New Year’s resolutions abound in January. Come March, many of us are feeling dissatisfied with our progress toward these resolutions. I would like to propose a more satisfying approach to behavior change, which is really what we are talking about here.
According to the science of human behavior, successful resolutions involve a three-step process: cue, routine, and reward. Start by identifying cues that trigger your desired behavior change, such as a specific time of day or a particular situation. Next, establish a routine or action plan to respond to these cues in a consistent manner. Finally, incorporate a reward system that reinforces the positive behavior you wish to create, to help foster a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue. By applying these steps, you will increase the likelihood of successfully adopting and maintaining your New Year’s resolutions, fostering positive and lasting behavioral changes in the process.
Whether we are trying to create a new habit or break an old one, it typically takes a minimum of 2-3 weeks of doing the new behavior every day or stopping the old one to affect our likelihood of repeating that behavior. For example, snacking after dinner even when you are not hungry. Every day, for 2-3 weeks, try having a non- caloric beverage in place of a food snack, such as a homemade flavored water (ie. cucumber water), seltzer or unsweetened tea instead. Your body will likely appreciate the fluid. This will help with a weight loss goal if your resolution includes one.
Speaking of goals, let’s be realistic. You may have an overall goal of losing a given number of pounds but try setting your goal in smaller increments. For example, set a goal of 2-4 pounds by Valentine’s Day, another 2-4 pounds by Spring, another 2-4 pounds by Memorial weekend, and so on. The achievement of each small goal will motivate you to continue the effort and reinforce the behavior change that occurred. Before you know it, your end goal has been reached. You can also use birthdays or anniversaries to set your smaller goals, whatever is most meaningful to you.
Exercise is another common resolution that we make. Keep in mind, if you do not like going to the gym, this will not work for you. Look for opportunities to move more, whether it be mall walking, biking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Find an exercise buddy (human or canine) and go for walks together. Regular physical activity does great things for one’s body and you will find that you do not want to miss your daily exercise. As you reach your milestones, factor in a little reward for yourself such as spending time with a friend, taking a day trip to a desired destination, or joining a class to learn a new craft.
Most importantly, remain positive and keep in mind that life happens. When your new routine gets interrupted, and it will, just pick up where you left off and carry on. Along the way, you will have created healthy habits that you can be proud of.
Water with a Twist
Choose one or more fruits or vegetables such as: Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Strawberries, Pineapple, Cucumber
Feel free to mix and match different fruits and vegetables!
Eat the fruit as you drink or when you’re done!
Variation: Use seltzer water instead of plain water.
Food Safety Note: Keep cold or drink within 2 hours. Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Nutrition facts are for sliced cucumber.
About the Author
Diane is a former Registered Dietitian who is passionate about nutrition and community health. She is an educator in Cornell Cooperative Extension Herkimer County’s Building Healthy Habits program, educating the community about healthful eating and exercise habits. She enjoys riding her horse Levi, gardening, and spending time outdoors.