Healthy Living: Healthy Resolutions—A New Year, A New You
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There’s nothing new about New Year’s resolutions—whether you want to read more, save money or drop a few pounds. While some scoff at how fleeting these promises to ourselves can be, others say we deserve credit for at least acknowledging a need for self-improvement—and for giving it the old college try. We know it can be overwhelming to exact any significant change in lifestyle or habit, but let’s say you’re really determined this year. What can you do differently to make your resolutions stick? What baby steps can you take? What adjustments or reward system can you put in place to bring you closer to your goal?
“Quantify it,” advises Donald E. Wetmore, founding president of The Productivity Institute, a time-management think tank in Stratford. We often set ourselves up to fail for the simple reason that resolutions tend to be vague (such as “I want to lose weight”), says Wetmore. Specificity make us feel more accountable, so attach a number and a deadline to your resolution. By saying “I want to lose 10 pounds by summer,” you’ve clarified your intention, making it feel more attainable. Deadlines are commitments, but more than that, they can help “break your resolution into bite-sized pieces,” says Wetmore, which in turn, makes it more manageable.
Next, allow that change is hard. Don’t set too many goals, he adds, or your campaign is sure to collapse; make only one or two resolutions at most. Finally, be realistic. A desire for growth and self-improvement is admirable, but is it really likely that you’ll achieve enlightenment this year if you just go to yoga more often? Be honest with yourself and choose a goal that’s challenging—but attainable.
To help you get there, we’ve identified the most common resolutions and rounded up some expert advice on how to keep them—once and for all.
Burnout is the workout’s greatest enemy, according to Dorrie Carolan, co-director of the NYA Sports & Fitness Center in Newtown. “We see it all the time. When people first start working out, they come in five days a week,” says Carolan, “but they just get burned out and that’s it. We advise them to come in three days a week to start.” If you’re new to the gym and not sure how to use the equipment, she recommends meeting with a personal trainer—even if it’s just for a few sessions. “If you don’t learn how to lift or exercise properly, you’re more likely to injure yourself—and stop coming,” she says.
If you’re serious:
■ Take a class. Sometimes just being around others helps with motivation.
■ Switch up your program every four to six weeks to avoid boredom.
■ Pay for a year’s membership. It’s more cost-effective and increases your sense of obligation!
If anyone knows how challenging dieting can be, it’s Kim Bensen. The Shelton weight-management expert and author of Finally Thin! lost 212 pounds 10 years ago—and kept it off. The founder of “Options,” a membership weight-loss program, she’s in her element when discussing diet (not a dirty word in her book). “First of all, whatever program you choose to follow, it has to be tailored to you,” says Bensen. “A lot of diet programs work, but you have to make it yours.” She asserts, like many, that losing weight is part of a lifestyle change, and that getting there is a very calculated effort. “You’ve got to make this your job,” she says. “You have to put yourself first, make it a priority, learn to cook things you will eat and make again, and enjoy what you’re doing.”
If you’re serious:
■ Do the math. At the end of the day weight loss is about calories in and calories out. There are lots of apps and programs that can help you arrive at the daily numbers that will spell success.
■ Choose a well-rounded diet and watching out for “free foods;” they are not non-caloric. Says Bensen: “Most people are not slow losers, they’re sloppy dieters.”
■ Find a strategy that is stress-free. “There’s nothing like stress to send you to the cookie jar,” she cautions.
Hands down, giving up tobacco is one of the best things you can do for your health—and it’s also one of the most difficult resolutions to keep. Luckily, much research has gone into breaking the habit, so there’s a lot of support out there for anyone who is determined to quit. The Connecticut Quitline is a great place to start. The program allows you to participate remotely; there are no meetings to attend.
If you’re serious:
■ Personalize your quitting strategy. Quitline can help you select the nicotine substitute or other medication (for free) that’s right for you.
■ Rely on someone to help. Quitline coaches are available for advice and support whenever you need it.
■ Learn from the experience every step of the way. Quitting takes practice, so you may not get there the first few times you try.