By Nancy Cardillo
New Year’s Eve is seen by many as a time for self reflection, an opportunity to assess their lives and decide what to change in the new year so as to achieve greater health and happiness. Think of it, if you will, as a personal reboot.
If you’ve made resolutions for the new year, you’re not alone. More than half of adult Americans will start 2020 by making at least one resolution. The most popular New Year’s resolutions in 2019, according to inc.com, included:
• diet or eat healthier
• exercise more
• lose weight
• save more, spend less
• quit smoking
Are any of these on your resolution list for 2020?
If so, good for you! You’ve taken the first step toward a happier, healthier you. Now, the hard part: making those resolutions stick. Because while millions of Americans will make resolutions with the best intentions, just a fraction will actually keep them longer than a month or so.
Why do most New Year’s resolutions fail? The reasons vary, but many people fail because they make resolutions that are too broad or too vague, such as “I want to lose weight” or “I want to start exercising.” Others set goals that are too difficult to achieve, such as “I’m going to start running five miles a day.”
“You’re better off starting small and more realistically, particularly if your resolution is a new habit for you,” says Charles Pelitera, assistant professor and director of health and wellness at Canisius College and owner of Pelitera’s Fitness and Performance Center in North Tonawanda. “Commit to walking one mile a day, then periodically increase the distance you walk, the intensity of your walk [possibly jog] or the number of days [frequency] you walk.”
Time is also a factor in not keeping resolutions.
“We all develop habits, and it can be difficult to talk ourselves out of those habits,” says Pelitera. “It’s easy to say you don’t have time to exercise if it’s not been part of your daily routine. So, what you need to do is plan for it. Block off time on your calendar for the time of day when you know you’ll be able to keep the commitment — it’ll get easier once you’re in your new routine.”
Pelitera recommends working with a professional when you start new exercise and dieting routines. “A professional will design a plan using exercises that will achieve your desired goals, and will show you proper form so you avoid injury and frustration.”
Is this the year you finally quit smoking?
According to the Center for Disease Control, seven out of 10 adults who smoke say they want to quit completely. It’s not easy: cigarettes contain nicotine, a drug naturally found in tobacco. Nicotine is just as addictive as heroin, cocaine or alcohol, yet more people in the United States are addicted to nicotine than any other drug.
“We’ve come a long way in helping people understand that smoking is a physical and psychological addiction,” says Paula Celestino of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Cessation Services, which administers the New York State Smokers’ Quitline. “The good news is there are available treatments that do work.”
Celestino, who has a Master of Public Health degree, says the best way to quit is to combine support from family, healthcare professionals and a quit coach with FDA-approved medications, such as the nicotine patch, nicotine gum or prescription non-nicotine medications. The key, she says, is to make sure you’re taking the proper amount of meds that will work for your level of nicotine addiction.
Celestino also stresses it’s never too late to quit smoking.
“You will gain health benefits within minutes of quitting, no matter how long you’ve smoked,” she says. “You’ll decrease the risk to your heart, improve other chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and asthma, and if you have cancer, quitting can also improve the effectiveness of your cancer treatments.
For more information on quitting smoking, visit nysmokefree.com or call 866-NYQUITS (866-697-8487).
How do you make those resolutions stick?
Here are some tips:
• Approach resolutions honestly. Don’t bow to pressure or guilt. Figure out what is most important for you and set goals accordingly.
• Start slowly. Setting too many goals at once can get confusing and frustrating. Start with the goal that will benefit you the most and add in other goals as you progress.
• Keep it simple. Set specific and attainable goal: lose 10 pounds by June to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress or cut back to one pack of cigarettes a week.
• Set yourself up for success. Rid your kitchen of trigger foods and replace with healthier options. Cook healthier meals and freeze them, so you’re less likely to binge. Sleep in your gym clothes, place your alarm on the other side of the bedroom so you get up and go.
• Track your progress. There are apps and online programs that make it easy to track your progress, and noting your achievements can be very gratifying.
• Be accountable. Tell your family and friends your goals. Post your progress on your social media accounts. Acknowledge your setbacks, but also celebrate even the smallest of achievements toward your goal.
• Be patient. You won’t achieve your goals overnight and you shouldn’t. The smarter, healthier way is to do so slowly. Lose a pound a week. Eliminate one bad food item per week from your diet. Walk, don’t run.
Make 2020 a healthier, happier year for you — you deserve it!