University of Florida

Healthy Living in the New Year

Many people set goals of losing weight during the New Year, but healthy weight loss requires a commitment to adopting new habits. Improving your eating habits or adding exercise can be difficult, but setting realistic goals can make changing your lifestyle easier.

A healthy weight loss program includes the following:

  • A realistic, reasonable weight loss goal.
  • A reduced calorie, nutritionally balanced diet.
  • Regular exercise.
  • A regular routine to help you plan and stay on track with your goals.

Healthy weight loss should be about developing good habits to last a lifetime.

Be Realistic

When trying to get in shape for the first time or after a long break, we often set overly ambitious goals.

Start small—set short-term goals that are easy to achieve rather than unrealistic ones that will leave you frustrated and disappointed. As you begin to feel more empowered, the rest of the weight loss will become more attainable, and you will be less likely to get discouraged.

Gradual weight loss is healthier and easier than quick weight loss, and you're more likely to develop good habits to keep the weight off in the long term.

Set Goals for Yourself

Make a Specific Plan

Vague goals, such as "I will exercise three times a week," are hard to stick to. Set specific goals: Which days? What time? What kind of exercise will you do?

For example, you might exercise every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. Write down your exercise schedule in your planner or calendar so that you can plan around it.

Use Teamwork to Your Advantage

Friends and family can also help you stick to your plan. Ask if your neighbor wants to go on a walk with you twice a week. Have your family pick healthy recipes they'd like to try at mealtimes.

Consider joining a weight loss group or visiting a health care professional such as a registered dietician.

Pace Yourself

If you want to quit smoking, lose 20 pounds, and start jogging three times a week, start with one of these goals instead of all three. Chances are that if you quit smoking, exercise will eventually become easier and more appealing, and then you will lose weight.

If you try to change everything all at once, you're more likely to get frustrated and quit rather than see your resolutions through.

Do What You Like

If you absolutely hate gyms, you probably shouldn't get a membership to one. Find a different way to exercise that will appeal to you: ride a bike, walk with a friend, or join a yoga class.

If you love red meat, it would probably be hard to quit eating it altogether. Instead, strive to eat less red meat by reducing your portion size or occasionally substituting chicken or fish. There are plenty of ways to change your lifestyle without trying to change who you are.

Be Nice to Yourself

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Major lifestyle changes are difficult, and unrealistic expectations can make them harder. If you aren’t meeting your goals, don't give up. Readjust your timeline, and keep going. If you skip an exercise session or if you eat too much one evening, don’t beat yourself up about it—just get back to your routine as soon as possible.

Reward Yourself

If you stick to your plan for a little while, come up with positive ways to give yourself a pat on the back. Take yourself to a movie, buy a CD you've been eyeing, or get a massage. (Try not to use food as an incentive or a reward.) Remember, your resolution is not meant to punish you, but to benefit you.

Get Started Now

You don't need to change your entire routine at once, just start doing something. You can refine and change your plan as you go. Even very simple changes—like eating a little less salt every day—will still benefit you. Incremental change is still change.

For information on healthy eating, nutrition, exercise, or any other topics, contact your local Extension agent.

Adapted and excerpted from:

"Losing Weight," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (08/2011).

"Interested in Losing Weight?" National Agricultural Library, USDA (06/2011).


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