Every year I make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, but I never do! How can I actually stick with my resolution this year?
Good question! You’re certainly not the only one feeling the frustration of not sticking with your resolution. Did you know that gym memberships jump in January, only to decrease again by March? LOTS of people vow to lose weight in the New Year—and very few actually achieve their goal.
It seems like your question has two parts: how you can actually lose weight, and how you can keep working on your goals.
First, if you want to lose weight, see your doctor. They can give you advice on whether you should lose weight, and how to do so healthily. Understanding some food basics, like portion sizes and how to read a nutrition label, is always a good place to start. But how to be your healthiest is a question only you and your doctor can answer.
As for how to keep working toward your resolution, think about what kept you from meeting your goals in the past. Did you get discouraged when you didn’t lose weight fast? Were you not sure where to start? Do you actually want to lose weight? Your resolution should be something achievable that you really want. If you just feel like you should want to lose weight, or know your parents want you to lose weight, you won’t be as motivated.
Make your resolution behavior-related instead of goal-related.
Instead of “lose five pounds,” consider making your resolution, “eat five servings of vegetables each day” or “exercise three times each week.” This makes your resolution less complicated and entirely within your control. Losing five pounds may sound simple, but it’s often not. You may have to start grocery shopping and cooking for yourself, which may mean budgeting and keeping a schedule. Think through these issues and what you’ll do to overcome them. Avoid absolutes like “give up junk food,” because they can feel impossible, and ultimately backfire.
Once you’ve decided on your resolution, figure out how you’re going to achieve it.
You can track how you’re doing using a notebook, or download a free habit-tracking or goal-setting app, such as Strides, Productive, or Habit List. You may have to try a few to see what works best for you. Ask a friend or family member to act as your motivator—feeling accountable to someone can help you stick with your resolution, and they can also support you when you’re feeling discouraged.
And finally, be kind to yourself.
There may be times you fall back into old habits. That’s totally ok! Don’t think you’ve failed just because you didn’t exercise this week. Instead, congratulate yourself on working out last week, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Remind yourself of other ways you’ve worked hard toward your goal. Beating yourself up won’t help you with your resolution. Instead, it’ll most likely make sticking with it even harder.
If you want a little extra support and are 10-22 years old and live in the NYC area, you may want to join Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center’s Teen Fit program. In addition to a variety of free workout classes, you also get free sessions with a nutritionist, and (if you want them) mental health services. Sometimes having that extra encouragement and structure makes a huge difference!
A version of this post was originally published in December 2016.