Mercifully, 2021 is almost over, and as we look toward the bright future that awaits us next year (when all our problems will certainly be solved), it’s tempting to set some big sweeping resolutions that will position us to come out of 2022 a better person. Too bad the most common resolutions are the ones that are doomed from the start.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t make plans or set goals. There’s lots of room to work toward new and exciting things if you really want to. But please avoid never-gonna-happen health-related resolutions like the following.
Stop eating sugar (or insert “bad” food item here)
Cutting out sugar (or caffeine, or specific foods like desserts or coffee) is the kind of thing a person can do temporarily. We all know somebody who gave up sugar for a week or a month. But ultimately, desserts are part of life, sugar is not the actual devil, and it’s good to have some flexibility in your diet lest you succumb to unhealthy thoughts and behaviours around food.
Try this instead: The World Health Organisation recommends limiting added sugars to 10% of your total calories. If you can do that no problem, they say it’s even better to get sugar down to 5% of calories. That still allows you plenty of opportunities for something sweet here and there while keeping the overall balance of your diet pretty healthy.
Lose X number of pounds
Weight loss is not necessarily a healthy goal for everyone. Even if you’re doing it for physical health reasons, obsessing over the number on the scale isn’t always good for your mental health. So if you do want or need to lose weight, you should probably take a more thoughtful approach than simply picking a number on the scale and sacrificing everything to get there.
Try this instead: Consider what will make you healthier even if you don’t lose weight. Exercising 150 minutes per week? Eating more fibre, veggies, and protein? You can do those things alongside weight loss goals, or even instead of them. That way you’ll be supporting your health whether you end up losing your goal weight or not.
Do an exercise you hate
Do you hate running? Then why are you resolving to become a runner? Do you hate going to the gym? Then why have you resolved to join a gym? I’m all for giving things a chance even if you think you’ll hate them, but the emphasis there is on trying the new thing — not committing to suffer through it for an entire year.
Try this instead: Is there an exercise you have actually enjoyed in the past? Maybe you could find a way to do it, or to find something similar. Join a dance class, for example, or take up hiking. Or if you really don’t know what you want, try something different each month of the year and see what sticks.
Anything that was a resolution last year
If the same dang resolution has been on your list for years, what makes you think this year is going to be any different? Yeah, I know, I’m being the wet blanket on your dreams right now. But if you couldn’t make this resolution work last year or the year before, it may not be right for you.
Try this instead: What can you learn from your previous attempts? Maybe your resolution required perfection; this time, set some more realistic goals (like “meditate every week” instead of “meditate every day”). Or maybe your resolution was too vague. If so, take it piece-by-piece and make a plan, not a wish.