What you’re doing wrong with your New Year’s resolutions

Give up soda, start an exercise regime or start meditation. These might be just a handful of goals you have for the new year.  But by the end of January, 36 percent of New Year’s resolvers have thrown their hands up in the air and said, “Better luck next year.”  It’s normal to want to reboot your life come Jan. 1, but before you go crazy with your New Year’s resolutions list, you want to consider these common mistakes that could set you up for failure, rather than success.

Mistake #1:  You set your goals too broad.

Goals like losing weight, eating healthy and exercising are too ambiguous to execute. Make sure your resolution passes the SMART goals test. It should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.  Instead of aiming to eat more vegetables, commit to incorporate at least one vegetable in at least two meals per day.

Mistake #2:  You don’t hold yourself accountable.

If there are no consequences surrounding your goal, you are more likely to make excuses, fall behind or give up.  You have to put yourself in a situation that makes it difficult to slack off.  If you thrive on encouragement, ask a friend, family member or a trusted health expert to make sure you are on track with your goal. For example, if your resolution involves exercise, participate in a team challenge or set non-negotiable exercise dates with a friend so you can’t bail at the last minute.

Mistake #3:  You’re not tracking your progress.

Monitor your progress. Whether it’s stepping on the scale, tracking your workouts or journaling your activities, tracking what you do can increase your chances of following through with the changes you need to make. It also allows you to recognize and celebrate milestones along the way, a process that’s vital to keeping you confident and motivated.

Mistake #4:  You allow lapses to become relapses.

Slip ups will happen, but successful resolvers use these to strengthen their determination. Recognize your mistake and learn from it.  Confidence is a strong predictor of success. To boost your ‘can do’ attitude, focus on playing up your strengths and don’t get hung up on your weak spots or missteps.  If you are dining at a friend’s house or are at a party, you can bring a side of fruits or vegetables next time to ensure you have healthy options available.

Mistake #5:  You do not develop realistic plans to achieve your goal.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.  Before you take action, make a list of things you can do each day to achieve your goal. Then, include weekly and monthly milestones you want to hit. Breaking your goal down into several smaller short-term goals helps you stay focused and feel accomplished, even on hard days.

Effective New Year’s resolution ideas to get you started:

  • Do your daily workout in the morning.  You’ll be less likely to schedule something over your exercise time or skip it because of a last-minute change in your schedule.
  • Make a workout date with a friend. If weather precludes outdoor activities, invite your friend to your house and get your sweat on in your living room with a streaming fitness program.
  • Slowly change your diet. Eat two extra servings of vegetables every day for a month.
  • Get creative. Try one new dinner idea every week that has a lot of vegetables.
  • Make a slow-cooker meal every Sunday. Eat the leftovers or repurpose the rest for meals later in the week.
  • Turn to homemade food. Bring your lunch to work every day for the next month.
  • Hydrate. Drink a glass of water every morning when you wake up and before every meal.
  • Consume less carbs. When eating out, swap your carb-filled sides (such as fries or rolls) with vegetables or fruit.

Pick one or two, but no more than three specific, measurable, attainable yet realistic resolutions that are compatible with your schedule and fitness level.  Start small and build on these after they are implemented and habitual. Make this year the one where you accomplish the resolutions you have set for yourself!


Ann Caldwell and Maureen Shackelford are nutritionists and registered dietitians at Anne Arundel Medical Center. To reach them, call 443-481-5555.

Originally published Jan. 7, 2019. Last updated Dec. 30, 2019.