This year, I want to exercise more, lose weight and eat better – sound familiar?

That’s because some of our most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around adopting healthier lifestyles. While it’s easy to come up with a resolution, many of us struggle to stick to it. Research shows that, by February, 80% have abandoned their resolutions.

So, what’s the key to making a lasting, healthy, New Year’s resolution? Muhammad Bhutta, MD, a primary care provider with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, shared what it takes to beat the odds and make your healthy resolution a lifestyle change.

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Be SMART with your goals.

When making your New Year’s resolution, always aim for “SMART” goals – those that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

“Of those, the most important are achievable goals. If you aim for something unachievable, perhaps losing 10 pounds in one week or cutting carbs out of your diet entirely, you have a much higher chance of giving up your resolution,” Dr. Bhutta said.

Use technology to help with weight loss.

If a resolution revolves around losing weight, he recommended taking photos of your body before the New Year to help you notice changes you may not see on a daily basis. He also encourages patients to follow the USDA MyPlate app and consider using calorie-counting apps like MyFitnessPal.

“If it starts to feel too difficult, reassess your goal or take a break and get back to it the next day,” Dr. Bhutta suggested.

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Cutting snacks or adding exercise are a good place to start.

“I typically recommend cutting down, or out completely, sugary drinks such as juice, and snack foods that are high in calories with little to no nutritional value,” Dr. Bhutta said.

A SMART goal to set might be to eat only one to two snack foods one day a week for the year. Another could be to incorporate moderate-intensity exercise into your weekly routine. Start with 20 minutes once a week and gradually build yourself up to 30 minutes, five days per week.

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The benefits of a healthy lifestyle

Resolutions can serve as motivation for positive change. Some of the biggest benefits of a healthy New Year’s resolution include:

  • Improvements in heart, brain and blood vessel health.
  • Reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes and many types of cancer.
  • Increased mood and energy levels.