Experts: Successful New Year's Resolutions Should Be Ambitious, But Realistic

New Years resolutions are hard to keep. Find out how.
By on 01/02/2020 2:00 PM

Source: MedicineNet Health News

New Year's resolutions - which statistics show are overwhelmingly about improving health - are famously difficult to keep.

In 2019, 80% of survey respondents had failed to keep their resolutions even beyond Jan. 31, and just 8% reported they adhered to their resolutions all year, according to the consumer data clearinghouse Statista.

So how do you make it into that coveted 8% of lean, fit, non-smoking resolution keepers?

Experts at Harvard Medical School and the American Psychological Association (APA) said for the best chance of success, make your resolutions ambitious, but manageable. If you want to change a health behavior - and 6 of the top 12 resolutions nationwide have to do with diet, exercise, smoking or alcohol use - you should pick one bad habit at a time.

"Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time," states an APA article. "Thus, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don't get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time."

You can take those ambitious goals and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. The following are tips from our MedicineNet doctors to help you on your way to improved health in 2020.

Tips for Changing Your Diet and Losing Weight

Medical science has established that eating proper foods can influence health for all age groups, according to MedicineNet author . The U.S. Department of Agriculture's current dietary guidelines state the following:

  • Eat a variety of foods.
  • Balance the food you eat with physical activity -- maintain or improve your weight.
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  • Choose a diet moderate in sugars.
  • Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

Scientists have made major strides in understanding obesity and in improving the medication treatment of this important disease, Dr. Balentine said. In time, better, safer, and more effective obesity medications will be available.

But currently there is still no "magic cure" for obesity. The best and safest way to lose fat and keep it off, according to Dr. Balentine, is through a commitment to a lifelong process of proper diet and regular exercise. Medications should be considered helpful adjuncts to diet and exercise for patients whose health risk from obesity clearly outweigh the potential side effects of the medications.

Almost any of the commercial weight-loss programs can work, but only if they motivate you sufficiently to decrease the amount of calories you eat or increase the amount of calories you burn each day (or both).

How to Exercise More Regularly

and MedicineNet author, acknowledges adding exercise can be tough when you have a busy life. But five of the most popular and effective exercises can be done for free anywhere, without buying expensive gym memberships or bulky home equipment. Consistency is the real key.

"People can do all of these at home, at work, on vacation, or almost anywhere without any elaborate equipment, except for a good pair of gym shoes and a consistent will to reach your goals," he said.

  • Interval training: This refers to doing almost any type of exercise at a variable pace. For example, if you are walking or doing push-ups, vary the pace of the exercise. You can walk normally for a minute or so, and then speed up a bit, and then return to normal speed several times.
  • Walking: A walk is one of the best exercises to begin with in any exercise program. Men and women can do this together as a calorie-burning cardiovascular exercise.
  • Squats: This exercise is an excellent calorie burner because squats use the largest muscle groups in the body (quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals; that is, the thigh muscles and the buttocks). Squats are exercises that consist of an up and down motion of the body that resembles the motion of getting out of a chair.
  • Lunges: Lunges work the same large muscle groups as the squats, but can work additional leg muscles and improve balance. Lunges are done by taking a big enough step forward that the knee forms about a 90-degree angle. However, you must to keep your spine in a neutral position (upright position, no bending forward).
  • Push-ups: The basic push-up is the classic exercise to strengthen the upper body (chest, shoulders, and triceps) and core (abdominal muscles).

Dr. Davis said to make sure you consult with your doctor before starting any exercise routine, especially if you have health conditions, are on medication, or have little experience with exercising.

How to Stop Smoking

Although smoking is a serious addiction, people can quit smoking. The following are facts and tips about smoking cessation to help you stub out that final butt, according to MedicineNet author

  • In nicotine replacement therapy, which is the cornerstone of most smoking cessation programs, another source of nicotine is substituted while the cigarettes are stopped. (The idea of nicotine replacement therapy is to eliminate both the smoking habit - although the addiction remains - and the symptoms of withdrawal. Then, the replacement nicotine is gradually stopped.)
  • Currently, three forms of nicotine replacement therapy are available over the counter: nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and nicotine lozenges. Another two forms are available by prescription: an inhaler and a nasal spray.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy has about a 25% success rate, which increases to 35% or 40% when nicotine replacement therapy is combined with intensive behavioral counseling.
  • Varenicline (Chantix) is a prescription drug that can help adults quit smoking. It is believed to act on the same receptors (the sites where nicotine acts to produce its effects) in the brain as nicotine, resulting in activation (stimulation) of these receptors and blocking the ability of nicotine to attach to these receptors.
  • A prescription drug called bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin) has also been found to be effective in helping people to stop smoking.
  • E-cigarettes or vapes are devices that use refillable or replaceable cartridges that holds nicotine-infused liquid heated by a battery and inhaled as a vapor. The safety of e-cigarettes is not known at this time.

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