(Feb. 8, 2012) By now, you may not even remember what “New Year’s resolution” you vowed to keep this year, much less be even close to following it! Often such resolutions don’t work because we are changing something we inherently enjoy or are used to routinely doing without much practice in doing so. For example, telling oneself (as I did this year), “No more ice cream,” probably didn’t pan out very well. That’s because most of us thoroughly enjoy it! Perhaps your goal was to stop eating fast food completely, but you find yourself swinging by the drive-through window when you realize there’s nothing at home to prepare for dinner. Perhaps this year, instead of vowing to make drastic changes that don’t even last one month, you can start making slight changes that you can maintain throughout the rest of 2012 and beyond. These small modifications will more than likely provide a similar desired result and set yourself up for more successes in the future.
Set Yourself for Success
Be as specific as possible regarding goals. Instead of setting a goal of eating more fruits and vegetables, make your goal measurable by eating one fruit with breakfast and two vegetables with lunch and dinner.
Be realistic. Setting goals that you know will be nearly impossible to achieve sets yourself up for failure and decreased motivation in the future. Think about where your current behaviors are and challenge yourself only slightly from there. For instance, if you currently make it to the gym one time per week, setting a goal of two to three days per week may be more sensible than aiming to go every day.
Think through the challenges you will encounter. If you want to start eating more fruits and vegetables, think about how you will do that before you sit down for your meal. What kind of planning and preparation will it require to meet your goal?
Build a support team around you. Who will help you stay consistent when you want to give up? Maybe it’s a close friend or family member. Possibly it’s your SHS Health Coach, Dietitian or Dixon personal trainer. Whoever this person may be, keep them close to support you when you need it most.
Pay attention to the healthy environment that surrounds you. Oregon State University has many outlets to help you reach and maintain your goals if you know where to look. Perhaps you decided 2012 would be the year you started drinking more water. OSU has multiple filtered water stations around campus for you to refill your water bottle.
Where to Start? Some Basic Goals for Good Nutrition
Eat more vegetables and fruits. Are you getting the five to nine recommended servings? Research shows that one-third of adults in the United States do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake can be as easy as adding raw vegetables to your lunch bag, carrying a piece of whole fruit to class, or steaming frozen vegetables in the microwave with dinner. Aim to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables!
Make breakfast part of your daily routine. Breakfast has been shown to improve academic performance, increases metabolism, and stabilize blood sugars throughout the rest of the day. This is essential after the eight-hour metabolic slowdown during sleep. Breakfast can also help you get in your whole grain and fruit servings by eating whole grain cereals, bread, oatmeal, berries, citrus fruits or simply an apple. Throw a piece of fruit in your bag the night before if this habit is especially hard for you to maintain.
Drink water rather than sweetened drinks. Cutting out soda or sweetened drinks completely may not be the most attainable goal, but trying to drink more water during the day could be. Water is calorie free and provides ever-so-important hydration that the body needs. Many people are dehydrated and don’t even realize it. If you feel fatigued, hungry after just eating, or your urine is a dark yellow color, you may be dehydrated. So reach for water whenever you can by keeping a re-usable bottle with you everywhere you go and refilling at campus water stations.
Increase the activity of your daily life. If your resolution of going to the gym every day was a bust, try to set more reasonable goals regarding activity. Driving or taking the bus to get to school always seems so convenient, but walking or biking is one easy way to increase your activity level. Other ways include parking in the furthest spot away from the door when running errands or walking to the grocery store if it’s close. Treat every situation as a way to incorporate physical activity.
The most important component to this equation is consistency. Even if you overindulge in that delicious piece of chocolate cake AND miss out on your activity for the day, always remember that tomorrow is a different day. Try not to get frustrated and throw in the towel. Research shows that it takes at least two weeks of consistently performing an action to make it a habit. So try to set one or two small, reasonable goals and stick with them no matter what happened yesterday.
For more information about the nutrition services available to OSU students, visit studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/nutrition.
~ Article by Lynn M. Cordes, MS, RD, LD; Health Educator-Dietitian at OSU Student Health Services