A Little Word on New Year’s Resolutions

Hello 2013. How will you be? As the first day of the New Year draws to an end, I wanted to sit down and share my New Year’s Resolutions.

2012 has been a tremendously difficult year. While it had wonderful, redeeming moments, I can’t say I’ll be sad to see it go. 2012 was the year I experienced firsthand the pain of death, sickness, and betrayal. It was a difficult year for many, and my heart continues to go out to those affected by the year’s disasters and tragedies. We live in a time in which we must truly cherish every little moment of success or joy. They are reminders that while nothing every stays the same, things can always get better. And there are small things we can do to improve our personal health and happiness right now.

Resolution #1: Make Resolutions

I’ve heard it said that resolutions are “lame” because they imply eventual failure. Certainly, setting unrealistic goals creates a potential for disappointment. But as I’m doing here at Little Word Bites, setting pragmatic, small goals can create healthy, happy life-changes.

According to studies by behavioral-change researchers, small, concrete goals, with clear timelines ensures you will see and experience progress.

Work toward goals by taking incremental steps, rather than diving in all at once. If you want to start leading a vegetarian lifestyle, I don’t recommend giving up all meat, all in one day. Instead, try slowly cutting back. This builds confidence for future success. Meatless Monday is a great way to try out vegetarianism. It encourages incorporating the lifestyle one day at a time.

Another secret to goal-achievement is to allow yourself a little realistic pessimism. A study performed at the University of Pennsylvania found that dieters who had negative fantasies (in this situation, I’d choose pizza instead of salad) lost more weight in the long-term. Why is that?

“Positive thinkers don’t always mentally prepare for setbacks,” said First magazine in their article on effective resolution-setting.

Mistakes will happen. That’s human! But setting realistic goals can be a great way to begin making valuable life changes. Acknowledging that the path may be difficult isn’t failure. It’s a matter of normal progress.

Resolution #2: Drink More Water

A little Pomegranate Lemonade flavor will help me to slowly introduce more water into my diet.

A little Pomegranate Lemonade flavor will help me to slowly introduce more water into my diet.

If you know me, you know I almost never drink water, unless it’s carbonated or flavored. Yet I’ve committed myself to leading a healthy lifestyle, and water is a key component.

I’m going to drink one natural glass of water a day. To help me, I’ve stocked my cabinet with Mio Water Flavoring drops and Crystal Light packets.

These calorie and carbohydrate-free mixes aren’t a long term solution to my aversion to water. But replacing a glass of diet soda with water from my own tap (even flavored) will be a positive step toward my goal of consuming more H2O. Drinking tea in the morning, rather than my typical double espresso, will also help me to consume more water.

I’m hopeful I’ll soon be pouring myself a fresh, clear glass of water. And actually drinking it. And maybe even drinking another.

Resolution #3: Wine More

For those of us who do like to celebrate with a drink, there are a number of scientificaly demonstrated health benefits we can be grateful for.

For those of us who do like to celebrate with a drink, there are a number of scientificaly demonstrated health benefits we can be grateful for.

Some people believe drinking alcohol is bad for your body, and your soul. Yet I’m sure for many, the New Year was ushered in with a sparkling glass of champagne, or a few flavorful cocktails.

My New Year’s resolution is not to stop consuming alcohol. When enjoyed in moderation, and with a little restraint (read A Little Word on a Mini Toast for tips on keeping cocktails from doing diet damage) a drink can be a great thing.

Wine, in particular, has a number of scientifically-demonstrated health benefits. Studies show again and again that drinking this beverage in moderation (one or two 4-ounce glasses a day) is truly a toast to a healthy year. My goal is to temper a craving for a Tom Collins or hard cider with a glass of wine.

Reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer by as much as 50 percent with a glass of wine. Furthermore, studies conducted over almost 30 years show that wine promotes longevity, especially when compared to those who consume beer or spirits. Wine also promotes brain function, which declines at a markedly faster rate in nondrinkers than in moderate drinkers.

If you don’t drink – whether your reasons be religious, health, or lifestyle-driven – that’s great too. But for more information, check out this fantastic article from Food & Wine.

Resolution #4: Keep Track

MyFitnessPal is one of my favorite health programs.  Track calories, protein intake, sugar levels, glasses of water, and exercise all in one seamless app.

MyFitnessPal is one of my favorite health programs. Track calories, protein intake, sugar levels, glasses of water, and exercise all in one seamless app.

There is a school of thought that calorie counting is diabolical. Of course, letting calories run your life isn’t healthy. But many people use the New Year to set positive weight and health goals, and those acts should be celebrated, not diminished.

In 2013, I’m resolving to keep closer track of what I eat. A food journal is a great way to determine whether or not you’re staying within a healthy calorie range. What’s more, food journals help you to recognize patterns in your eating.

Some of these are healthy patterns – you may notice you make better food choices on days you walk to work or class. You may find yourself eating more vegetables if you go to the farmer’s market, rather than Shaw’s, for your produce.

Some of these patterns are opportunities to initiate change and add variety – If you eat oatmeal every day for breakfast, try changing it up with a poached egg or a bowl of cottage cheese.

I recommend MyFitnessPal, an application for tablets and smart phones perfect for tech-savvy health seekers. I’ve used this on and off for the past year, and have found it extremely illuminating. MyFitnessPal has pointed out the hidden sugar in my diet, and the days I need more protein. And, of course, it tracks calories and exercise if weight loss is a goal. I resolve to log in every day, even to simply learn about the nutritional breakdown of a food.

Resolution #5: Move More

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My resolution this year is to move more, and to move differently. I have a gym membership, but it’s good to practice moving the body in ways other than straight cardio or strength training.

Yoga once helped me gain flexibility, strengthen my core, and find an hour of quiet mental relaxation.

I did yoga until I began to suspect that my boyfriend [now ex] was seeing the girl who taught the yoga class. So I stopped going.

However, I just signed up for a membership at North End Yoga. I’m extremely excited to restart this practice in a new, fresh environment, while I learn to separate bad feelings from the things that conjure them.

While gym and class memberships can be expensive, there are dozens of other ways to make a physical change in your routine. If you usually take the train to work, try leaving twenty minutes early to walk. Carry your groceries instead of wheeling them. Find a free community Zumba class. Increase physical activity in inventive ways and reclaim a connection to your body.

In addition to these main health and wellness resolutions, I’m also setting a few additional goals. I’m committing to writing every day – so look for daily status updates and tweets from Little Word Bites! I’m also adding an hour of sleep to my nights, starting with small, achievable, 15-minute increments.

Now I’ve said my peace about 2012, and I want to recognize the wonderful things that have come out of this year.

Instead of dwelling on loss, I want to acknowledge how grateful I am to have been surrounded with genuine, good people. People who always choose the honest way, not the easy way. Modesty over vanity. Sensitivity and love over personal gain.

I am toasting to life – to my mother’s renewed health, and the birth of my little baby cousin, Hannah. I am toasting to unforgettable travels abroad, fortuitous meetings, and another year of wonderful little words and bites.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Until next time,

Melanie

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