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2021, here we come: How to achieve realistic new year's resolutions

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2020 was a difficult year for all of us, and many of us are ready for the new year to arrive. As with every new year, millions of people across the country are going to make a new year's resolution, many relating to their health.

We sat down with Kristin Castine, DNP, RN, ANP-BC, and assistant professor for the Michigan State University College of Nursing on tips for how to set and accomplish realistic new year’s resolutions.

Q: What advice would you have for people in terms of making new year’s resolutions as it relates to health?
A: A lot of people set new year’s resolutions that are too grand and too unrealistic. Take small steps, you can’t go 0 to 100 in whatever you’re doing. Especially as you get older, you're at a higher risk of injuries and that sabotages what you’re doing. If you’re going for weight loss and you can get some physical activity in there, as well as healthy eating, then that helps it come off quicker. You can get injured if you don’t think realistically and don’t do it incrementally. It’s also important to be specific. For example, if you want to lose weight, the goal shouldn’t just be, “I want to lose weight,” rather, how much? What’s your timeframe? One or two pounds a week is normal. Make sure you also come up with a plan on how you’re going to accomplish it. It’s also good to get some support. Make sure the people closest to you are on board. Lastly, make sure it’s something relevant and real to you. It has to be something you want to do.


Q: What are the greatest challenges people face when trying to accomplish their new year’s resolutions?
A: Trying to stay motivated. A lot of these things and habits we want to change didn’t just come on overnight. You have to be realistic and realize, for example if you want to lose weight, it didn’t just come on overnight and it’s not just coming off overnight. You have to have a mindset on how realistic that might be.


Q: What are ways that people can stay motivated?
A: A lot of people find little ways to reward themselves. I’m not talking about, if you’re trying to lose weight, being like, “I’m going to eat this huge hot fudge sundae.” But doing something more realistic like, “there’s a Netflix movie I really wanted to see, I’m going to watch that to reward myself.” Another important thing to do is to keep track of what you’re doing — something like a FitBit or free apps you can download on your phone if you’re a little more economical.


Q: How can people bounce back if they’ve taken a step back from their new year’s resolution?
A: When you have a bad day or had a week off, you just have to recognize that you’re human. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes, and that doesn’t mean that all your efforts thus far are trashed. You just need to recognize your humanness and just start over in that moment rather than just saying, “I blew that.” Allow yourself to be human. Nobody does a perfect resolution.


Q: What can people do to prepare and make an educated new year's resolution?
A: You need to set the stage for success. Let’s say that you want to lose weight. You need to start by looking at how you’re shopping. When you go to the grocery store, maybe eliminate those foods that aren’t the best choices. Try to pick healthier choices and avoid those “red-light foods,” which are those foods that you can’t really resist or control how much you eat. Another thing to think about: In January, they put all the exercise equipment on sale, so start looking and shopping. There are also a lot of things you can do minimally, like buying a yoga mat that’s on sale or even yoga videos on DVD. YouTube is also a great resource.