5 Healthy Resolutions for Women

Experts share their thoughts on the top 5 things women can do to get healthy in the new year

By Dulce Zamora
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD

Thirty-year-old Pierangeli has spent most of her adult life trying to do what thousands, if not millions, of women have resolved to do at the beginning of each year: Live a healthier life. This year, however, she is more optimistic about success as she's already started efforts at regular exercise and a well-balanced diet.

"This new year, I will continue and work on my eating habits, go to the gym, and practice balance in all areas of my life," says the Louisville, Ky. resident.

Health-related goals are, indeed, popular among people with New Year's resolutions. In the last 25 years, resolutions concerning weight, exercise, better relationships, and smoking cessation have been at the top of turn-of-the-calendar objectives for both sexes, says John C. Norcross, PhD, co-author of Changing for Good.

For many women, the path to good health is not an easy one, with plenty of roadblocks along the way. Procrastination, family obligations, work demands, and lack of time and energy are only a few culprits that can stop the best of health resolutions in their tracks.

To help women in their quest for better living, WebMD came up with five resolutions to improve physical and mental well-being, and asked the experts to provide tips for success. Their advice is by no means exhaustive, as different strategies work for different people. But, if you've made attempts at sounder mind and body before, here's another chance to make it happen. Good luck!

New Year's Resolution No. 1: Eat, but Don't Pig Out

When women resolve to lose weight, they are often black and white about it, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She says women tend to want to cut out major food groups, telling themselves they cannot have any candy, dessert, or carbohydrates.

"It's a setup for failure, because by the time mid-January comes around, those resolutions are already in line for the next new year," says Taub-Dix. "It would be a much wiser decision to say, for example, 'I'm going to cut back on desserts.' Maybe pick a Saturday to have dessert." Instead of deprivation, practice moderation during the holidays.

The reduction approach is much more realistic than the all-or-nothing technique, which labels foods as "good" or "bad." When people see certain edibles as "bad," they can end up obsessing about it. Or they may see dieting as punishment for a year of unhealthy eating. Concentrate on getting adequate servings of whole grains, calcium, fiber, fruits and vegetables. This can be as easy as having a high-fiber cereal with milk and a banana.

Slashing entire food groups from the diet often backfires, because food is good and is one of the pleasures in life, says Taub-Dix. "There's no reason why we shouldn't enjoy food just because we're over the weight that we should be."

"Don't wait until the new year to have better eating habits, says Taub-Dix. "It should be a whole year's resolution, not a New Year's resolution."

New Year's Resolution No. 2: Jump Outside the Box

Many women who resolve to become more physically active think of going to the gym. They tend to hit the aerobic machines or join group exercise classes. They may get discouraged easily because they don't achieve desired weight loss or muscle tone in a certain time frame. They may quit because of lack of time, energy, or money. Or, they may tire of the gym atmosphere.

There are dozens of reasons why the best of workout intentions fall by the wayside come February. Yet they don't have to end up that way if you're willing to step outside of a certain mode of thinking -- that exercise has to be done a certain way, at a certain place, at a certain time, and for a certain amount of time.

"Sometimes people have this 'all or none' mentality and they're so gung-ho and so excited when they set the resolution that they judge themselves too harshly if they don't perfectly adhere to what they've established," says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.

He says many people make resolutions that are either unrealistic or too vague. A woman, for instance, may resolve to lose 10 pounds in two weeks. If she doesn't see desired results, she becomes discouraged and gives up.

It's better to set fitness goals that are realistic, achievable, and well defined. For example, a woman may strive to lose one to two pounds per week by exercising three to four times per week and holding off on seconds at the dinner table.

While the trend is changing, too many women don't do valuable resistance training, says Bryant. According to the Mayo Clinic, enhanced muscle mass can not only help better manage weight, it can also improve endurance, maintain the flexibility of joints, and reverse age-related declines in strength, bone density, and muscle mass.