Many people ring in the new year with the best of intentions. They resolve to hit the gym, improve their eating patterns, and kick their bad habits to the curb. But just a few weeks later, those resolutions are usually forgotten, and they've reverted back to their old ways.

The good news is that you can achieve your goals and be proud of what you've accomplished. The key is having a few smart strategies in place beforehand. To make a health a priority this year, follow these tips from Bill Sonnemaker, IDEA Health and Fitness Association's 2007 International Personal Trainer of the Year.

Ask yourself why.

It's important to establish why you want to be healthier. Do you want to lose weight for an upcoming event? Do you want to eat healthier because your current habits are complicating your health? Whatever the reason, you should write it down and post it in place where you'll look at it every day as a reminder.


Be reasonable.

Don't set goals that are too ambitious. Instead, establish objectives that are healthy and reasonable. For example, losing one pound a week is considered safe, but trying to lose more than that may be unhealthy. In addition, if your goal is weight loss, make sure your target weight is appropriate for your height and body frame.


Don't fall into the February trap.

New Year's is a great time to begin to improve your fitness, but don't get sucked into thinking getting in shape is quick. It's not. It's a long-term process that requires dedication. So, once the February mark hits, don't get discouraged if you fitness results aren't what you would have liked. Stick with it, and eventually all your hard work will pay off.


Take stock.

In addition to taking proactive steps to improve your health, it's important to pinpoint all the bad habits that are currently compromising your wellness. If you've joined a gym, that's great, but also plan to overhaul existing rituals--like late-night binges or sitting in front of your television for hours--that could sabotage your efforts.


Change your perspective.

Whatever your goal, it's important that you don't view the process as something painful. For example, many people view exercise as a tedious endeavor, which makes them dread going to the gym. Instead, try to concentrate on all of the positive aspects of your activity and think of it as something you enjoy.


Make it easy.

The more convenient an activity is, the more likely you are to see it through. So, if you goal is shaping up, be sure to keep your exercise gear handy, and store your gym clothes and sneakers in your car. This way, you can't make excuses like, "I don't want to head all the way home and then back to the gym."


See the pyramid.

A reasonable nutrition model is one of the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. To make sure you're eating healthfully, use the USDA's Improved American Food Guide Pyramid to calculate your optimal daily guidelines for each food category. Then, weigh those requirements against your activity level. Use this knowledge as a basis for the nutrition decisions you make every day.


Forget fad diets.

It's been said before, but it bears repeating: Fad diets are exactly what their name suggests. They may work for a short time, but soon, the craze dies down, the results subside, and you're back to your old habits. What's more, fad diets can be dangerous to your health.


Be a savvy shopper.

One of the best and easiest ways to transform bad eating habits is to simply stop buying those items. Is your pantry or fridge full of junk foods? If so, you should throw them out before the ball drops. In the new year, stop shopping in unhealthy supermarket aisles. Instead, stick to the perimeter of the store, where the freshest, most nutritious foods are generally located.


Don't go solo.

Instead of attempting to go it alone, try to get your friends and family on board with your healthy plan. Together, you can help each other fight temptation and stay focused. That said, you can't rely solely on others for motivation, so be sure to find a way to motivate yourself through the process--and perhaps most important, remember to be proud of your goal.