They say it takes 21 days to form a habit! Well, January 21st is nearly upon us, and that means some of us resolution-makers have a shiny new habit that is nearly completely formed. But for the rest of us…well, we may be struggling. A new year often means a myriad of new health resolutions. You can see them coming to fruition all around you—the gym is slammed through January and it’s impossible to walk through the bulk food section at Whole Foods without being trampled by a swarm of quinoa-crazed shoppers.
But despite the best of intentions, making a large change to your lifestyle is difficult. Whether your new resolution is to cut back on sugar, kick caffeine, limit booze, dust off your yoga mat or maybe go vegan, you’re going to need all the help you can get. Below are a few ways you can stick to your health resolutions through February, and beyond.
1. Find community
It’s easier to stick to a new lifestyle or keep up with a new hobby if you find a community with similar interests. I’m not saying you drop all of your meat-eating or mimosa-sipping friends, but rather add in some new health-minded buds—in real life, or online. Even if all you do is pick out a handful of great health blogs to read on the regular, or join a vegan brunch club that meets up once a month, the added support will help you stick with your goals. It’s fun to find people to get excited with! I have a few food-crazy friends who I trade food pics with daily. This way, we get to swap meals without clogging up our Instagram feeds with ANOTHER photo of home-made falafel.
2. Tell others
I am not saying you should turn into a preaching machine (no one appreciates that!) but try telling your friends and family about your new resolution. When you tell everyone what you’re up to, this will help hold you accountable. Telling your close friends you’re giving up dairy or trying to add more daily greens into your diet will help you stick to your goal. Maybe it’s just pride, but no one wants to lose face in front of their friends. A few months ago, I got off coffee for a while, and before I made that change, I told all of my co-workers. This way, I was less likely to make a trip to the coffee pot because they would all know I was slacking on my resolution. Even though in reality, no one would care if I got off track, it felt like they would, and it helped me stick to my goal! Thanks, psychology.
3. Make small changes
One of the biggest reasons that people don’t stick with their resolutions is because they try and tackle something that is just too big. They get overwhelmed and find it difficult to stick with it, or they burn out. It’s always a good idea to ease yourself into huge lifestyle shifts by focusing on one small change at a time. If you’re an omnivore, going vegan is going to be a smaller change than going raw. Swapping one meal a day for a juice is going to be easier than jumping into a 10-day juice cleanse. After that change is manageable, focus on another. So if your goal is to eat less processed food this year, focus first on cutting it out of breakfast. Once eating a nutritious whole breakfast is easy peasy, then tackle lunch. Want to exercise more? Don’t burn out by truing to hit the gym 6 days a week right from the get-go. Commit to 3 days a week. Once that’s routine and your spin instructor is basically your new BFF, add in a 4th.
4. Get excited
It’s much easier to stick to healthy resolutions if we find ways to stay excited about them. When I gave up coffee, I went out and bought box after box of new tea. I always had a delish alternative to sip on, and even though the caffeine headaches turned me into a total monster for a few days, I was happy to be trying that new rooibos or chai. So go out and buy some delicious new meat-free products, browse for meal inspiring cook books, hit up iTunes for a motivating workout track list (I’ve been listening to Santigold at the gym recently), or splurge on some new fitness gear.
5. Congratulate yourself
We often tend to be too hard on ourselves. Would you verbally berate your best friend if she slipped off the vegan track? No, you wouldn’t. You would probably remind her that transitions are hard, and giving in to a slice of sharp cheddar doesn’t make her a bad person. So don’t be nasty to yourself, either. Instead, celebrate the small stuff! On your one-month veganniversay, cook an extravagant meal or eat at a fancy restaurant. Finally master the crow pose in yoga? Feel free to brag to your yogi pals about it. You worked hard.This type of self-love will help you stick to your goals all year long.
Want more tips for adopting, and keeping, a new vegan diet? In a recent edition of the New York Times, health writer Tara Parker-Pope writes that successfully going vegan is best done slow, and steady. This is a wonderful read for those flirting with veganism, brand new vegans, and even seasoned vegans! ( I had no idea that nutritional yeast is a fungi that is grown on molasses!) Read it for more excellent tips on sticking with your new veg resolutions—or just to learn how to make the fluffiest pancake! Good luck.