How to Get Back on Track With Your New Year's Resolutions

  • Close-up of coffee mug that says Hello Monday Let's Do This
    Recapture Your Resolution Motivation
    Many people kick off the new year with at least one health and fitness resolution. Maybe it’s broad, like “Lose 20 pounds,” or maybe it’s very specific, like “Go to the gym three days a week.” But keeping New Year’s resolutions is trickier than some people think, and you may find yourself falling off the wagon by February or March. Many people do. In fact, one reported study found that people quit their fitness resolutions in just two weeks! But you don’t have to give up on those healthy habits you resolved to cultivate. Follow these 6 tips to get yourself back on track.

  • Caucasian teenage girl standing in front of chalkboard with motivational phrases
    1. Remember your “why.”
    When you resolved to eat healthier, lose weight, or get fit, you did it for a specific reason. What was it? The process of getting back on track might start with finding your “why” again. Some people resolve to embrace healthy habits so they can reverse their type 2 diabetes. Or bring their cholesterol numbers down. Maybe you want to run a 10k race, or simply look better in clothes. No matter why you made a health-related resolution to begin with, remembering your reason might help you recapture your motivation.

  • Young African American woman sitting in bleachers with notebook looking up thoughtfully
    3. Set SMART goals.
    Many management gurus say goals are easier to accomplish if you structure them to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. If you quit your resolution because it was overly broad–such as simply “lose weight”–try writing down a SMART goal, like: “Lose 20 pounds (specific) at a rate of one pound per week (measurable and achievable using a healthy diet plan) so I can fit back into my favorite jeans (relevant) by June 30 of this year (time-bound).” The best New Year’s resolutions probably are structured as SMART goals.

  • Young Caucasian woman in woodshop wearing work apron holding smartphone
    2. Evaluate how realistic your goal is.
    Some people create a New Year’s resolution list so ambitious they ditch it almost immediately. If you’ve been sedentary your whole life and suddenly resolve to run a marathon in two months, well, that’s a recipe for failure. If you fell off the resolution bandwagon, go back and review your goal. Is it realistic for your current health status and lifestyle? If not, set a more modest goal: walking for 30 minutes three times a week or eating an extra serving of vegetables at every meal. You’re more likely to stick with these goals than anything too grandiose.

  • Senior Caucasian man in modern apartment practicing acoustic guitar
    4. Strive for progress, not perfection.
    Some people give up on their New Year’s resolution the first time they slip up. Perhaps they went over their calorie limit one day, or they missed their gym appointment. They figure they might as well throw in the towel because, obviously, they’re failures. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cultivating healthy habits requires patience over the long term. If you gave up on your resolution too early, start over immediately. You don’t have to be perfect, just persistent.

  • Clear piggy bank filled with coins against pink background
    5. Find new motivation by betting on yourself.
    If you quit your New Year’s resolution because you ran out of motivation, find a new way to rekindle your enthusiasm. How about money? At least nine smartphone apps allow you to place cash wagers on your ability to meet fitness goals like achieving 10,000 steps a day, losing a certain percentage of your body weight, or training for a 10k run. You compete against thousands of other people who also wagered on themselves, and the winner gets cash and sometimes other prizes. This could be just the motivation you need to get back on track.

  • Unseen Caucasian man in exercise clothes tying shoe and wearing smartwatch
    6. Don’t forget to reward yourself.
    Many people resolve to get fit based on their health metrics. They aim to lower their cholesterol levels, A1C or blood pressure numbers. But let’s face it: Sweating hard at the gym in an attempt to move the needle on a lab value six months down the road is not very motivating. To get back on track with your resolution, set up a rewards system for incremental victories, like losing 5 pounds or going to the gym three times in a week. Buy yourself a new gadget or workout wear to stay on course.

How to Get Back on Track With Your New Year's Resolutions

About The Author

As “the nurse who knows content,” Elizabeth Hanes, RN, works with national and regional healthcare systems, brands, agencies and publishers to produce all types of consumer-facing content. Formerly a perioperative and cosmetic surgery nurse, Elizabeth today uses her nursing knowledge to inform her writing on a wide variety of medical, health and wellness topics.
  1. 26 Ways to Actually Stick to Your Workout. Active.com. https://www.active.com/fitness/articles/26-ways-to-actually-stick-to-your-workout
  2. Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. https://www.umassd.edu/fycm/goal-setting/resources/smartgoals/
  3. Fitness Apps that Pay You to Lose Weight and Get in Shape. Techlicious. https://www.techlicious.com/tip/apps-that-pay-you-to-get-fit/
  4. 5 Foolproof Ways to Stay Motivated. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understand-other-people/201603/5-foolproof-ways-stay-motivated
  5. Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail. U.S. News. https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2015-12-29/why-80-percent-of-new-years-resolutions-fail
  6. Focus on Progress, not Perfection. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/focus-on-progress-not-perfection/art-20267203
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Mar 29
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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