When it comes resolutions, small changes are best

This new year focus on making small changes on your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

  • Look beyond your resolution to find your ‘why.’
  • Losing just 5% of your body weight can lead to positive health impacts.
  • Learn a new skill to help support your new healthy habit.
  • A provider who specializes in weight loss can help you find success.


Many of us were eager to turn that calendar from December 2020 to January 2021. After a year of challenges, uncertainty and new experiences, we’re ready to start fresh. And just like every year, many of us are taking stock of our habits and are eager to create new goals and resolutions for 2021.

If losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight is at the top of your list, Enrica Basilico, MD, medical director of Swedish Weight Loss Services, offers a different perspective and approach for setting your goals.

“New year’s resolutions are not the way I think about weight loss and change,” she admits. “Instead, I encourage people to take a step back and consider their values and ‘why’ they want to make a change." 

After the challenges of the past year, it’s time for us to be a little gentler with ourselves and our goals, rather than a black and white new year’s resolution.

“Besides, after the challenges of the past year, it’s time for us to be a little gentler with ourselves and our goals, rather than a black and white new year’s resolution.”

Dr. Basilico shares her favorite advice on creating a lifestyle that will help you be healthier, happier and ultimately lose the weight you want.

Find your 'why'

Most of us have clear health goals: Lose weight. Eat better. Exercise more.

Dr. Basilico challenges you to go deeper than “what” you want to do. She offers ways to help you find your ‘why’: Why do you want to reach that goal or create that change in your life?

Think about the value you want to uphold with your new health goals.

“Think about the value you want to uphold with your new health goals,” she explains. “This helps you live life to the fullest and focus on your true meaning as much as the activity or change.”

That inner conversation may look a little like this:

I want to lose weight.


I want to be more active.


My doctor told me to lose weight because it’s healthy.


I want to be able to run around with my grandkids.

I want to participate without pain.

I want to do more without getting so tired.

It’s easy to see those last three ‘whys’ (or whatever drives you) are much more motivating than a number on a scale or activity logged in a fitness tracker. When your reasons are tied to what you value, you have the ability to create substantial, meaningful change that leads to healthier habits.

Small steps can make a big difference

One mistake that’s easy to make in the new year is thinking radical changes are necessary to achieve your goals. In reality, seemingly small choices can have a much bigger impact.

“The slightly better choice is the path to long-term success,” states Dr. Basilico. “That means eating one cookie is better than eating three and walking for 10 minutes is better than not at all.”

Those small choices will help you reach your goals. Dr. Basilico often reminds her patients that even losing just 5-10% of your current body weight can make a big difference to your overall health. Those pounds lost can improve blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, according to health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can also reduce the strain on your joints by carrying around less weight.

Learn a new healthy skill

When you think of a new goal for the new year, like losing weight, you don’t always equate that with picking up a new skill. But, according to Dr. Basilico, that’s a key part of success.

Focus on learning a skill instead of just making a major change, like how to increase the activity you do throughout the day.

“Focus on learning a skill instead of just making a major change, like how to increase the activity you do throughout the day or educating yourself on the basics of nutrition,” she explains.

Those skills will serve you well as you make small choices throughout the day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or choosing more whole foods at the store.

Looking for a skill to help you on your journey? Try one of these:

  • Try an online stretching class
  • Grow a garden
  • Learn a new cooking technique
  • Try cooking with more vegetables and fresh herbs
  • Test out new recipes from around the world
  • Listen to an audio book about eating healthy, the body or similar topic (Dr. Basilico recommends The Diet Trap by Jason Lillis.)

Enlist help from an expert

Dr. Basilico also understands that weight loss and changing ingrained lifestyle habits can be hard. If you’ve struggled with losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, a medical professional can help.

“An expert in weight management or even your primary care health provider can help you know where to start,” she says.

They can offer evidence-based treatment plans, which follow these pillars:

  • Nutrition
  • Activity
  • Behavior modification
  • Medication management
  • Surgery

There is one thing Dr. Basilico is quick to point out that’s missing from this evidence-based, science-backed approach: “You don’t see fad diets or supplements on that list,” she says. “We’ve only added tried-and-true things we know work that can help people lose weight and keep it off.

“But more than that, we’re here to help you find your why and live a happier, healthier life,” she concludes.


Find a doctor

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult with a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow-up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Find out more about how we’re handling COVID-19.

Related resources

2020: The year of little sleep

New nutrition fact labels: What you should know

How to make New Year’s resolutions your new reality

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

Our philosophy for well being is looking at the holistic human experience. As such, the Swedish Wellness & Lifestyle Team is committed to shining a light on health-related topics that help you live your healthiest life. From nutrition to mindfulness to annual screenings, our team offers clinically-backed advice and tips to help you and your loved ones live life to the fullest.

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