise you, but I think that’s okay – and here’s why. If you make the decision every January to shape up, then you’re saying that taking better care of yourself matters a lot. If it weren’t important, you wouldn’t keep working at it. And just because you make the same promises to yourself every year, it doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t accomplish anything in 2018.
Here are some ideas to help you reflect on your accomplishments and inspire you to jumpstart this year’s resolutions:
Any Improvement is Good
Maybe you didn’t exercise as much as you planned, or ate as carefully as you intended. But if you’re still doing better than you were the year before, maybe it’s because you managed to chip away at a few bad habits. And that’s great – because the little changes in the way you do things every single day can really add up. And, you can continue to build on these small successes throughout the year.
Don’t Do Too Much at Once
It’s great to be ambitious, but if you try to tackle too many changes at once, you could be setting yourself up for defeat. Making resolutions is the easy part - making them stick is what’s hard because you have to do things differently. It takes time to undo a bad habit, which is why repetition is so important. But it’s a lot easier to repeat a small, relatively easy task than one that seems positively Herculean.
Identify the Obstacles
In order to achieve your goals, you have to figure out what’s getting in the way of your progress.
Find out why you’re not doing what you plan to do, and how you can make it easier. It’s easy to say you’re going to eat more fruits and vegetables, but it’s hard to do if you don’t keep them in the house. But that’s not enough.
Once you’ve got them in the house, you have to make it easier for yourself to eat them. So maybe you make sure to keep a stash of fruit in the freezer to add to protein shakes. Try keeping a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter to remind you that fruit makes a great snack. Or, keep some cut up veggies handy in the refrigerator where you’ll see them every time you open the door looking for something to munch on.
But most importantly, set realistic goals to whatever changes you plan to make and make them specific – not “I’m going to bring my lunch to work more often”, but “I’m going to bring my lunch to work twice a week.” That way, at the end of the week, it’s easy to determine if you’ve met your goal or not.
Small Changes Do Add Up
And just because the changes are small, doesn’t mean they don’t add up. If that twice-weekly homemade lunch has 300 fewer calories than your usual lunch from a restaurant, that’s a savings of over 31,000 calories in a year, which could translate into a loss of 9 pounds. If you grab a piece of fruit instead of a bowl of ice cream every night after dinner, drop another 10 pounds by next January…from just that one small change.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about how the small changes you make can add up – changes in the way you shop, prepare and serve your food, and changes in the way you approach menus and restaurant dining. I’ll give you my best tips for making changes that will last – adding up to small wins that will help you lead a healthier and happier life this year and in the future.