6 Strategies to Create Lifestyle Changes That Last in 2021

by Emily Rider, RDN, LD

Last Updated: December 9, 2020

The New Year is just around the corner, which means New Year’s resolutions are also on the horizon. This time of year, you may start to reflect on what you’d like to improve for 2021—from nutrition to physical activity to learning a new skill. January might bring habit changes, but come February or March, our goals for the New Year may start to fizzle out. So how can you create sustainable change for 2021 AND beyond? Check out some of our favorite strategies for creating long-term healthy habits.
  1. Set SMART goals for yourself.
    Take a minute to think about your overall 2021 objectives. Maybe you would like to be healthier, have more energy, increase productivity, or improve physical fitness. Once you’ve identified your main objectives, you can begin to set SMART goals. SMART stands for:
    • Specific: Think about what specific action items will help you meet your overall objective. The more specific, the better!
    • Measurable: How will you know you are making progress towards your goal? For example, instead of saying, “I will cook more,” state, “I will cook three times this week.”
    • Achievable: Be realistic with yourself. Create a goal you feel you can actually meet.
    • Relevant: Will your SMART goal help you reach your overall 2021 objectives?
    • Time-based: When will you meet this goal?
  2. Reflect on your motivation for change.
    It can take a while to create new habits and see results from the changes you’ve made. You’ll likely have days where you do not feel like meeting your goals—for one reason or another. In these moments, it is helpful to think about why you set these goals in the first place. Keeping a list of motivators somewhere you’ll see daily can help keep you motivated for long-term changes.
  3. Create an accountability system.
    What are some ways to hold yourself accountable? Accountability can help you stay on track long-term. Some strategies include setting aside time to check in with a friend or family member, using a habit tracker (write down your goals and put a checkmark next to the days you met this goal), or even routinely checking in with a dietitian.
  4. Be kind and patient with yourself.
    Behavior change is hard! You may be trying to improve habits you’ve had for years, so be patient with yourself if you don’t meet your goals right away. It’s also important to be kind to yourself—a little positive self-talk can go a long way.
  5. Evaluate your goals and progress.
    This is an important step that can be easy to overlook. Once you’ve set SMART goals for yourself, be sure to take some time to evaluate your progress. Have you been able to meet your goals? If so, you may be ready to build upon them. However, this can also be a time to identify if you struggled to meet your goals. If you have, that’s okay! Instead of feeling guilty, it can be productive to think about barriers that may have gotten in your way and modify goals as needed.
  6. Celebrate your victories—no matter how small!
    Don’t forget to give yourself credit for any changes you’ve made, even if they seem small. However, it can be helpful to keep in mind that rewarding yourself with food can create an unhealthy emotional relationship. Instead, try planning a fun family activity, treating yourself to an at-home spa day, or even saving up for something special.

Creating new habits can be tough, but utilizing the strategies above can make it a little easier. These tips and tricks can also be used year-round and don’t have to be reserved for New Year’s Resolutions; if you have more individualized questions or are looking for accountability, set up a virtual dietitian appointment today.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Emily Rider, RDN, LD

Emily Rider, RDN, LD

Emily strongly believes in a balanced diet- choosing foods that are good for your body AND good for your soul. With this philosophy, she can help you meet your health goals without having to give up your favorite foods. In addition to a passion for nutrition, Emily loves spending time outside with her two rescue dogs.