Resolve to Get Healthy

Health, Home & Family
on January 6, 2002

The year is new and so perhaps is your determination to make health a priority. Many Americans take advantage of a fresh start, resolving to take better care of their health, whether that means losing weight, eating better, exercising regularly, or performing regular maintenancegoing in for dental or physical checkups.

The keys to making a successful resolution are a persons confidence that he or she can make the behavior change and the commitment necessary to make that change, says Alan Marlatt, a University of Washington professor who co-conducted a study on factors in successfully keeping resolutions.

Making resolutions is a process, not a one-time, sudden effort undertaken simply to change bad habits, that study revealed.

To keep this years resolutions, Marlatt suggests that you first make a strong initial commitment to make a change. If youre not ready to take the necessary steps to change, you may not stick with your plan and feel defeated.

Use coping strategies to deal with problems that arise. For example, if you begin skipping your exercise, enlist the help of a friend, because exercise is more fun with a buddy.

Other experts offer these tips to help you reach your goals:

Set specific, reasonable goals for yourself. Avoid setting yourself up for failure by trying to accomplish too much.

Have a plan. If you want to lose weight, decide specifically how to achieve that goal. For example, what type of weight loss plan will you try? If you begin exercising, will you work out at a gym or walk in your neighborhood?

Put your resolutions in writing and post them in a place where youll see them frequently. Such a reminder will help keep you on track.

Avoid all or nothing thinking. Rather than telling yourself, I will never do X again, allow yourself room to make adjustments if something isnt working.

Be persistent. Fewer than half of the people in Marlatts study achieved their top resolution on the first try. Most took multiple tries.

If you struggle to keep your resolutions, dont give up. Instead, examine the barriers you encountered and change your plan if necessary. Compare it to driving a car: If you make a wrong turn, you dont give up driving. Instead, you make the turns necessary to get back on the correct road.