HOUGHTON - It's that time of year again to set New Year's resolutions.
While ambitious goal-setting is one of the most prevalent markers of a new year, the failure rate at achieving those goals is often alarmingly high. But 2012 can be different.
By setting more realistic goals and establishing a support system, a new-and-improved you could be just over the horizon. Resolutions can be made in a variety of areas, but improving fitness and health are among the most beneficial goals an individual can set.
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Fruits and vegetables are among the variety of foods suggested for those hoping to eat healthier in 2011.
"The biggest thing is taking the first step. Make the decision to commit," said local fitness expert and owner of UCanRow2 (ucanrow2.com) Terry Smythe. "It's important not to bite off more than you can chew. January is a killer month, and so many people start the year with such good intentions, but they set goals to do way more than they can logistically do. Gradually get into it."
Smythe, through her decades in the fitness industry, many as a fitness director with Aspirus Keweenaw, said starting out with a trainer can be helpful in defining specific objectives and methods. But she also added fitness is not that complicated, and it just takes effort.
"There's no magic potion. People have to do the work, but everyone who does the work reaps rewards," she said. "It's not rocket science, but for whatever reason, people find it so hard to do the right thing. Invest in yourself. Your body is a bank."
That said, many don't start a fitness routine because they feel it will break the bank financially. But according to Smythe, choosing to invest in healthy alternatives can cost the same as buying unhealthy foods, cigarettes or alcohol. It all boils down to choices. And for those who still say they can't afford it, Smythe has the answer for that, too.
"You don't need an expensive health club membership. It's as simple as putting two shoes on your feet and walking around the block, or taking the steps instead of the elevator," she said. "The bottom line is the body is intended to move. ... The body is the only machine that breaks down when you do not use it."
In addition to regular exercise routines, eating healthy can go a long way to preventing obesity, diabetes and other preventable problems.
"Healthy eating goals are an important resolution to work toward in the upcoming year because it is the gift that keeps on giving. When you make healthy eating choices, you feel better and are livelier," Portage Health registered dietician Rachel Doherty said.
Minor diet changes and emphasizing moderation can go a long way toward preventing problems, but, like exercise goals, realistic eating habits needs to be established, too. According to Doherty, one of the biggest pitfalls is losing momentum after one mistake. Nobody is perfect and instead of sulking and losing confidence, get back on track the next day and persevere. And narrow down a long list of goals and break each into substeps to create more realistic expectations.
"Aim for one or two great goals instead of overwhelming yourself with too many that it becomes impossible to achieve success," Portage dietician Tara Lassila added. "Also, aim for small, realistic steps toward achieving your goals. And track your progress - writing it down can help you stay on track."
In terms of diet decisions, moderation and variety are key, and Lassila suggests aiming for a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, while using color as a guide and including foods from the color rainbow for more impact.
With both diet and exercise, support from others is critical, and establishing similar goals in a whole group can prevent the loss of motivation from one individual.
"The best kind support comes from the people living under the same roof as you. Staying on track is much easier when everyone in a household is working toward the same goals," Doherty said. "For example, if everyone agrees to keep tempting junk foods out of the house and have more fruit and vegetables instead, you are more likely to follow through."
By following simple guidelines of moderation, realistic goal setting and support, people can make 2012 a year successful New Year's resolutions.