Welcome to 2022: Healthy behaviors and new year resolutions

The beginning of a new calendar year may spark the motivation for some individuals towards initiating healthy lifestyle change
The beginning of a new calendar year may spark the motivation for some individuals towards initiating healthy lifestyle change

For many people worldwide, the beginning of a new calendar year is a time of celebration, reflection, and resolutions. The most common resolutions are aimed at improving physical health and diet, and at achieving weight loss.

However, data shows that resolutions focused on weight loss and increasing physical activity may not be as successful as we would like to think. A study of New Year's resolutions kept track of 200 participants who had defined goals related to behavioral lifestyle change, such as weight loss, starting new exercise regimens, etc. The study results showed that after one week into the new calendar year, 77% of the participants sustained their resolutions, but this number decreased to 40% after six months.

Why is it difficult to achieve and sustain goals related to improving our health?

For many individuals, maintaining goals, such as weight loss and eating a well-balanced diet, can be challenging. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), goals must be sustainable to achieve long-term success. The reality is that most individuals create goals that are overwhelmingly challenging and unrealistic.

So, if you want to lose 10 kg in one year, for example, break down your long-term goal into smaller achievable goals, such as focusing on 2 kg weight loss every four weeks. In approximately five months you would have achieved your 10 kg weight loss. However, it does not stop there. Achieving a weight-loss goal may be easier than sustaining the lost weight. The key is to create behavioral modifications in your everyday routine that will help you to sustain long-term weight loss.

Long-term sustainability of healthy behaviors to improve overall health
To improve overall health, it is important to reflect on daily nutrition and physical activity along with maintaining a good quality of sleep, avoiding tobacco and other risky substances, managing stress, and building healthy social connections. Learn about the recommended guidelines on healthy behaviors for various age groups by trusted organizations like the Ministry of Public Health, Qatar and the World Health Organization (WHO). As some examples: for a healthy diet, WHO recommends eating a variety of nutrient dense food from all food groups, limiting added sugars to less than 10% and fats less than 30% of the total daily caloric intake; the Ministry of Public Health, Qatar and the WHO recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week or 75-150 minutes of a mixture of moderate and vigorous-intensity activity for physical activity among adults along with two days of muscle-strengthening exercises for increased health benefits.

Achieving healthy lifestyle change can be an enjoyable process in partnership with family, friends or work colleagues. Try preparing new healthy meals or snacks together. Sharing healthy recipes or planning cooking challenges for the best-tasting healthy dish can help with motivation and engagement in the process. If you are someone who enjoys walking, try to create weekly goals of walking briskly for 30 minutes most days of the week to achieve the recommended physical activity level for adults. You can even walk with family or friends as a social activity or create a weekly or monthly walking challenge.

The beginning of a new calendar year may spark the motivation for some individuals towards initiating healthy lifestyle change. However, keep in mind that behavior change goals must be realistic, achievable, enjoyable, sustainable, and unique to an individual’s need. Consistency and seeking support from family and friends can help maintain and sustain personal goals. Always choose trusted sources of information to help guide the journey towards self-care and good health.

National Center for Biotechnology Information | National Institutes of Health | World Health Organization | Ministry of Public Health Qatar

Contributors: Ms. Jasmine Aboughanem, Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Dr. Amit Abraham, and Dr. Karima Chaabna

Editing: Mr. John Hayward