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The Doctor is In by Dr. Marissa Ferrazzo-Weller, Highland Medical PC, Nyack Hospital

Make healthy—But Realistic—New Year’s Resolutions

As you make your plans for 2013, consider choosing one or more achievable goals for improving your health. Many people make the mistake of picking a New Year’s resolution they are unlikely to keep, such as losing 30 pounds or working out for an hour a day.
Instead, start with something that is easy to implement. Even small changes can make a big difference in your health. Here are some ideas for making the coming year a healthier one:

Eating: Moderation, Not Deprivation

Instead of telling yourself you will cut out an entire category of food—desserts or carbohydrates, for instance—try cutting down on those foods instead. Pick one night a week to enjoy dessert. If you label a food as “bad” you may end up obsessing about it.

One food group you don’t have to worry about eating too much of is fresh fruits and vegetables. Try boosting the amount of these delicious natural foods, along with whole grains.

When Exercising, It’s Not All or Nothing

Another common resolution is to hit the gym with a rigorous exercise schedule. It’s easy to have unrealistic expectations about how many hours a week you will exercise, or how much weight you’ll lose as a result. All too often, people end up quitting their new exercise regimen altogether, instead of modifying it to fit their lifestyle.

If you can’t make it to the gym, try incorporating exercise into your daily life. Park farther away and walk more, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you own a treadmill or elliptical, put it in front of the TV. Take an easy pace during your favorite show but push yourself while commercials are on. It can easily add up to an hour of exercise.

If you haven’t seen your doctor in a while, now’s the time to make an appointment. Routine screening tests can catch serious health problems early, while they are easier to treat. Screening tests include mammograms and pap smears for women and prostate screening for men. Other common tests for everyone include blood pressure checks and tests for cholesterol and diabetes.

Make This the Year You Really Quit Smoking

If you’re trying to quit smoking, you don’t need to go it alone. Many resources are available, including medication your doctor can prescribe, or nicotine replacement therapy you can buy at the pharmacy. Many hospitals and health organizations offer smoking cessation support programs—in person, online, or by phone.

Whether you make these or other resolutions, choose adjustments you feel you can really stick with, week after week. Celebrate those small changes—they can add up to a big improvement in your health.