Why It's Time for a New Year's Resolution Revolution

Goal-setting for weight loss success

Plus size woman running in Central Park, New York during a beautiful day

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The new year is rife with new opportunities and fresh starts. It's a time for reset and renewal, particularly after holiday indulgences. With enthusiasm and motivation coursing through your veins, you may be filled with hope and optimism that this is the year. The year when you'll finally lose weight, quit smoking, eat healthier, exercise more, get that raise or promotion…achieve your long-time goals for self-improvement.

You may have lofty, admirable goals of making major changes and are ready to go all-in with your New Year's resolutions. And yet, it may not take long before you realize that you may have made more promises than you are actually capable of keeping. It turns out that some grand declarations, well-intentioned as they may be, are neither realistic nor feasible.

By the end of January, many lose the wind in their sails and fall back into old habits again, and the cycle continues for another year. But all is not lost—it is possible to create New Year's resolutions you can actually stick to and still achieve your goals. Here's how to get started.

Before you set the same unattainable goals as last year, make this the year you work toward real and lasting change.

Sustainable Resolutions

The secret to rooting your New Year's resolutions in reality begins not by trying to change everything all at once but by focusing on one thing at a time. Realistic intention-setting is about establishing a goal by getting clear on what it is you're aiming to accomplish, and then looking at the necessary action steps you'll have to take every single day in order to get there.

Think of it as starting at the finish line and working backward from there. Once you recognize the steps needed to get to where you're going, you can make a plan to stay on track. By making small, incremental changes to your daily habits, you are more likely to stay committed to the path. And the key is to ensure your new, healthier daily habits are also realistic and doable for the long term.

For example, I'm going to quit eating carbs to lose weight is maybe not as sustainable for the long run as I'm going to choose whole grains instead of refined grains at least half of the time and reduce my added sugar intake to no more than 200 calories per day.

When you're ready to create your sustainable resolutions this year, whatever they may be, start by asking yourself these important questions:

  • What do I really want for myself this year?
  • And not just this year, but every year?
  • What is one thing I can do each day to lead me closer to that goal?

Once you've established your long-term goal(s) and at least one feasible daily habit you can realistically set in motion, then it's time to commit and take action.

Think of each day that you successfully commit to your new healthy habits as a stepping stone along the journey of progress toward reaching your goals.

The Road to Long-Term Weight Loss

Despite the fact that many people know they'd feel better both physically and mentally if they took steps to live a healthier lifestyle and perhaps lose some weight, the problem is that healthy, sustainable weight loss isn't a one and done project.

It's all too common to get amped up and ready to take charge of your health on New Year's Day. But it doesn't take long before that impulse begins to fade as other things take priority and your weight loss goals fall by the wayside.

True, life is demanding and busy, full of seemingly endless responsibilities and to-dos—from getting the kids to school to doing your job to tending to household duties to dealing with that bothersome cold you caught over the weekend, and so on.

The problem is the "idea" of losing weight is often just that—a wonderful idea that lies somewhere in the future when you have the time and energy to tackle it. But the truth is the best time to start taking better care of yourself and your health is now.

When it comes to healthy weight loss, it's not about reaching a number on the scale as fast as possible. Crash or fad diets may shed pounds quickly, but the weight will inevitably come back once normal habits and activities are resumed. Studies show that a consistently healthy diet and regular exercise are integral to a successful long-term weight loss.

By getting real about weight loss and creating a practical plan, you'll be able to reach your goals sooner than you might think.

If have a larger body and weight loss is recommended for you, having a goal to lose weight is important for your health and longevity. Research shows that obesity and physical inactivity is a leading cause of chronic illnesses like heart disease.

The Truth About Weight Loss

While weight loss can be good for your health, going to certain extremes to achieve it generally isn't. For instance, not getting enough calories and not exercising is a recipe for not only relapse and weight gain, but could take a toll on your mental and physical health as well.

It may be important for you to think about your reasons for wanting to lose weight. Weight loss is not a smart choice for everyone. If you have concerns or questions about your weight, speak to your healthcare provider to get personalized advice.

Use the following truths about weight loss to formulate your own unique plan for weight loss success that works best for you.

The Process Is Slow

When it comes to sustainable weight loss, the process is usually slower than you expect and almost always slower than you want it to be. And when your results don't measure up to all that hard work in the short term, the burst of motivation you felt on January 1 may begin to subside. Still, it's important to keep going and take your journey day by day. Slowly losing weight over the course of a year or more will increase your chances of keeping it off for good.

You Can Make Up for Lost Time

Even if you've spent the last six months on an exercise hiatus, remember that it's never too late to get started. However, making your exercise comeback with a full week of intense, all-out 2-hour workouts is a recipe for soreness, burnout, injury, and an intense dislike of exercise.

If you have been sedentary or if you have a medical condition, speak to your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. Your provider can make suggestions about modifications if necessary. Then start slowly based on where you are right now.

For example, if you aren't exercising at all, don't commit to exercise most days during the week. Start by adding one or two days of exercise per week. After you reach that goal consistently for a several weeks, add a day of exercise and see how it goes. Setting realistic goals and reaching them will help you feel accomplished and boost motivation.

Regular Exercise Is Key

Research shows that a healthy diet leads to successful long-term weight loss, but diet is only one part of a healthy lifestyle.

Guidelines suggest a certain amount of exercise you need for optimal heart health. For many, it's more than we realize (about 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week). But that doesn't mean you need to do that amount of exercise when you first start out.

Everyone needs a different amount of exercise based on a number of factors such as level of fitness, age, sex, genetics, body type, body fat, weight, diet, and lifestyle, to name a few. But for anyone, regular exercise is crucial for long-term weight loss and overall health. Begin with a simple program that takes into account where you are now and build slowly, making consistency your goal.

Acknowledging the hard truths about weight loss will help you devise a realistic plan of action you can stick to for the long term.

Creating Realistic Weight Loss Goals

Once you know the facts about weight loss, it inevitably becomes easier to embrace a healthy diet and exercise plan as a lifestyle rather than a life sentence. In doing so, you'll approach the process with less guilt and frustration and more enjoyment and motivation. You'll start to feel better from the inside out, which will help you focus on where you're at on your journey instead of where you wish you could be.

Follow these tips for setting realistic long-term weight loss goals:

  • Be patient. Take your time when easing into exercise. That means setting aside the goal of losing weight fast and focusing more on giving your body and mind the time they need to get stronger.
  • Experiment. If you haven't exercised in a long time (or ever), it may take some time to find a rhythm and figure out what works for you. You may start a program only to realize it isn't working—maybe the schedule isn't quite right or the workouts aren't suited for your body type or current level of fitness. If you have a health condition, it may also prevent you from doing certain forms of exercise. Take time to experiment. Assess and reassess your diet and exercise program and make changes along the way. Changing course may cut into your progress in the short term, but will lead you toward an effective program you can adhere to for many years to come.
  • Keep going. Don't give up on yourself—even when you're not losing weight or when life gets busy, and especially when you just don't feel like it or you start doubting yourself. Whatever's going on in your mind, your body, or your life, you have to find ways to keep going through it all—one day at a time, year after year.

A Word From Verywell

If weight loss is your goal and you are ready to take charge of your health in the new year, talk to your healthcare provider about sustainable strategy that prioritizes your health. Once you determine what you need to do to reach your weight loss goals, you can decide if certain resolutions are realistic for you.

This year—and every year for that matter—you have a choice. You can do what you've always done, or you can try something different. Whether it's a new year or simply a new day, you always have the freedom to reevaluate your choices. What works today may not work tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year.

It's important to recognize when something is no longer working and respond accordingly with practical solutions rather than beat yourself up over it. This is an important step in your health journey and will set you up for long-term success.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Booth FW, Roberts CK, Laye MJ. Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseasesCompr Physiol. 2012;2(2):1143-1211. doi:10.1002/cphy.c110025

  3. Benton D, Young HA. Reducing calorie intake may not help you lose body weightPerspect Psychol Sci. 2017;12(5):703-714. doi:10.1177/1745691617690878

  4. Koliaki C, Spinos T, Spinou Μ, Brinia Μ-E, Mitsopoulou D, Katsilambros N. Defining the optimal dietary approach for safe, effective and sustainable weight loss in overweight and obese adultsHealthcare (Basel). 2018;6(3). doi:10.3390/healthcare6030073

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By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."