It is the evening of December 31st and another year is rapidly coming to a close. Many people use the last day of the year as a time of reflection. It is a time to look back on the good and the bad of the previous year and start to think about what you want to do to make the next year better. It seems like all the talk at parties, on blogs, and with friends is about what you are going to do to better yourself in the next year. People often use New Year’s Resolutions as a way to try and guarantee a better upcoming year. There are even foods that you are supposed to eat to have a better and happier New Year including 12 grapes at midnight, leafy greens, black eyed peas and lentils (which I do not recommend if you are following a paleo diet), and pickled herring.
Some of the most common New Year’s Resolutions include losing weight, getting organized, saving money or getting out of debt, learning something new, quitting smoking, and spending more time with family and friends. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, weight related resolutions make up approximately 38% of all resolutions. (I actually expected weight loss goals to be much higher on the list). Self improvement or education related resolutions top the list at 47%. This year, approximately 45% of Americans will make New Year’s Resolutions but only 8% of people will be successful in achieving their resolutions. So if you are one of the people who doesn’t make New Year’s Resolutions, you are definitely not in the minority. But for those of you that plan to make a New Year’s Resolution or have already made one, here are a few tips to help get you into that small percentage of people that actually succeed in keeping their resolutions.
One of the biggest myths about making habits is that it only takes 21 days to create or break a habit. The actual length of time it takes to make or break a habit varies from person to person and on the type of habit that someone is trying to create. Creating a habit takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days (almost 8 months) but the average time is approximately 66 days(1). Even though I think programs like the 21 Day Sugar Detox and the Whole 30 are great, they are starting points and definitely will not make for a life long habit.
Here area a few things to think about when making a resolution or planning to create a new habit:
- Simpler tasks and smaller goals become habits more quickly.
- Creating habits will take time and effort. It is not something that will develop overnight.
- Habits should be action centered.
- It is easier to make a new habit than to break a current one.
- Pick a habit that you want to make, those recommended or chosen by others are less likely to be kept.
- The goal should be specific and simple. For example, don’t make weight loss your goal, choose to make one or several daily habits that will result in weight loss.
- Goal should be measurable / trackable. You will be more likely to stick with it if you can see your progress.
- It may seem obvious, but make sure the goal you are setting or the habit you would like to make is actually attainable.
A scientific paper was published in The British Journal of General Practice(2) to provide physicians with an easy way to teach their patient’s how to create new habits. This advice isn’t only great for physicians but for anyone trying to create a habit. A quote from the paper put it very simply, “habit-formation advice is ultimately simple – repeat an action consistently in the same context.”
The 6 steps based on psychological theory and research to habit formation are(2):
- Decide on a goal that you would like to achieve for your health.
- Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis.
- Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week.
- Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.
- It will get easier with time, and within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without even having to think about it.
- Congratulations, you’ve made a healthy habit!
If you want some more great tips on creating habits, Gretchen Rubin takes you through 21 strategies to help you make or break habits in a book she wrote called Better than Before. She also runs a blog and has a podcast. You can find out more information about her at gretchenrubin.com.
I can’t write a post on a paleo website without giving a few tips and ideas for some small changes that can help anyone transition from their current diet to a paleo one:
- Remove added sugar. This can occur in several small steps – replace soda and juice with water, stop eating desserts, reduce the amount of fruit by replacing a few servings of fruit with more vegetables. If removing desserts is too difficult, find recipes to make paleofied versions of your favorite ones. This is a great way to transition you and your family, but definitely should not become the norm once you have adjusted.
- Replace industrial and vegetable oils (canola, soybean, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed) with healthier ones (avocado, coconut, olive, etc).
- Remove grain from your diet
- Gluten containing: wheat, barley, rye, and oats
- Other: corn, rice, quinoa
- Eat more veggies. You can start by adding an extra serving at dinner, then another at lunch and finally try to get creative and add some vegetables to your breakfast.
- Stop eating beans (this includes peanuts which are actually legumes, aka beans).
- Try to incorporate healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates into every meal (the proportion of each of these macronutrients will vary from person to person).
For those that are already following a paleo lifestyle, here are a few habits you may want to try to make the lifestyle more beneficial and more fun:
- To avoid getting stuck in a rut, decide to make at least 1 new recipe per week. Pinterest is a great source for finding new recipes.
- Switch from conventional meat to 100% grass fed meat if your budget allows.
- Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I have been a part of a CSA and you receive vegetables that will force you to try new recipes because you will likely receive some in your box that you have never heard of before.
- Eat organ meat once a week. If that is too much for you, start with once a month.
- Replace your plastic containers with glass or BPA and phthalate free options. This can be done all at once if you have the money, or gradually as you can afford.
- Replace toxic cleaning products with more natural ones. As you empty your current cleaning products make it a goal to replace it with less toxic versions.
The list could go on and on. What are your New Year’s Resolutions to create a healthier and happier paleo version of yourself? Whether you decide to try to create new habits or not, best of luck in the New Year!! I look forward to helping you make this transition or enhance your current paleo lifestyle as I continue to build this blog in 2016.
1. Statistic Brain Research Institute, (2015, January 26). “New Years Resolutions Statistics.”
Source: University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology
2. Gardner B. et al., Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. Br J Gen Pract. 2012 Dec;62(605):664-6. doi: 10.3399/bjgp12X659466