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The Worst New Year's Resolutions for 2021, According to Doctors

You're probably setting yourself up for failure from the start with these.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

For some, another year might just mean another failed attempt at seeing New Year's resolutions all the way through. There are statistics that show only 9.2% of people report actually achieving their resolutions. Many people get easily frustrated with themselves if they don't fulfill the goals they set, even if they don't see immediate results from the efforts they do put in.

However, it's possible that the types of resolutions you are making are, in fact, setting you up for failure. Frankly, you might just be making the worst resolutions possible. Think about it: do you really want to achieve an unpractical goal? Or worse—one that benefits you in the short term and then backfires in the long term? It's time to scratch those plans and start fresh.

We asked doctors to share what they and their colleagues consider to be the worst New Year's resolutions you can make for 2021 so you know what to avoid. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthily in 2021, don't miss Simple Ways to Start Losing Weight Immediately, According to Science.

Saying, 'I want to eat healthier' without really knowing what that means for you.

Woman in kitchen

"As a doctor, it is common for me to encounter patients that will say they want to eat healthier. The problem is that they often do not know exactly what this means, and the resolution is not specific enough. It would be more helpful for an individual to first define what eating healthy is and what it means to them. Next, they should be specific about what changes they plan to make in their diet to ensure they are eating healthier." Or, check out these 8 Easy Tricks for Eating Healthy Every Day. — Cedrina L. Calder, MD

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Having this mindset: 'I want to have a body like [insert celebrity name here].'

Woman looking in mirror

"It's easy to set benchmarks for physical beauty by the celebrities we see every day, but trying to look like your favorite celebrity isn't just misguided, it's downright unhealthy. Everyone is different, including their genetics, body chemistry, and lifestyle. Celebrities often have certain advantages (physical and financial) that the average person doesn't have, so many people will be disappointed if their efforts of healthy eating and exercise don't lead to A-list results." — Dr. Hayley Brown of Desert Hills Plastic Surgery Center 

Deciding that losing weight means restricting foods.

serving tray with food

"Instead of focusing on the number on the scale and having extreme goals that will create unhealthy outcomes, why don't we instead focus on behaviors we might want to change. Perhaps you want to engage more in body movement in the new year or maybe you want to be more mindful of listening to your body cues of hunger [and] fullness and not engaging in mindless eating. That is more sustainable and healthy in the long run!" — Kelsey M. Latimer, PhD, CEDS-S, and Founder of Hello Goodlife 

For more, check out 11 Mindfulness Hacks to Eat Less, According to Experts.

Taking a ton of vitamins in order to become healthier.

Pill bottle

"As a physician of internal medicine and vitamin expert, I see many people make resolutions to take large quantities of vitamins in the new year. This is not a good idea for many reasons. First, it never lasts—no one continues taking handfuls of supplements forever because it's frankly too much and it's neither pleasant nor good for you. Secondly, it is not good for your health. These handfuls of pills are typically excessive and can, in fact, cause harm. We do advocate a personalized approach to taking the right vitamins based on your diet, lifestyle, and health concerns. Doing so, via a personalized multivitamin (only one or two pills daily) is typically the best way to get what you need in safe and doable amounts. It is also much more likely to create a lasting and effective habit that will ultimately give you better health, energy, and ability to improve your overall lifestyle." — Arielle Levitan, MD, co-founder of Vous Vitamin, and co-author of "The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health."

Read more: 7 Side Effects of Taking a Multivitamin Every Day

Having a vague exercise goal.

Tired woman at gym struggling to finish treadmill workout

"Saying that you want to start exercising or exercising more is a great resolution to make, but it isn't specific enough. Sticking to this goal will be difficult if you haven't first defined what exercise means to you, and how you plan to carry out this resolution. Make a clear and specific resolution that includes the type of exercise, the amount, and the length of time." — Calder

Opting for the 'quick' cosmetic fix to get lean.

Woman looking in mirror

"Liposuction is not a weight-loss tool but a body shaping process. It works best in patients who are at or very close to their normal weight, and have stubborn areas of fat that are out of proportion with the rest of their figure." — Dr. John Corey, board-certified plastic surgeon

Starving as a means of cutting holiday weight.

Hungry woman skipping meal

"All too often, people eat and drink too much from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve. People decide to starve themselves beginning Jan. 1 to get rid of the excess weight quickly. This is a terrible resolution because our bodies turn food into energy so we can accomplish the tasks of daily living, including keeping our brains healthy. Without new sources of energy, our bodies rely solely on our stored fat, which turns into ketones, and too many ketones can be unhealthy."

Here's a better New Year's resolution instead:

"Many people don't want to hear it, but eating healthy, sensible meals and exercising are the best ways to lose weight year-round. It is not a quick fix, but it's a long-term solution to live our best, healthiest lives." — Dr. Miriam Alexander, medical director of employee health & wellness at LifeBridge Health

Deciding to quit smoking "cold turkey."


"This is another great resolution, but people fail at it because they don't know the best way to go about quitting. Very often, people attempt to quit "cold turkey" and unfortunately, very few people are successful at this method. What people don't realize is that the best method to quitting involves a combination of two things: tobacco cessation medications and behavior changes. To increase your chances of successfully quitting smoking, speak with your doctor about medication options, and ask to be referred to a behavioral therapist or seek one out on your own." — Calder

Only exercising indoors.

Weight training

"While some exercise is better than none, exercising indoors exclusively can deprive us of exposure to sunlight. Sun exposure helps our bodies synthesize vitamin D, a hormone that is important for bone and tissue health, immunity and other metabolic processes. Exercising outside is a good way to help boost your vitamin D levels in the coming year." — Chirag Shah, MD, co-founder of Accesa Labs

Making too many New Year's resolutions.

Man thinking at a computer

"We often put the needs of other people first, so we put off taking the time to make healthy foods, exercise, get enough sleep, relax and other basic needs. To make up for 12 months of not taking care of ourselves, we decide to make the new year the time we are going to get our lives in order…every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, if we try to do too much and to change too many things at one time, this can set us up to fail at everything." — Alexander

Instead, pick just one or two of these 20 Resolutions Diet Experts Want You to Make.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the former news editor of Eat This, Not That! Read more about Cheyenne