Is Your New Year’s Resolution Right for You? How to Tell

  • Experts agree that health goals, particularly diet and exercise, need to be specific to each individual’s needs.
  • Certain health trends, like the keto diet or becoming a runner, may not be best for every body's specific needs.
  • Experts recommend people work with a personal trainer or registered dietitian to best understand what goals might be best for them.

Just because you made a New Year’s resolution around diet or exercise doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for your health.

A recent survey found that among people in the U.S. who made resolutions, 50% hoped to exercise more, 47% hoped to eat healthier, and 35% hoped to lose weight.

Sometimes, meeting those goals requires major lifestyle changes.

When trying to eat healthier, some people may opt for specific diets like keto or intermittent fasting. Some may turn to plant-based eating, perhaps for environmental reasons, Keri Gans, MS, RDN, a New York-based dietitian, told Health.

As far as workouts, New Year’s is often a time when people start a running practice or commit to more frequent workouts.

Alicia Jamison, CPT, a New York-based exercise coach, said that around New Year’s, she often hears people say, “I want to hit the gym four to five times a week.” But it can be hard on your body to start a strenuous workout routine after a period of inactivity.

“That is an admirable goal, for sure, but going from zero days a week to four to five days a week of training is a big jump,” Jamison told Health.

It’s important to remember that no matter how big or small your resolutions are, they may not work the way you’d planned.

“Just because something might work for your best friend or a family member does not mean it will work for you,” Gans said.

In other words, just because everyone else is making a certain New Year’s resolution doesn’t mean you should, too.

“We all function uniquely, and you need your fitness or diet plan to align with your unique structure,” Jamison said.

Here are signs that your New Year’s resolution isn’t serving your body well, and what to do if you think you need to switch gears.

woman tying shoelaces

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You Might Want to Slow Down That New Fitness Plan

If you haven’t worked out in a long time, starting again can come with a certain amount of soreness, Jamison explained. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about.

But, not every ache is muscle soreness, and it can be challenging to tell the difference between that and something more serious.

“Normal soreness is tenderness to the touch or through movement,” Jamison explained. “So, if you’re putting pressure on that area, or stretching that area, and it’s more of a radiating discomfort, that’s soreness.”

Soreness should occur in the muscles, not the joints.

“If you’re having pain directly at the joint—not in the muscle—that might be the result of too much impact,” Jamison said.

This should prompt you to hold off on any rigorous workouts until the cause of the pain is determined.

“Anytime it’s a joint situation, typically that’s when it’s something to be wary of,” she said.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to continue your fitness plan eventually, but before doing so, you should try to speak to an exercise coach or physical therapist about your pain level and what might be causing it.

If you used to enjoy lifting weights and have started doing so again in the new year, pay attention to how the weights feel. If they feel heavier than you remember, you may need to work your way back up in weight, Jamison explained.

Similarly, if your energy level is so low that you’re having trouble doing normal things, such as getting out of bed in the morning and going to work, that may be a sign you’re overdoing it in your workouts and should rethink your goals.

How to Tell Your Diet Isn’t Right for You

Many factors determine how much success a person will have with a specific diet or eating habit, Gans explained.

These factors include medical history, culture, likes and dislikes, social life, job, geographical location, and more.

For this reason, dietary advice has to be individualized.

Changing the way you eat because someone else had success with a certain diet or practice—such as someone on social media, or one of your coworkers—may not yield the best results.

If you changed your diet significantly at the start of the year and you find yourself often feeling fatigued, the new diet might not be right for you.

Along with low energy, your thoughts about food could signal a need for change.

“If you’re now spending all your time thinking about food, what you are going to eat, when you are going to eat—it’s taking up too much space in your brain,” Gans said.

Additionally, very fast weight loss at the start of a new diet plan could be a sign that your diet isn’t healthy.

“It has to be something you can sustain,” Gans said.

She explained that, generally speaking, you should be losing one to two pounds a week if you’re working toward a weight loss goal.

Any new gastrointestinal symptoms, such as constipation, are also warning signs, Gans said.

Some people who are experimenting with diets like intermittent fasting may also experience side effects like dehydration, headache, and nausea.

If this happens to you, you may need to adjust your new routine, Gans said.

26 Helpful Tips for Fitness and Nutrition

How to Reshape Your New Year’s Resolutions

It can be challenging to figure out what the best diet and exercise plans for you are without speaking to a qualified expert, like a registered dietitian or personal trainer.

If you’re able to do so, these individuals can help you make healthy changes.

“Coaches take us a long way,” Jamison said. “You have a professional telling you what to do so you know you’re not doing something that’s bad for you.”

If you’re trying to make major lifestyle changes without the help of a professional, it’s especially important to stay cognizant of how you’re feeling and what’s going on with your body, Jamison added.

This could mean admitting when something’s not working for you, no matter what the reason behind it is.

But deciding that your intended fitness or eating plan isn’t working doesn’t mean you need to give up on your goals—only that you may need to achieve them in other ways.

“Anytime you’re trying to improve something in your life, remember to give yourself grace,” Jamison said.

The key to success, she said, will be re-strategizing and developing a new plan that feels healthier for you.

If you think your resolutions are working for you, experts say consistency is key in making sure you keep them long-term: Research shows it can take weeks or even months for a new practice to feel like a habit.

It can also be helpful to remind yourself of the goals you’re working toward as often as possible, Jamison said.

For example, if you’re trying to get back into a consistent running practice, “your running shoes should be outside of your closet where you can see them,” she explained. “If you’re trying to be a morning workout person, you want to lay out your clothes the night before.”

It can also help to make contact with people who have already implemented the practices you’re working toward.

“When you’re starting something new, you want to reach out to people that know more about whatever habit you’re trying to develop,” Jamison said.

Whether you’re rethinking your New Year’s resolutions or trying to stick with the ones you’ve already set, the important thing is to keep going.

“You’re allowed to fall off [the bandwagon],” Jamison said, “as long as you get back on.”