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Keep your resolution to get healthier this year

By on January 2, 2015
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Another year, another vow to lose weight, eat healthier or exercise more often. If you’ve made that New Year’s resolution before only to abandon it by March, you are not alone. Researchers at the University of Scranton found that only about 8 percent of us who make resolutions actually keep them.

Of course, truck drivers face challenges that many others don’t. You’re on the road all the time, so you can’t sign up for regular cardio classes at the local gym. Meals are often on-the-go, which could result in giving in to temptation and choosing less-than-healthy foods.

“That is a difficult situation for changing habits, but it is not an excuse to give up,” says Dr. Art Markman, author of Smart Change: Five Tools to Create Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others.

So how do you do it?

Take stock

Identify and assess any unhealthy habits you already have before jumping in to make changes that might not address the root problem.

For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, keep a food diary for a week and write down everything you eat. You might not be aware of how often you are snacking. This exercise can clarify that for you — which will then help you decide what you need to change.

Set reasonable goals

Many people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions because they set overly ambitious goals. Aim for smaller, achievable goals, instead. When you lay out your plan, make goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

Start with a goal like “I’m going to lose one pound per week” instead of “I’m going to lose 50 pounds this year.” Then sketch out specific steps to help you achieve that goal. Otherwise, you’ll only keep your resolution for a short amount of time.

“You’ll be vigilant about what you eat for about a week, and then you’ll just slip back into what you were doing before,” says Dr. Markman.

Replace old habits

Give yourself the best chance of success in kicking a bad habit by replacing it with a new, better one.

Perhaps you always have a cigarette while you drink coffee. But if you give up the cigarette, that will leave a hole in your routine.

“Instead of coffee and a cigarette, it’s going to be coffee and Sudoku,” Dr. Markman says. “Because it’s hard to be smoking and writing down something. You’re keeping your hands busy. You’re replacing one habit with a behavior that makes the first one really hard to do.”

Plan ahead

Planning ahead will help you ward off pitfalls. If you’re tired and hungry, the lure of bacon double cheeseburgers and extra fries is hard to resist. But if you go into a restaurant with a list of healthy menu options and know what you will order, you can bypass temptation.

Prepare for hunger pangs on the road by stocking your cab with healthy snacks. Smart between-meal eating means that you won’t arrive for lunch or dinner overly hungry and be tempted to over-order. The key is choosing foods you enjoy that will give you the most nutritional bang for your buck. Try trail mix instead of chips, for example.

Set a time for exercise. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning. Maybe it’s 10 minutes of walking every time you make a stop. Commit to a routine that fits your schedule and stick to it.

Give yourself a break if you slip

None of us is perfect. We’re going to make mistakes or backslide, despite our best intentions.

“Treat yourself with a little bit of compassion and kindness,” says Dr. Markman. “You have to remember that fundamentally changing your behavior is difficult.”

And you can learn from your mistakes. You may discover that your goals need some tweaking to be more realistic for you. Don’t let a slip discourage you into giving up.

Says Dr. Markman, “Learn from that experience rather than treating it as another piece of evidence that you can’t possibly succeed.”

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