Many people see the new year as a fresh start, a chance to reinvent themselves and set goals to make their upcoming year incredible. A common goal is to get in better shape and eat a healthier diet. Putting this into practice for a full 365 days can seem unrealistic, leading a lot of New Year’s resolutions to die out before February, according to Business Insider.
Fortunately, there are several ways students can form healthy habits to reach and maintain their goals.
Nutrition lecturer and registered dietician Arlene Grant-Holcomb recommended students keep their health and fitness goals simple so they can reach them one step at a time, rather than having a long list to tackle all at once.
“My feeling is, and I think the research shows this, is that if you take on too many changes, it gives us too many opportunities to fail, become frustrated and then to kind of throw in the towel,” Grant-Holcomb said. “My advice, if somebody asks me, is to look at the big picture, and of all these things that you’re hoping to change, which is the one [thing] you think you can accomplish over the next 30 days?”
Grant-Holcomb said that after someone accomplishes their first goal, they can add the next one and go from there.
Nutrition professor and registered dietician Corinne Kohlen recommended a similar approach to health and fitness goals, adding that having a reward system that is not based around food can keep students motivated.
“Celebrate the small victories,” Kohlen said. “Do some non-food rewards. Maybe new clothing or going out to the movies, or a new pair of running shoes if you are meeting your goals, like going to the gym five days in a week. Foods are used as a reward a lot, but that actually can create some unhealthy habits.”
Kohlen also said students should try to write their food down in a food journal, which makes them more aware of how much they are eating and more conscious of the food they’re choosing. She said pen-to-paper writing is often more effective than typing it out or using an app to track food, though she noted that there are some great apps available for that purpose.
According to both registered dieticians, students should follow a nutrient-rich diet paired with healthy exercise instead of following some of the fad diets that are promoted by some media outlets and celebrities.
“The fact is that they may get some short-term benefits, but most fads or unproven strategies to live a healthier life sometimes don’t have really good long-term results,” Grant-Holcomb said.
Kohlen suggested developing a realistic timeline for weight loss because many young people want to see quick results.
“In order to lose weight at a healthy rate, you’ll lose a maximum of two pounds a week, and for most people, it’s closer to one pound a week,” Kohlen said. “That can be a hard lesson in patience for some people, but the diets and routines that create those quick results are generally unhealthy and less sustainable.”
Kohlen and Grant-Holcomb also said there are ways for students to hold themselves accountable for their goals, like attempting to reach their goals with a friend. This way, the dieticians said, they can be more motivated. Grant-Holcomb also recommended students take advantage of the resources on campus that are covered by tuition, such as PULSE and the Recreation Center.
Grant-Holcomb said there is a program within PULSE in which students can get assistance in reaching and maintaining their goals, as well as have another person to be held accountable to.
The Recreation Center on campus also offers opportunities for students and faculty to reach their fitness goals on a more personal level. According to recreation, parks and tourism administration senior and Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Recreational Sports Personal Trainer Ellie Erickson, every student and faculty member is entitled to one free personal training session.
“Consider it ASI’s gift to you,” Erickson said.
Erickson also suggested students attend the free Poly Body + Being classes that are offered through the Recreation Center. She said each class focuses on specific areas of exercise, nutrition and overall mind and body wellness.
“Take advantages of the resources that you have while you’re here,” Grant-Holcomb said. “It will never be as easy for you to use those resources as it is right now. Once you get these habits as a student, then you’re out working a 9-to-5 job, it’s already a part of your lifestyle.”