How to Succeed in Making Health Resolutions Stick

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On New Year’s Eve, did you make a health resolution to physically transform your body in some way—lose weight, get leaner, gain muscle or increase stamina?

Or, did you vow to have more energy, eat “healthier”, or to experience relief from uncomfortable symptoms, like chronic bloating and gas; joint pain; or skin conditions (e.g., acne or eczema) in the New Year?

And…did you resolve to achieve your health goals by eating less (or better), exercising more and/or having “more willpower”?

You are not alone.

The top 3 New Year’s resolutions for 2019, according to a recent Inc. survey were1:
1. Diet or eat healthier (71%)
2. Exercise more (65%)
3. Lose weight (54%)

Also…among the top 10 were:
6. Quit smoking
9. Drink less alcohol

Unfortunately, only 8% of Americans successfully achieve their New Year’s resolutions, suggests a University of Scranton study. Every year, people tend to make the same resolutions (often health-related), pledging, on average,10 times, to change a potentially harmful behavior. This cycle of resolving to change—trying but not succeeding—is what social researchers call False Hope Syndrome; it is especially common among people trying to lose weight.

Many New Year’s health resolutions fizzle by end-January. In fact, Strava, a social network for athletes that tracks bike rides and runs, pinpointed the exact date that Americans are most likely to bail on fitness resolutions: the third Thursday of January, or January 17th in 2019!2  If you can stick with a new routine, habit or lifestyle for three months, research shows that you are more likely to succeed in achieving your New Year’s health resolution.3


If you are reading this, my guess is that you want to know: what does it take to be successful in reaching your health goals (like losing weight)—and to sustain them long term?  How do you become a “health warrior”, someone who perseveres—and succeeds—despite challenges, obstacles and distractions along the way?

Whether you want tolose weight, have more energy or improve your overall health, the key to achieving your goal is MINDSET.

To help you understand why mindset is so important, I am going to tell you about Caylie, a former client who has kindly agreed to share her story.


Caylie is 27 and works in the fashion industry, where being tall, thin and beautiful is viewed as an asset. When Caylie came to see me, her main health goal was to physically transform her body. Ideally, she wanted to weigh 20 pounds less.

Trying to lose weight had been an ongoing struggle, one that felt both frustrating and discouraging. Caylie had done juice cleanses and Whole 30, a 30-day elimination-style diet program. She had tried “exercising more” but struggled to find a fitness routine that fit into her busy work schedule. Even when she did exercise more, it failed to produce the results she wanted. “Considering how much—and how rigorously—I worked out, I would have expected to be in better shape and to weigh less!” she said.

She had also been on hormonal birth control for 10 years. For many women who are on the pill, weight gain (even though it may be gradual) is often a side effect of taking synthetic hormones.

Caylie had had a checkered relationship with food. She grew up in a family that loved food, but she associated that “love” with overeating. And, the food her family enjoyed was not necessarily healthy or nutritious. Growing up, she said, nutrition was never a topic of conversation. From ages 12 to 14, Caylie perceived herself as “heavy” (even though she was thin) and either starved herself or took diet pills and laxatives to lose weight. It was an uphill battle for Caylie to develop a healthy emotional relationship with food and to view it as nourishment.  Over time, however, she became an adventurous foodie who appreciates quality over quantity. Along the way, she also began cooking, something about which she is passionate; this also reinforced a positive and healthy relationship with food.

Despite having a healthier relationship with food, Caylie could still be derailed by stress. “I had always been an ‘all-or-nothing’ type; as soon as I got slightly off track with whatever dietary or workout plan I was following, I would feel discouraged and throw it all away,” she said.

She came to me because: “I wanted to take control of my life,” she said, adding “I was tired of convincing myself that fad diets would jumpstart a proper lifestyle change. I wanted to give my body what it needed to be happy and in balance. And I knew that I needed education and coaching to get there.”

During the three months we worked together, Caylie demonstrated an open mind and a willingness to do the work.

Awareness.  Where is your body right now? Cultivating awareness of what makes your body feel good—or not—is key. Caylie kept a food diary, tracked her digestion, and rated biomarkers of hormone balance on a daily basis. She also weighed and measured herself once a week. We also reviewed her bloodwork from a recent annual physical to get a sense of her inflammation status and any potential nutrient deficiencies.

Education.  Knowledge is power. Using the information, resources (including my eating plan) and the customized guidance that I provided, Caylie learned about the important roles the gut health and hormones played in weight management. She was able to make informed decisions about what was best for her body: “I assumed that I had damaged my metabolism because of my unhealthy weight loss tactics as a teenager. Understanding the science behind hormone balance and a healthy metabolism has been very empowering for me.”

Action.  Are you willing to take purposeful action?  Caylie was. She switched from hormonal birth control to a non-hormonal form. She accepted the reality that her body reacts negatively to gluten, dairy and nightshades and has removed them from her diet. She has switched up her mostly cardio workouts to include interval training and weight training. She makes an effort to cook—even with a busy schedule.

The Results  

Caylie lost inches, most noticeably around her waist!

She stopped caring about the number on the scale. “In the past,” she says, “I could physically feel AWFUL, but that did not matter….as long as I had achieved my goal weight. Now, I am happiest when my body feels light because I am not eating foods to which I am reactive—and I appreciate the inches that I’ve lost!”

She continues to use the tools from her program to stay on track. “Whenever I feel like I’m in a slump—for example, if I’ve been traveling a lot—I go back to logging my food and measurements because it helps me hold myself more accountable.”

Caylie is now mindful of meal timing and how foods can affect her mood and energy level.

She has a more balanced perspective about exercise. “It was hard to let go of the idea that ’more exercise is better’ because I would not feel like I had really worked out unless I exhausted myself.”

When it comes to achieving a healthy weight, Caylie has shifted to a “progress—not perfection” mindset. Her main takeaway? “The key to long-term success,“ she says,  “is understanding that backsliding and slip-ups are not the end-all. I now feel like I have an arsenal of knowledge to get me over the hump if I feel unmotivated or stressed about work. Instead of hoping for a “quick fix” or dramatic (unsustainable) results, I now have healthier expectations about my body and what it takes to nourish it. I appreciate the lasting, positive changes that I have made.”

The confidence that you develop from being proactive about your health can spill into other areas of your life. By the end of three months, Caylie felt like she looked good, AND she felt good. Shortly after we completed our work together, Caylie received a significant promotion at work!


Caylie exemplifies how mindset is key in achieving results. In my practice, I have found the clients who succeed in making sustainable strides toward their health goals share the following mindset qualities…

1.  I am willing to invest in my health.

Maybe you’ve consulted Dr. Google, read endless blogs, engaged in Instagram detoxes or fitness challenges, or tried a diet that worked wonders for your best friend, co-worker or sister. Yet, you STILL CAN’T LOSE WEIGHT, or you still feel exhausted. Getting help from someone who has helped others achieve the results you want—whether it’s me or someone else—can help take the guesswork out of a health challenge. Having support, guidance and education can help you stay on course—even when there are setbacks.

2.  I am willing to use integrative and alternative health practitioners—functional medicine doctors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors, nutrition health coaches, etc.—who address my body, as a whole (not just my symptoms), to reach my health goals.

A conventional medical doctor may not be an ideal one-stop shop for the answers you need to resolve your health issues. Why? Because an appointment with a medical doctor lasts, on average, between 9 and 13 minutes, depending on the reason for your visit.4  More often than not, you will leave that visit with a prescription for a drug, a surgery recommendation, birth control pills, or an anti-depressant, which may temporarily relieve your symptoms, but not address the underlying root cause.

Besides recommending that you “lose weight” or “reduce stress”, conventionally trained medical doctors rarely provide guidance re: nutrition or lifestyle habits—they simply don’t have the time. It is also important to understand: despite the connection between poor diet and many chronic diseases and conditions, most medical schools in the U.S. teach less than 25 hours of nutrition over 4 years—and less than 20 percent of medical schools have a single required course in nutritionaccording to Dr. David Eisenberg, adjunct associate professor of nutrition at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.5

Keep in mind: conventional medical doctors are not necessarily up to date on the latest healthcare research or newest treatment protocols. If you ask whether eating gluten can cause inflammation in the gut, they may emphatically say “No!”  This is because it can take as long as 17 years for new research findings to enter a medical practice; even then, only a fraction makes it in, researchers have found.6

3. I am willing to keep an open mind.

Shoshin, a Zen Buddhism word meaning “Beginner’s Mind”, is the practice of keeping your mind a metaphorical blank slate when you are learning something—even if the subject is one on which you may be well-versed.

Beginner’s mind is both an attitude and a mindset. By releasing expectations and preconceived ideas about something (e.g., I will lose weight if I religiously count calories—or points), you are better able to see and experience things with an open mind, fresh eyes and curiosity—just like a beginner.

For example: “I am willing to believe that regularly exercising more and eating less may create hormone imbalances that actually lead to weight gain.”

4.  I am willing to track my progress.

You cannot improve what you don’t measure.  Knowing your weight, body fat percentage, body measurements, hormone status, blood sugar and inflammatory markers, can trigger anxiety and apprehension in some people.

But…feel the fear—and track your measurements and bloodwork anyway. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your health. By consistently monitoring your progress, you get valuable feedback that enables you to course-correct habits that may be preventing you from reaching your health goals.

For example: “Wow…when I slept 5 hours every night for a week (because I was going to bed at 1am), I gained 4 pounds; my body fat % went up by 2%; and my waist size grew by 1-inch. I need to make sleep a priority!”

5. I am willing to make changes that may initially feel VERY uncomfortable.

As humans, we naturally resist change (especially ones that taste delicious or feel good in the moment!). I often ask clients to remove inflammatory foods, such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol, gluten and dairy, for a period of time. It may seem inconceivable to give up food (pizza! toast! ice cream!) and drink (coffee! wine!) that is perceived as “essential” to our existence. When they do, however, my clients often discover—after an initial adjustment period—the foods they once craved do not make them feel good, or they are less dependent on foods they thought they could not live without.

6. I am willing to take action (and do the work).

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Health is not something that happens TO you. Whether you work with a conventional medical doctor or an integrative practitioner with a holistic approach to losing weight or improving your overall health, you have to be willing to take action—and do the work.

In my practice, the clients who experience positive results show up for their sessions (no excuses, no last-minute appointment cancellations), having done the work. They log what they eat every day. They track their weight and body measurements once a week. They use the resources, guidance and education that I provide to make healthy food choices and adjust lifestyle habits (if necessary). They experiment with suggested recipes. They try to incorporate my time management and lifestyle suggestions. They pay attention to their bodies and give me feedback. They work with me to understand what works for their unique body—and what doesn’t.

7.  I understand that “the obstacle is the way”, and I am willing to persevere.

Whether it’s feeling low energy or burned out; having stomach pain, bloating or gas; managing adult acne, joint pain, low mood or anxiety, your symptoms can serve as “the obstacle”—a challenge that forces you to grow in a way that makes reaching your health goals possible.

For example, if you want to lose weight, all of your previous unsuccessful attempts to do so—by counting calories, joining Weight Watchers or exercising more—may feel like “obstacles”.  But, if you are willing to dig deeper, your previous failed attempts may inspire you to learn, for example, how hormones, the state of your gut health, food intolerances and trauma can affect your ability to lose (or gain) weight. Having this knowledge may then motivate you to change in ways that enable you to achieve sustainable weight loss.

8.  I am committed—no matter what.  

Planning ahead, whenever possible, is one of the best strategies for staying committed to healthy eating. Have a busy travel schedule looming?  Plan how and where you can eat quality meals. Meeting friends for dinner? Research the restaurant’s menu online and decide what you’re going to eat in advance. Going to a family reunion where most family members could care less about “eating healthy”?  Be prepared to ignore or redirect any running commentary about your food choices; offer to bring a dish; or plan an early exit strategy.

Clients who successfully reach their goals understand that life happens, and they make the best possible choice in any given situation. Commitment is about progress—not perfection. Every meal, every social function, every lifestyle habit is an opportunity for you to choose “health”. Without apology.


  Inc.  Jan. 1, 2019
2  Jan. 16, 2019.
3   Psychology Today.  Jan. 3, 2013.
4 2017
5   Harvard School of Public Health.  2017. 2017
 Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.  2011 Dec; 104(12): 510-520.

Hi, I’m Kathryn Matthews. As a Board Certified Functional Health Coach, I help clients reclaim their energy, vitality and well-being. I want you to feel empowered about taking charge of YOUR health! To learn more, see About Kathryn.

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