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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Simple Plans to Achieving Your Health Goals
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Jim Roemmich, Ph.D.

Remember the New Year’s resolution that you made to improve your lifestyle? You may have resolved to eat healthier, to increase your physical activity or to lose weight. Making a resolution was a good start to being healthier because taking the first step increases the chances that you will attain your goal.

It is important to check-in on your resolution frequently to assess progress. So, how are you doing with meeting your resolution?  If you’re making progress, great job; you’re in the minority.  While making a resolution is a good start, it is often not enough to attain your goal. Only 8 percent of people are successful at achieving their resolution.

Even with the best of intentions to eat healthier or to be more active, implementing those behaviors consistently can be a struggle. Chances are that you may be looking for new ways to succeed in meeting one or more of your resolutions.

Many environmental? household? features aspects? of daily living can become barriers to achieving healthy eating and physical activity goals. People are tempted by [readily available?], great tasting, high-calorie foods, and by comfortable chairs positioned in front of big-screen TVs. Such temptations are really good at drawing one’s attention. Resistance is diminished with each encounter.  Ultimately, it’s easier to choose less healthy foods, and to become sedentary than to choose healthier foods and to be physically activity.

Here is a strategy that has worked for many people:  make an “implementation intention” plan.  Specify what healthier behaviors you will pursue, when you will do them, and how you will overcome anticipated barriers.  You may want to change home and work environments so that high-calorie foods and TV access are less accessible? You may want to resolve to be physically active for 30 minutes, 3 days per week. An implementation intention plan would help you to realize that goal by planning the days of the week to be physically active.  Perhaps on Tuesdays and Thursdays you will go to the gym or the park after work, avoiding the food and sedentary temptations at home; on Saturday you will walk in your neighborhood first thing. Address the common barrier of “not having enough time” by writing your schedule on a calendar and letting others in the household know that you will be home later on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Include arrangements for who will prepare the evening meal, or plan to eat-up leftovers on those nights. Modify your implementation intention plan as needed to make it most effective for your success.

Understanding how to keep motivated to eat healthier at home, at work and in restaurants, and to be more physically active in general can help you keep on track  Implementation intention plans are easy to create and have been used to increase healthy eating and to increase physical activity. They may help you realize your resolutions too.

You can find more information about healthy eating, increasing physical activity, and reducing sedentary behaviors at www.cnpp.usda.gov.


Last Modified: 5/13/2013
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