The words 2018 is shown in front of an ocean.
Any time is the right time to start a fitness and health regimen. (For Spectrum Health)

Is New Year’s Day the best time to debut a diet?

Experts say probably not.

You may think bending over to pick up confetti after a big New Year’s bash is a perfect exercise. And that Jan. 1 is the best time to launch a resolution diet.

Resolve this instead—every day is a perfect day to practice healthy eating and exercise.

There’s no bad time to change your health habits, according to Shawn Katterman, PhD, a clinical health psychologist at Spectrum Health Medical Group.

But as tempting as it may be, and as meaningful as it may seem, Dr. Katterman advises against setting New Year’s Day as your trigger point for change.

Instead, she recommends focusing on daily behaviors that lead to a lifetime pattern of healthy eating success.

Instead of debating which came first, have a bit of egg and even chicken for breakfast. The protein will do wonders.

And instead of cutting out snacks from your daily routine, embrace them—healthy ones, that is.

Dr. Katterman’s hit list of healthy eating habits:

  • Always eat breakfast. Even if you’re in a hurry, grab something good.
  • Add protein to your meals, including breakfast. Mozzarella string cheese, anyone?
  • Don’t go long periods of time without food. Instead, break up your total daily calorie intake into smaller meals and snacks. Potato chips? No. Carrot sticks? For sure.
  • If you do overeat, don’t beat yourself up about it. Adjust the behavior, forgive yourself and move on.

If you’ve already committed to a New Year’s diet debut, carry on with these thoughts in mind:

  1. Adjust the language you use. Think in terms of making changes to better care for your whole self. Determine what you should do to be healthier in 2018, such as making better food choices or increasing your activity level. The goal should be about taking care of your body and improving your health, not an arbitrary change-your-lifestyle date.
  2. Set specific goals. Yes, increase your activity level, but be specific. What exactly do you enjoy doing and have the capacity to engage in frequently? Think about when and how you can achieve this goal. Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time Sensitive) goals for the week. Be very concrete with yourself, for example: I will play Wii Fit games with my son for 45 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 5 p.m.; or I will only eat between 1,300-1,500 calories each day.
  3. Plan a check-in with someone. Have at least one place where you are checking in to update progress on your goals. This works best if it is a person, such as a good friend, sibling, fitness professional, doctor or psychologist, but it could be your journal or a fitness/food tracker online. Check in at least every week, and be honest. Accountability fosters responsibility.