Experts say resolutions are easier to keep when you think small
Setting small, achievable goals and giving in to little rewards.
Those ideas are key when making and sticking to New Year’s resolutions. While some people like to set various personal goals, three resolutions — lose weight, stop smoking, save money — seem to crop up each Jan. 1 just to be abandoned a few weeks later.
“Any goal you set for yourself, it doesn’t matter what it is, takes perseverance,” said Pettis County Health Center Nutritionist Lori Bohnenstiehl. “Thinking small, rather than big, is actually the best way to stick to a resolution. Small goals allow you to see what you’ve accomplished easier and gives you instant gratification which can help inspire you to continue.”
Exercise more, eat healthier
When making a resolution about losing weight, eating healthier or exercising, it’s important to avoid setting broad goals, said Bohnenstiehl.
“If you say, ‘I want to lose 30 pounds,’ that can be overwhelming,” she said. “Instead, set smaller goals such as ‘I’m going to drink five glasses of water a day’ or ‘I’m going to exercise 10 minutes a day’ and gradually move that time up.”
Bohnenstiehl also suggested using an incentive system as a reward, though staying away from food rewards was important.
“Traditionally we reward ourselves with food,” she said. “We need to change that thought process so instead of a bowl of ice cream, reward yourself for losing 10 pounds by having a spa day or going to the movies.”
For those wanting lose weight, making healthier eating choices, rather than starting a diet, is the smart way to achieve that goal.
“There’s always a magic diet out there; it’s a $9 billion industry,” Bohnenstiehl said. “But crash diets are never the way to go. So often you end up gaining even more weight than where you started. Instead, read labels and remember the 5 to 20 rule — you want bad things like sodium and fats to be 5 percent or less, while good things like fiber or vitamins to be 20 percent.”
Another easy trick, she added, was learning to differentiate between being hungry and being thirsty.
“People are usually a little dehydrated and they think it’s a sign of hunger,” she said. “Try drinking a glass of water and if you’re still feeling hungry 20 minutes later, have a low-calorie snack. Websites such as myplate.gov or any of the free apps for smartphones can help keep track of calories and plan healthier meals too.”
Key to exercising, Bohnenstiehl said, is finding an enjoyable activity.
“If you hate walking on a treadmill, you aren’t going to do it,” she said. “When we think of exercise as a chore, it’s a lot harder to find the motivation to get it done. If you love to dance, try Zumba or call a friend and go walk around the track at State Fair Community College together. Actually, it’s better to work out with someone because it holds you more accountable and gives you a support system.
“When we’re making changes in our life, we all need someone who can help us and keep us on that road to health.”
On average, a person who tries to quit smoking will make five attempts to quit before they’re successful.
“Quitting is one of the most difficult things to achieve, not just because of the nicotine addiction, but because it requires a behavior change,” said Bothwell Regional Health Center Community Outreach Coordinator Sarah Nail. “For a lot of people who smoke, they can’t imagine finishing a meal without a cigarette, for example. So not only is it about quitting, it’s about learning new behaviors.”
To help with those changes, Bothwell will once again offer its “Freedom from Smoking” class at the end of the month. The class will combine different techniques, including examining the physical, social and behavioral addiction, to help those interested to quit.
“No one method works for everyone,” Nail said. “I’ve known some people who quit cold turkey and others swear by the nicotine patch or gum. It’s about drawing from past experiences to see what really works for you individually.”
And unlike other programs, the class — which meets weekly — doesn’t require participants to quit until the fourth session.
“We’re not telling them on the first day ‘OK, quit right now,’ ” Nail said. “We really prepare people for quitting and knowing it won’t happen until our designated Quit Day can take some of the anxiety out of quitting.
“Quitting smoking is at the top of a lot of people’s lists of New Year’s resolutions and I hope they consider really starting 2013 out right with this commitment to health.”
The “Freedom from Smoking” class will meet from 6 to 7 p.m. Mondays starting Jan. 28 at the Bothwell Education Center. Cost is $45 per person and pre-registration is required. For more information, call 827-9138 or email email@example.com.
Setting a budget is the simplest way to save money. The not-so-simple part is sticking to it, which is why Bob Holem, president of the Sedalia location of Equity Bank, suggests first taking a look at where the money is going.
“Keep your receipts, all of them, for 30 days,” he said. “At the end of the month you can look back and see exactly where you’re spending the most money. There are certain expenses — rent or mortgage, insurance payments, utilities — that are going to be roughly the same each month. After taking those out of the equation you can see ‘Maybe I’m spending too much on eating out’ or ‘I went clothes shopping X amount of times.’
“Plastic (credit and debit cards)is such a convenience that I think sometimes we forget there’s money attached.”
Simple tricks like writing down a grocery list and buying only what’s on the list will help keep budgets intact, Holem said. After setting a budget, start an emergency savings account.
“You should have, at a minimum, three months worth of expenses saved,” he said. “After you have that saved, start looking at your credit cards and take care of those high interest rates first. If you haven’t refinanced your house in the last two or three years, look into it. Mortgage rates have come down dramatically recently. You could be missing out on significant savings.”
Starting the year with making a commitment to being debt-free will help make long-term goals a reality, Holem added.
“Paying down, and paying off, debt has a positive effect on just about every aspect of your life,” he said. “You could start next year completely freely, without all the stress and worry about money. It’s not an impossible thing to do, it just takes a little planning and commitment.”
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