Building Habits for Healthy New Year’s Goals with Dr. Christy Thrash

Learn about shaping healthy New Year’s resolutions with habits that will last beyond 2024 from CU Medicine psychologist Dr. Christy Thrash.

As we ring in the new year, many people look ahead excitedly to making positive changes. However, those ambitious New Year’s resolutions often fall by the wayside when real life sets in. Research shows that around 23% of people give up on their resolutions by the end of the first week and a whopping 40% ditch their goals by the end of the month.

“A lot of people I've worked with, including myself in the past, have often made New Year’s resolutions focused on losing weight, getting in shape and changing diet habits,” explains Dr. Christy Thrash, a psychologist at CU Medicine Family Medicine – Louisville. “It’s a double-edged sword because we know the research shows that healthily losing weight is strongly related to a lot of health benefits. But on the other hand, we have a very toxic diet culture in our country.”

Rather than an outcome-first approach, Dr. Thrash guides patients using evidence-based habit strategies, as popularized in James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits.” The core philosophy emphasizes incremental progress through small, consistent actions that gradually snowball into transformative change.

Beliefs and Habits for Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's resolutions around losing weight, eating healthier or getting in shape rarely work as quick fixes. Meaningful lifestyle changes happen gradually over months and years, not weeks. When the scale doesn't immediately reflect progress, it's easy to get discouraged and fall back into old habits.

Society also connects self-worth too closely with body image and fitness levels. This diet culture mentality can lead to restrictive behaviors and disordered eating patterns rather than improved well-being. 

“My approach is to learn about the science of weight loss – or whatever your goal is – and also learn about the science of habits,” Dr. Thrash says. “Instead of focusing on your outcome, start with examining your underlying beliefs about your goal and go from there.”

Rather than home in on a singular outcome, spend time clarifying the values and priorities fueling a resolution. What daily joy is missing that you want to invite in? How would you like to feel in six months or five years?

Wellness as a Lifestyle

Wellness isn't about reaching some finish line. It's an ongoing lifestyle and state of mind. The refresh of a new year presents a ripe opportunity to build healthy new habits with an eye toward sustained long-term gains. 

Even small tweaks like a brief daily walk, swapping out a sugary drink or prioritizing an extra hour of sleep can pay escalating dividends. When such choices also honor personal values, change sticks better.

“Find your core values and pair your habits with habits you already have,” explains Dr. Thrash. “If you’re a morning person and you love to watch the news in the morning, maybe you pair that with getting on the stationary bike in the morning to reach your wellness goal.”

Knowing the deeper reasons behind what motivates you makes lasting change more likely. It helps you stay connected to your bigger life purposes during tough moments.

Primary Care and Mental Health

CU Medicine Family Medicine – Louisville provides the convenience of primary care, counseling and virtual care all under one roof. Their providers deliver compassionate care whether you have an acute illness or are managing ongoing health conditions. They're committed to supporting whole-person wellness for each patient.


CATEGORIES: Mental Health

This post was originally posted on 12/29/2023