'Healthy' New Year's resolutions that are actually terrible for you

Each winter as January nears, people get to thinking about New Year's resolutions. For many, a new year means a new opportunity to make some changes. According to a poll by YouGov, people in the United States set quite a few goals for themselves ahead of 2018.

While most of those surveyed desired to eat healthier, get more exercise, and save more money, others planned to place more emphasis on self-care, spend some more time reading, and even get out and make some new friends. Some also envisioned learning a new skill, finding a new job, and forming a new hobby. Others want to part ways with unhealthy habits, like smoking, while some want to improve their romantic life. As you can see, there's any number of goals you can set for yourself. However, not all of them are going to serve you well in the new year. Here are some examples of so-called "healthy" New Year's resolutions that research has proven to be less than great for you.

Exercising everyday

If you spend most of your days in a cubicle, you may be thinking of setting a resolution to get more exercise in the new year.  While it's certainly a good — and healthy — idea to allot more time to exercise, it's not a good idea to go straight from a sedentary lifestyle to taking seven CrossFit classes per week. 

Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietician and nutritionist in New Jersey told Everyday Health that you should increase your fitness level little by little. "Starting a strenuous fitness routine out of the blue can lead to excessive muscle soreness and even injury (and can be taxing on your health if you have any medical conditions)," she explained.

This is true even if you were an avid exerciser in the past. Paul Weitzel, attending physician at New England Baptist Hospital told Boston.com: "Going to the Zumba class and jumping up and down after not doing anything for 10 years, your body is going to react." And not in a good way. Instead, he, like Palinski-Wade, recommends building up gradually.

Giving up smoking

From improving your hearing and night vision to decreasing your risks of cancer and heart disease, the benefits of giving up cigarettes are vast. But, as it turns out, it doesn't make for the best New Year's resolution. "During the new year, lots of people want to reinvent themselves… but people shouldn't set themselves up to fail," Duncan Stephenson, director of external affairs at the Royal Society of Public Health, told CNN.

While any time can be a great time to give up cigarettes, you'll want to set yourself up for success. Otherwise, you could end up in a cycle of quitting and restarting your habit at the outset of every year. Also, once you've made the decision to quit smoking, who says you have to wait for January 1? The American Cancer Society advises picking a "quit date" within the next month. This will allow you enough time to prepare for quitting, but not enough time to renege on your decision.

Being more positive

Forcing yourself into thinking positively may sound like a good idea, but it's actually a recipe for disaster. Susan David, a Harvard Medical School professor and psychologist, told The Washington Post that we need to come to terms with all of our emotions. David cited a study in which a person was attempting to quit smoking by forcing themselves not to think about cigarettes. In doing so, the subject then started to dream about cigarettes. "This is a phenomenon which in psychology is called 'leakage,'" David explained. "It is literally the idea that when you try not to think about something, that thing comes back, but amplified." 

The same, too, happens when trying to force ourselves into being positive all the time. Instead, David recommends "emotional agility." Unlike positive thinking, which places too much emphasis on our thoughts, David revealed that "emotional agility is a skill set that builds on our ability to face our emotions, label them, understand them and then choose to move forward deliberately."

Quitting your job

After being home with your family over the holidays, it can be difficult to return to the daily grind — especially if you don't particularly like your job. Even if you daydream about pursuing your side hustle full time, you should really think twice before making a resolution to leave your current job.

After analyzing a decade's worth of internal data, Executives Online revealed that January is not a good time to be starting down a new career path. In fact, it's the third-worst month when it comes to getting a new job. This is partially because of what Executives Online dubbed "the New Year's resolution effect." Many people get the idea to apply for a new job in January, which increases the competition and decreases your chance of getting hired. With unemployment being so hard on your mental health, this is quite the risk. Instead, wait until at least February. If it turns out you still want to quit by then, you at least have a better chance of getting hired elsewhere.

Losing a certain amount of weight

Setting a resolution to lose weight is by no means uncommon, but sticking to it certainly is. While many people come up with a number they'd like to weigh or an amount they'd like to lose, Toby Amidor, a registered dietitian in New York City, told Health that people "tend to fall off track when they have such a lofty resolution." 

Some may attempt to drastically restrict their caloric intake in order to meet their weight loss goal, but this can cause a wide-range of health problems, including lowering your metabolism, causing fatigue, and possibly contributing to infertility. Instead of aiming to lose a certain amount of weight, Michelle May, physician and author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat, revealed sage advice to U.S. News & World Report. "To make a sustainable change," she explained, "the things you are thinking about doing in the New Year need to be things you can do every day for the rest of your life."

Starting a fad diet

As each new year approaches, fad diets never seem to be far behind. Much the same as restricting calories, trendy fad diets are neither sustainable nor good for you. "Fad diets, coupled with unrealistic expectations for weight loss, are a recipe for weight cycling, the repeated loss and regain of body weight, which is often referred to as yo-yo dieting," LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, wrote for Los Angeles Daily News. Yo-yo dieting has been linked to an increased risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, among other issues.

Whenever an eating plan calls for eliminating certain food groups, requires special products like shakes or supplements, promises an unbelievable amount of weight loss in a record amount of time, has a strict menu, or claims there's no need to exercise, you can be sure it's a fad diet. Instead, Weintraub recommends following an eating plan that can be "tailored to your lifestyle and allow you to eat sensibly in social settings."

Giving up your favorite "bad" food

Even if you enjoy eating cookies and brownies, you might be thinking of giving them up come the new year. You might feel guilty about consuming the chocolatey dessert so often and have started to believe that they're a "bad" food. However, giving up these foods you love can backfire.

In the book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch revealed: "When you rigidly limit the amount of food you are allowed to eat, it usually sets you up to crave larger quantities of that very food." In fact, restricting yourself from anything only makes you equate it with being "extra special." This is why so many people binge on their favorite foods the day before they start a new diet — with the same results as yo-yo dieting. It may sound counterintuitive, but keeping brownies on hand may just be the best way to eat fewer brownies. If you always have them, they're not special anymore, are they?

Giving up your vice cold turkey

We all have some habits that we wish we didn't. If you're planning to finally give up one of your vices come January 1, you can be met with failure if you go cold turkey. "I recommend trying to phase or wean yourself off of your habit in order to form new, healthier habits," personal trainer Angeles Burke revealed to Everyday Health. "Finding healthier alternatives sets you up for success rather than immediately breaking the resolution by falling back on your old habits when times get too difficult." 

You'll also want to make sure that the vice you're giving up isn't actually worth keeping. That's right, not all vices are, well, vices. Even the "bad habit" of biting your nails has proven to be beneficial by strengthening the immune system, while drinking lots of coffee may mean you're less likely to become depressed. Vice, shmice!

Getting more (or less) shuteye

Ahead of 2018, focusing on self-care — including getting more sleep — was the fourth most common resolution. If you're a night owl, though, you might resolve to wake up earlier and, thus, get less sleep. However, a comprehensive study showed that sleeping more or less than seven to eight hours each night is linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and even death. Oversleeping, according to the study, is actually moderately more harmful than sleeping less. Instead of setting a goal to get more or less sleep, it's much more beneficial to try getting the right amount of sleep.

Another benefit that comes with the right amount of shuteye — other than, you know, not dying — is being able to wake up without an alarm clark. According to the National Sleep Foundation, once you determine how much sleep your body needs and start following a consistent pattern, you'll eventually be able to wake up without the incessant beeping of your phone or alarm clock.

Saving money

"It creates this feeling of helplessness and hopelessness," Nancy Molitor, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told NBC News. The psychologist was referring to what happens when people stress over money. The stress one feels when they're worried about finances has even been shown to raise blood pressure and blood glucose levels, thus eventually causing heart damage.

If you set a lofty goal of saving an exorbitant amount of money in just one year, you could be setting yourself up for unnecessary stress. Having "some flexibility" is important, said Delynn Dolan Alexander, a wealth management advisor for Northwestern Mutual in Durham, North Carolina. Molitor also recommended accepting what you're unable to control. Even if you can't save up enough money by the time you had wanted to, you can still save some money and focus on what is in your power to control.

All New Year's resolutions?

It may seem like there's no such a thing as a healthy New Year's resolution, but Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School and the author of the book Presence says it can be done. The problem is, she told The Independent, "we're really bad at setting reasonable goals." Instead, we set nearly impossible resolutions and then beat ourselves up for not being able to meet them.

Cuddy also revealed that people all too often make absolute, rigid resolutions or set goals based on things they don't like about themselves. "Some negative emotions are motivating, but for the most part, they're not," she revealed. Focusing too much on the destination as opposed to the journey is another surefire way to get frustrated and give up on your resolution. 

If you're able to set a small, achievable, and sustainable goal that doesn't cause yourself undue stress, you might just have yourself a perfect resolution — you know, one that will actually stick.