Local experts share tips on making, keeping resolutions

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



People across the world have been making, and breaking, New Year’s resolutions for an estimated 4,000 years.

We can thank the Babylonians for starting that tradition.

The practice is believed to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot, according to the History channel website, http://www.history.com.

Back then, resolutions involved paying off debts and returning borrowed farm equipment. Today, many people still resolve to pay off debt, but also set goals to lose weight, learn a new skill or break a bad habit.

The age-old custom of breaking those newly formed resolutions within a couple months likely originated shortly after the resolving began.

Last January, Time magazine had a story about the Top 10 commonly broken New Year’s resolutions. Five of them were health-related resolutions.

So The Columbian took those common health and fitness resolutions to the pros. We consulted with local experts and compiled a list of tips to help goal-setters stick to their resolutions.

Here’s to a happy — and healthy — new year.

Lose weight

• Keep track of your food and exercise habits by writing them down. The first step to changing an unwanted behavior is to confront that behavior. Keeping track of your food and exercise keeps you accountable.

• It’s much more important to change what you’re eating than it is to try to change how much you’re allowing yourself to eat. The idea of eating less to lose weight is one of the biggest dieting myths that exists today. If you follow that advice, chances are you’re going to feel deprived and hungry. And when people are hungry, they go for the quickest food they can find, which in most cases will be higher calorie. Whole fruits and vegetables are low-calorie, low-fat and high in fiber. Aim for at least 5 cups combined each day, but more is better.

• Consider using portion-controlled meal replacements as a part of your plan to lose weight. Nearly all of the dieting programs out there use meal replacements for all of part of their meal plans. Why? The average American makes about 200 decisions about food daily. So eating a meal replacement shake for breakfast or a portion-controlled entree for lunch automatically eliminates at least some those food decisions.

— From registered dietician Dominique Lopez-Stickney, health educator for the Weight Loss for Life Program at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center

Want more?

Free iPhone apps — such as FitDay and MyNetDiary — and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SuperTracker (https://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker) make tracking food and exercise easier.

Did you know?

In Clark County, 64 percent of adults are overweight or obese, and 23 percent of 10th-graders are overweight or at risk of being overweight.

Quit smoking

• Get ready. Set a quit date and change the things around you. Get rid of all cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car and place of work. Don’t let people smoke in your home. Tell your family, friends and people you work with that you are going to quit and ask for their support.

• Get medicine. You can buy nicotine gum, patch or lozenges at a drug store. These are over-the-counter medicines. Ask your pharmacist for more information. Ask your doctor about other medicines that can help you. Most health insurance will pay for these medicines.

• Stay quit. If you slip and smoke or chew tobacco, don’t give up. Try again soon. Set a new quit date to get back on track. Avoid alcohol and avoid being around smoking. Drink lots of water. Do something different when you have a craving; cravings pass. Eat healthy food and get exercise. And keep a positive attitude. Most people try several times before they quit for good, so don’t give up.

— From Theresa Cross, health educator for Clark County Public Health’s chronic disease prevention program.

Want more?

Check out these websites for more helpful hints: http://www.smokefree.gov and http://www.BecomeAnEx.com. Washington residents with Medicaid insurance and those with employer-based insurance that includes a cessation benefit can call the Washington Tobacco Quitline, 800-QUIT-NOW, for counseling and nicotine replacement therapy.

Did you know?

In Clark County, 17 percent of adults smoke cigarettes, and 16 percent of 10th-graders have smoked in the past 30 days.

Eat more healthfully

• Follow the healthy plate method ([ ] your plate non-starchy vegetables, [ ] protein and [ ] whole grains.) Eat the veggies first so by the time you get to the protein and grain part of your meal, you’ll be less likely to overeat. If you’re still hungry, get second helpings with more vegetables.

• Turn your meal into a soup. Incorporating water into a meal rather than simply adding water on the side will increase fullness and help you to control your portions.

• Substitute refined sugars for complex carbohydrates (use lentils, beans and whole grains instead of white rice, pasta or foods high in added sugars).

— From registered dietician Dominique Lopez-Stickney, health educator for the Weight Loss for Life Program at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, and Dr. Tony Daniels, family practitioner at the Kaiser Permanente Cascade Park office.

Want more?

The USDA is now offering the SuperTracker, which allows you to track the foods you eat and look up the nutrition information for more than 8,000 foods. Check it out here: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker. The USDA’s MyPlate campaign also offers nutrition tips and health information (http://www.choosemyplate.gov).

Did you know?

In Clark County, 26 percent of adults and 25 percent of 10th-graders eat five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.

Reduce stress

• Be specific. The concept of “stress” is somewhat abstract, which makes it complicated to reduce. To have success with your resolution, be as specific as possible about your goal. For example, “be less stressed out” is more of a setup for failure than “lower my level of stress by removing myself from that time-consuming committee at work and exercising three times a week.”

• Start small. A common blunder for making lifestyle changes to lower stress is trying to make a dozen changes at once. If you want success, pick one or two very doable things to start with and make those part of your life through the next six to eight weeks. Once you have those integrated, pick a couple more and build those in over the next few months.

• Schedule it in. If part of your resolution is to reduce stress through doing more fun or relaxing activities, you can set yourself up for success by getting those on your calendar. People who are successful at reducing their levels of stress are able to have it in their schedule, and they protect that time ferociously.

— From Will Meek, lead psychologist at Washington State University Vancouver Counseling & Testing Services.

Drink less alcohol

• Alcohol slows metabolism; it’s burned before other calories. A glass of wine or a bottle of beer has about 130 to 160 calories each. Control portion sizes by drinking out of a tall, thin glass rather than a short, stout class. You’ll fill up your glass with less and not feel deprived.

• Consume alcohol only on special occasions. To break our of a habit of using it daily, pour sparkling flavored water or mineral water into a wine glass for a calorie-free treat.

• If you’re around friends who imbibe, always keep your hands full with a diet soda with a lime wedge or another non-alcoholic drink — they’ll be less likely to pressure you to drink.

—From registered dietician Dominique Lopez-Stickney, health educator for the Weight Loss for Life Program at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, and Dr. Tony Daniels, family practitioner at the Kaiser Permanente Cascade Park office.

Did you know?

In Clark County, 5 percent of adults are heavy drinkers (males having more than two drinks per day and females having more than one drink per day) and 15 percent of adults admit to binge drinking (males having five or more drinks or females having four or more drinks on one occasion).

Statistics from the 2009 Community Report Card published by Community Choices.