How to succeed with your New Year's health and wellness resolutions: Expert

Research shows resolutions can be hard to maintain as the year goes on.

December 30, 2023, 8:43 AM

A new year brings new opportunities and a fresh start to our health and wellness journeys.

"It is always wonderful that the New Year is a time of reflection and aspiration," said Dr. Amanda Velazquez, director of obesity medicine at the Cedars-Sinai Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Health in California.

Year after year, many people make ambitious New Year's resolutions. But even though resolutions -- especially those focused on improving health and weight loss -- are common, research shows they can be hard to maintain as the year goes on.

Here are five expert tips on how to actually succeed with your health and wellness resolutions in 2024.

Set achievable goals based on need, not tradition

"Oftentimes, if we set ourselves goals that are not realized, this can be disheartening and discouraging," Velazquez said.

Start small and gradually build. For example, if you're planning to start an exercise regimen, consider starting with going for a walk once a day for 30 minutes several times a week. Increase it until you reach the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week.

Look at your health holistically

"Oftentimes, we get honed in on certain data points, especially ones that are more valued in societies," Velazquez said. But health is more than a number on the scale.

Has your exercise tolerance improved? Do you feel like you have more energy during the day? Ultimately, what matters most is your overall well-being.

PHOTO: Writing goals for 2024 for New Year.
Writing goals for 2024 for New Year.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

It's OK to say no

We sometimes feel a need to accommodate others.

Whether it's your friends inviting you out for a night on the town, or having meals with friends and family, it's OK to say no to foods and habits that don't align with your goals.

Consider suggesting an alternative healthy activity that aligns with your goals.

Have a support system

"It can be challenging at times when life is throwing you curveballs [that] you have to navigate," Velazquez said. "I have my patients understand that we are a team."

Consider finding someone to help keep you accountable as you pursue your goals. The National Institutes of Health suggests you can harness the power of social relationships to gain healthier habits.

Having a friend, family member, significant other or colleague to discuss challenges you're encountering can be encouraging and help keep you motivated.

Stay positive

Focusing on the negatives will likely take away your motivation.

"Human beings like to think about things as all or nothing," Velazquez said.

People often abandon their goals after a slip-up or two. But it's best to move on and make healthier choices next time. Believe in your capabilities and continuously remind yourself about the impact your lifestyle changes will have on your health.

Edward King, M.D., is a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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