The New Year is here and 2020 is behind us. No matter how you were impacted by the challenges of 2020, we all learned some critical lessons on how to protect our health and boost our immune system.
New Year’s resolutions are often based on health, but for 2021 we understand the importance of practicing healthy habits in a much greater way. We understand that physical activity and a healthy, nutritious diet are key to promoting good health.
If you know you want to improve your lifestyle, but you aren’t sure where to begin, AICR’s 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations are a great resource to help you get started. The recommendations encompass all the elements of a healthy lifestyle and can guide you as you set new health goals.
Use the suggested New Year’s resolutions below and adjust them to fit your specific health needs. Turn your resolutions into SMART goals by making them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely for your own lifestyle.
“I will be healthier by choosing to eat better and be active,” is a great goal for better health, but it’s a broad goal without specifics. We took some broad goals and broke them into examples of SMART goals below, so you can see how setting this type of goal is less overwhelming and more attainable.
- I will eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans.
- SMART goal example: I will eat two servings of vegetables every day either in a meal or a snack this week.
- I will limit consumption of “fast foods” and other processed foods that are high in fat, starches or sugars.
- SMART goal example: I will choose one serving of a plant-based food for my afternoon snack 5 of the 7 days this week.
- I will limit consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and/or alcohol and drink mostly water.
- SMART goal example: I will limit my soda consumption to 2-12 oz servings each week.
- I will cook at home more and eat away from home less.
- SMART goal example: Instead of ordering take-out, I will pack a lunch for work four days per week by making a salad or preparing extra dinner at home.
- I will exercise daily.
- SMART goal example: Three days per week, I will walk at moderate intensity for 20 minutes.
Setting New Year’s resolutions is a great start, but following through with a New Year’s resolution is the challenging part. Here are some tips to help you stay focused throughout the year:
Choose something you really want to change. If you’ve wanted to get healthy before and your focus was weight loss, try a different perspective. Instead of weight loss, focus on choosing nutrient-rich foods that provide your body with the proper fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that it needs. Or, learn to practice mindfulness around eating times and focus on how you are feeling while eating. Engage in stress reduction by getting daily activity outside with children or your significant other.
Let it Evolve
Our SMART goal examples above are designed to be one step in the right direction. Once you’re consistently reaching your goals, make them more challenging or choose a new goal to add in. For example, do you want to eat out less and cook at home more? Take one cooking class on a simple topic like cooking with whole grains and build your knowledge over time.
Accountability and Commitment
Change is hard to do alone. Set goals with a spouse, parent, child or friend and hold each other accountable. Or, find somewhere to volunteer like walking dogs at a local shelter, delivering meals, picking up litter in public areas or volunteer for maintenance at community gardens or park trails.
Keep Your Goal Front and Center
Don’t just create your goals and forget about them. Tell someone your goals, write your goals down in a journal or make a vision board to keep you focused.
Remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and build on your goals over time to work towards a healthier you.