How to Take Your New Year's Resolutions to the Next Level

Dutch researchers asked 585 participants to pick between four snacks: an apple, a banana, a candy bar and a molasses waffle. About half of the participants indicated that they would choose the apple or banana. But, when presented with the actual snacks a week later, less than ¼ of people actually picked the fruit. And almost everyone who had initially made an unhealthy choice stuck with it. The researchers concluded that while we are in control of our intentions, our actual choices are often made impulsively, even unconsciously. (See “Snacks Overpower Our Best Intentions)

You can set out with great intentions, but unless you have a plan to control your environment, you are left with only a good idea.

So how do you control your environment? Here are five strategies to take with you into the New Year:

  1. Do your prep-work: The number one key to controlling your environment and sticking to your guns is preparation. Carve out some time once or twice a week to cut vegetables and fruit, portion out lean proteins, and put healthy snacks into plastic bags and containers. Check out this idea for a “Snack Station.” It doesn’t take a lot of time to assemble, but will have a huge impact on what you choose when you open the refrigerator.
  2. Clean out the cupboard: Trying not to eat Oreos? Then why are they in the house? There is always room for treats, but as the above research study demonstrates, it is nearly impossible to choose the fruit you neatly cut up for your snack station when there are treats in arms’ reach.
  3. Bring your lunch: You will be able to better control your lunch choices when you prepare ahead of time rather than waiting until noon (when you are starving) to find something.
  4. Be a savvy restaurant eater: Look at menus ahead of time online or use Healthy Dining Finder (which also has an app) to find the best options near you. Many restaurants now post their menus online, sometimes with the nutritional information as well, and it’s always good to check it out ahead of time so that you have a chance to determine your best option and how you would like to order it (ex. not brushed with oil or butter, sauces on the side, steamed vegetables or a baked potato instead of fries, etc.). By choosing what you will eat before you get to the restaurant, you avoid making a poor decision driven by hunger.
  5. Cook in bulk: Sometimes, I think this is my answer to everything. I believe in doing the prep-work once and utilizing the freezer. Having frozen soups, stews, and cut vegetables saves me during busy weeks.

Keep in mind that taking on all of these strategies at once may be overwhelming, and do more harm then good if something does not work. One of my favorite quotes is by Truman Capote: “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor”. Pick one of these strategies to try, then and once that’s been incorporated into your lifestyle, try another. By controlling your environment, to the best of your ability, you will set yourself up to make healthy choices.

Cheers to a happy and healthy new year!