January is a time for new beginnings, a fresh start, that time of year for New Year’s resolutions. A lot of people will resolve to eat better, work out more, and lose weight, and many will try the quick fixes that are advertised all around us – new diets, five minute abs etc. But we all know people who lost weight from a fad diet only to gain the weight back and sometimes even more. The reason for this pendulum of losing and gaining weight is that these people haven’t developed healthy living habits. They’ve merely adopted a system for the immediate future that is very difficult to adhere to for the long term.

Habits that require work and dedication are hard to make and easy to break. And unfortunately, good healthy living habits are becoming more and more difficult to form with the ready availability of T.V., video games, and the cheap subsidized junk food (as well as the simple fact there is just more calories available in general). Even the increased reliance on cars has us sitting more and more each year.

So in order to break the bad habits and form healthy ones, their needs to be a process. Motivation will come and go and there might be false starts along the way. The biggest thing is to keep going, keep reaching towards your goal. In Health’s “Five Tricks to Help Form Healthier Eating Habits”, Cynthia Sass outlines five steps that help create the process of adopting new habits:

  • Derail existing unhealthy habits

  • Repeat new behaviors

  • Create cues for healthy patterns

  • Question conventional notions

  • Find support

Whether the goal is to eat less, eat better, adopt a workout routine, or something else, these five steps are critical in being successful. If you can put a stop to unhealthy habits like snacking out of boredom by not buying snack food or putting it in an inconvenient place to get it, the battle is already half over as stopping bad habits can be more difficult than starting good ones. Repeating new behaviors and creating cues for these healthy patterns comes down to strategy and determination. There will be missed workouts, extra calories in a day, or a break from the diet. The key here is to come right back to the healthy habits, not be self critical, and use the cues put in place (an alarm reminder to log calories or work out for example). Make sure to have support from family and friends as well. It can be very difficult for instance to try a gluten free diet when the majority of food in the pantry contains gluten.

Lastly, I would add one more trick to help maintain the recently formed healthy habits and that is to keep things fresh. Try new recipes or exercises. Keeping routine fresh keeps the enthusiasm for following these new healthy habits.

As the new year begins, and new year resolutions are made, remember to plan for long term success and create healthy lifestyle habits rather than following a short lasting fad.