Each year, we celebrate New Year’s Eve counting down with our loved ones. The moment the ball drops and the fireworks go off, we get caught up in the moment with an embrace and a kiss. It’s out with the old and in with the new. What could be more natural than pledging to bring out a new you?

We resolve to improve our eating habits, cutting back on salts and sugars, to sign up for the gym and to promise ourselves that we will actually go. For most of us, these wonderful resolutions rarely make it all the way through the first day of spring. What can we do differently this year?

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is the timing. Sure, it comes at the start of a new year, but it is also at the tail end of a season replete with company parties, large family feasts and nonstop shopping excursions from Black Friday to after-Christmas sales right next to the food court. In short, we get used to eating too much and not having enough time to exercise. Embracing this festive lifestyle at the end of the year makes it that much harder to turn it all around suddenly.

So, why wait until the 1st of January to make these New Year’s resolutions? What you can do differently this year is to be proactive and to get a jump on your resolutions. Commit to making all the right eating and fitness decisions before the holiday season. This means planning ahead for the table with healthier options, giving your family and friends feedback about what to bring to the potluck and enlisting your loved ones to keep you accountable. Maybe they will all join you in being health-conscious to help ensure fulfilling family gatherings long into the future!

Visiting loved ones is often the reason that we have less time for fitness. By sharing our goals with them, we can tap them as our best source of support through the holidays. They’re here to connect and celebrate with us. Since that togetherness is what’s important, we can plan and connect over physical activities that are good for body, mind and spirit.

An active lifestyle is its own reward, not just a way to get to a certain weight goal. Your body feels best when it is healthy and moving which also keeps your mind fit and wards off depression. That’s the best way for a family to enjoy the holidays! Exercising means having more energy for fun family games.

Begin by sharing your sincere commitment to begin your resolutions early. Enlist your family’s support in creating new traditions to support your best active selves, like modifying old family recipes to be more healthy, reducing or eliminating carbs, processed sugars, caffeine and alcohol. It’s easier to pass on unhealthy treats when there are plenty of healthy, delicious substitutes. Get everyone’s help putting food away after meals and then do something physically engaging in another area so that we won’t be tempted to continue snacking.

It is easier to maintain an existing diet and exercise routine than to let it go completely and then restart it. The more we make exceptions, the more the exceptions become the rule. By starting early, we won’t be discouraged and daunted January 1st. Even if we don’t stick to the plan with perfection during the holidays, we will be that much more ahead on our resolution for the New Year. We’ll truly get the most of the holidays in the process. The new you can do it!

By Dr. Nirali Patel