Making and keeping realistic New Year’s goals

December 13, 2012

With New Year’s resolutions prompting people to ditch bad habits for good ones, it’s important to make sure health-related goals are realistic.

Mary Beth Robinson

Mary Beth Robinson

Ambitious goals can take significant time to accomplish, and that wait can cause many people to lose motivation and slip back into their bad habits, says Mary Beth Robinson, a registered dietitian with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center.

People who want to lose weight should aim to lose between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight, Robinson says.

“Losing that amount of weight has proven to decrease blood sugar levels, lipid panels and can increase your heart health,” she says. “It’s enough to show someone that they are achieving success. It’s enough to make a difference in appearance and how they feel. “

Even people who have lofty goals of losing 50 or 100 pounds should start with the 5- or 10-percent benchmark so they aren’t discouraged when their goals aren’t accomplished within a few weeks or months. Likewise, setting the 5-to-10 percent goal also will keep people who need to lose a lot of weight from going back to bad habits after just dropping a few pounds.

It’s the part of the goal that is measurable the helps people from pressing onward, Robinson says.

“People can just say ‘I want to be skinny,’ or ‘I want to exercise more,’ but it’s been proven that we need something to measure so we can know if we’re making progress,” she says. “If you want to increase exercise, commit to exercising three times a week for at least 20 minutes at a time. You will easily know if you are meeting your goal.”

Although some people often are tempted to study various diets and consult with weight-loss doctors before embarking on a fitness program, Robinson says it’s always helpful to begin making healthy lifestyle choices immediately.

“A doctor’s visit is something that can be procrastinated,” she says.

Substituting water for sugary drinks and fresh vegetables for chips and other snacks does not need to be put off until a later day.

It also helps to keep a positive attitude, Robinson says. Instead of focusing on the sugars and snacks left out of a revamped diet, people learning to eat healthy should focus on embracing new, healthier foods.

“People should think about the foods they can increase, like making sure they are getting more fruits and vegetables in their diet,” she says. “Set a goal of trying out a new vegetable or healthy snack every time you visit the grocery store. That positive attitude and easily accomplishable goal can make a weight-loss goal become reality.”

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