How to Reframe Lofty Health and Fitness Resolutions for the New Year

Be crushing your #goals come the second week of January, not giving up on them.

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We’ve all been there before: Writing down meaningless and often lofty health and fitness resolutions like “exercise more” or “lose weight,” hoping to become the best and healthiest version of ourselves by January 31. But with lofty and directionless goals come a lot of steps in many different directions. Instead, try taking many steps in one direction and see where that gets you in 2020. Using these tips from Kara Lydon, a registered dietitian who runs Kara Lydon Nutrition and writes the blog the Foodie Dietitian, and Jay Weedall, head coach and co-owner of Ethos Fitness and Performance, reframe your health and fitness resolutions this year into actionable and easy-to-follow steps.

1. Break your goals down into a step-by-step process

Weedall says this is similar to wanting to get a promotion at work. “What would be the first 10 steps you’d need to take to make that happen?” he asks. When members come into Ethos Fitness wanting to change their lifestyle, he will often look at potential pitfalls first. “We discuss things like time constraints, the environment, and who they would need to enlist for support, and all of a sudden statements like ‘I want to lose weight’ become a step-by-step process.”

2. Reframe “resolutions” as “decisions” 

“The word ‘resolution’ has such a short term and intense connotation to it that, at this point, I think the word itself misguides people,” Weedall says. “Let’s call health and fitness resolutions decisions. You can decide to take the stairs or the elevator. You can decide to go to bed or watch one more episode. These are the kinds of small but regular decisions that add up to something impressive.” His tagline for members at Ethos is: You are always one good decision away from being right back on track.

3. Drop the all-or-nothing mentality 

Weedall says resolutions are a double-edged sword. On one side, they provide people a point in time to focus on something. On the other, however, they create the scenario where people are waiting for the “perfect time.”

“That’s the fallacy,” he says. “There is no perfect time. There is only time itself. I think it is the human condition to want to do everything perfectly the first time. But it is this all-or-nothing mentality, mixed with the fear of failure, that often keeps us stuck in one spot. My advice to people, then, is to start where they are. Start now.”

4. Figure out the underlying intention 

When it comes to eating healthier, Lydon says there’s so much societal pressure on people to set a New Year’s resolution. One of the biggest resolutions—losing weight—is not attainable long-term, she says. “Not only is it vague, but it also doesn’t address the underlying intention,” she says. “If the intention to eat healthier is rooted in guilt or shame to conform to a societal standard (or pant size), it will be hard to stay intrinsically motivated. Instead, a goal to aim to eat consistently throughout the day to support your energy and mood may be more helpful.”

5. Stay aligned with your values 

“To foster greater success with setting goals for the new year, I suggest first doing some values work,” Lydon says. “Download a list of values online and take the time narrow it down to find your top five core values. From there, you can create intentions or goals for the new year that are actually aligned with what is most meaningful to you.”

6. Approach it with an abundance mentality 

Lydon says she’s not a fan of health resolutions like “Dry January” or “Sugar-free January,” explaining that it sends the wrong message about how “health” can be achieved. “These types of resolutions can create a scarcity mentality,” she says. “They can end up backfiring into feeling out of control around the thing you were restricting. The path to a more sustainable approach to wellness involves an abundance mentality and realistic behaviors that we can sustain.”

7. Show up for your body 

At the end of the day, Lydon says to take a step back and widen your view of health. “Are you prioritizing sleep? Stress management? Are you seeing a therapist? Do you engage in small acts of self-care throughout the week? One of my favorite questions to ask my clients is, ‘What is one small way that you can show up for your body today?’ If you ask yourself this simple question regularly, you can focus on your wellbeing throughout the entire year.”