It’s not difficult to imagine the great results you could get from making an ambitious New Year’s Resolution.  As we approach springtime, many of us may end up changing those initial resolutions or straying from them altogether.

Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Whether you’re looking to drop a few pounds, save more of your money, or finally change up your unhealthy eating habits, it’s bound to be a challenging feat.  New Year’s resolutions may not typically be long-term for everyone, but there are a few tips and tricks to remember when trying to stick to a new and possibly drastic lifestyle change.

Start Small

More often than not, our New Year’s resolutions can seem so appealing that we jump into them headfirst without much planning.  If you’re truly serious about wanting a change, you should assess your own situation and be honest about what little choices have to be made along the way.

University of Michigan graduate Karie Whitman said she struggled less after college when trying to make lifestyle changes.

“After college, I started eating healthier and drinking less alcohol.  Out of that environment, it was much easier to get away from takeout, bar food, and going out with friends ‘for just a few drinks,’” Whitman said.

Whitman offers a piece of advice to “pick small goals you can deal with.” Being able to set small goals to reach and celebrate will keep you motivated and able to continue with your big change.

“I’ve learned that if you drastically change your fitness and health with some giant goal, it’s not going to be a lasting change.  You’re going to end up reverting,” she said.

Know The Difference between Healthy and Skinny

For those of us trying to fit into those skintight jeans and thin tank tops this spring, it won’t always be an easy transition—there is a difference between trying to get healthier and simply trying to get skinnier.  Crash diets, cleanses, and severely reducing calories won’t help in the long run.  If you’re looking to be a better version of yourself, be sure you’re aware of the distinction between the goals of healthy versus skinny.

MSU student Kate Bailey has struggled with that distinction in the past.

“I was so focused on ‘being skinny’—whatever that was—that I lost sight of what was most important: being healthy,” Bailey said.

She recently started working out last fall at the Spartan CrossFit gym and instantly fell in love.

“After spending a few weeks at CrossFit and being forced to set goals for myself, my mindset began to change,” she said.  “I eat foods that support my health and avoid those that don’t. I no longer focus on the superficial things, such as weight.”

Over her journey, she found that the best combination for success with a healthy lifestyle change is “pairing fitness that you really love with eating to better your health.”  These changes take time to become permanent, and you have the mental capacity to make them happen.

Willpower is a Muscle

Your willpower will get stronger with time as you learn to exercise it just like any other muscle in your body.  When you’re focused on a goal, remind yourself of it daily in order to make appropriate decisions.  Once you’ve learned to say “no” to that unnecessary purchase or double cheeseburger, you’ll feel stronger and less prone to those dreaded spending or eating binges.

At a certain point, we all feel powerless in our own lives when we go through those inevitable setbacks.  A study by Vanessa M. Patrick of the University of Houston and Henrik Hagtvedt of Boston College suggests that the way you talk to yourself or others about your goals will influence your ability to stay on course.

By using terms like “I don’t” rather than “I can’t,” you let yourself regain the power.  Saying “I don’t eat pizza” is different than “I can’t eat pizza.”  When you reinforce your choices like this, you’ll be more likely to stay determined and encouraged.

Change is a Present Activity, Not a Future Destination

You’re making choices with every single action in every second of the day.  Do you have homework to be doing right now? Are you on Facebook when you should be going to the gym? Not making that call is a choice.  You are the only person who can change yourself, and you are much stronger than you may give yourself credit for.

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