IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Use this 4-step plan to reset your health goals for 2021

If you've already given up on your New Year's resolution, it doesn't mean 2021 is a wash. But it does require some honest evaluation.
Illustration of calendar and work out gear
If you’ve been sticking to your original course of action, you’ve probably noticed at least a few positive changes.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images / Shutterstock

It’s officially one month into the new year. How are you doing with your health goals? Are you going strong or are they already in the rearview mirror?

Now is a good time to check in and be honest with yourself about the progress you have (or haven’t) made. Maybe you haven’t been able to commit to the goal you set. Or maybe you’ve been working hard and don’t understand why you aren’t seeing results.

This step-by-step evaluation can help you identify roadblocks and shift your efforts. Follow these steps to check in with yourself and tweak any health and fitness goals that may not be working for you. You can revisit this checklist every month to make sure you’re continually making progress.

Step 1: Write down any progress you have made

If you’ve been sticking to your original course of action, you’ve probably noticed at least a few positive changes. For example, let’s say your goal was to lose weight. One month in, the number on the scale is still the same, but your clothes are looser and you have more energy. Start by writing down any and all progress you feel like you’ve made since you’ve started working on your resolution. We are often so focused on one end goal (like losing weight) that we fail to notice other positive changes. You may be surprised how much progress you actually have made and seeing in down on paper can help keep you motivated.

Step 2: Celebrate those accomplishments

It may be too soon to see real physical results, like lost pounds or inches. But those aren’t the only accomplishments worth celebrating. Take note of how you feel: Are you happier, more energized or less stressed? Has your sleep improved? Do you feel more in control or less anxious?

An all or nothing approach is rarely a sustainable way to make lasting changes — so take time to notice small shifts in your unhealthy habits. Perhaps you haven’t been able to cut out soda completely, but you’ve cut back by a few glasses a week. Maybe you haven’t managed to exercise five days a week like you resolved to do on January 1, but you have added more movement in to your day by getting up from your desk periodically or stretching more. All progress counts. Acknowledging these smaller accomplishments is an important step as you progress towards your ultimate goal.

Step 3: Figure out what’s not working — and why

Admitting that a certain workout routine or diet plan isn’t working is a good first step, but it’s uncovering why that will help you make the shift toward seeing results. A healthy routine looks different for everyone, so if you chose a diet that helped a friend lose weight or a trendy workout that everyone is raving about, be honest with yourself about whether that path is really best for you.

What's preventing you from consistently exercising? Is the workout you chose not enjoyable? Is it too time consuming? Have you fallen off your diet one too many times this month? There’s a reason why you haven’t been able to stick with it for 30 days. Does it require too much of your time to meal prep or track calories? Is it too restrictive and leaving you craving foods?

Write down the reasons why your current path isn’t working for you.

Step 4: Decide which shifts to make or if you should change course altogether

Now that you know what hasn't worked, it’s time to think back about what has.

Perhaps you started taking leisurely walks during the pandemic, and are feeling less stressed and more energized. It may be time to re-focus your efforts on taking a 20-minute walk every day — instead of forcing yourself through an intense workout you don’t enjoy (and often skip). Maybe you've really enjoyed making a few plant-based recipes even though you gave up being vegan after a week. Ditch the restrictive diet, and instead focus on making plant-based meals 3-4 times a week. By building on what is working (however small), you can begin to adjust your routine so that you keep taking those small steps in the right direction.

After completing this check in, a lot of my clients realize that their original goals were too lofty. (How did they expect to exercise five days a week when they had only worked out a few times in the past six months?)

So make some tweaks to your original goals (or change course altogether) with these four steps:

  1. Commit to ONE actionable goal, like walking 30 minutes a day, eating five fruits and vegetables a day, starting the day off with a healthy breakfast, stopping eating before 8 p.m., etc.
  2. Track your progress. Every day, check off when you complete each goal.
  3. Note how you feel. Each day, give yourself a happy face, sad face or neutral fact next to the goal.
  4. Complete a check in every month. After four weeks, reassess and repeat the above process!