Archive for January, 2013

Nutrition Tip of the Week

Monday, January 28th, 2013 by admin

Author: Nadea S. Minet, MS, RD, LD

Week of January 28, 2013

Winter Workouts

When the mercury starts to drop, so does our motivation to get up and get going.  Unfortunately, it is also this frigid time of year we instinctively want to pack in more calories, which makes sticking to an exercise plan even more critical. This is the time of year when many have moved their workout indoors in fear of frostbite or just because they hate the cold. I completely understand, but you can make outdoor workouts fun and it can actually help you adapt to the cold more effectively and even keep you healthy. Lets discuss some tips to stay warm and safe when exercising outdoors and describe some of the benefits of getting outdoors in the wintertime.

So, exactly what are the benefits of getting outdoors in the wintertime?

First, exercising outside for 3 months of the year helps you to stay rather healthy. It may be healthier than heading into the gym with everyone else and finding yourself getting sick. The gym in the winter can be like a grade school playground or sitting in airplane; there are all these people with all these different germs floating around in a confined area. You may be more susceptible to getting sick.  Personally, I have not noticed this problem in an outdoor boot camp class.

Second, research suggest your blood will thicken and your body will adapt better to the cold by being outdoors for 30-60 minutes a day. Many of us head inside when the temperature drops below 40°F and we don’t come outside again until spring. Imagine, if you sit inside in a 70°F or warmer heated office all day long; of course you are going to be cold when you go outside. By exposing yourself to the cold, your body will adapt and make this time of the year more tolerable.

Finally, believe it or not, it can be FUN outdoors in the wintertime. Making snow angels, building a snowman, sledding down the hill on a sled and having a snowball fight with your kids can be lots of fun, not to mention, a definite workout. Who says just because we are a few years older we have to go indoors and stop having fun? Get out there and enjoy yourself while burning lots of calories.

Staying warm and dry while exercising in the cooler temperatures can be challenging.  While ice and snow can be treacherous, don’t let winter stop you from getting in your outdoor workouts.  Here are some tips to keep you warm and safe while you continue your workout through the winter months.

Pick the Right Clothes

During the dead of winter, your body is literally fighting the elements to stay warm; dressing accordingly and practicing a proper warm-up is even more important.  Staying dry is vital and quality apparel and equipment makes everything easier, especially in the winter. Clothes explicitly designed for cold weather wick away moisture from the body to keep you dry and warm. For the layer that goes against your skin look for “moisture wicking” on the label, as well as machine washable materials. Avoid 100% cotton; it holds sweat and can lead to chills, muscle tightness and discomfort. Think of it like a banana. You want to have layers that you can easily peel off and then put back on as your body’s temperature goes up and down.

Wear Light Layers

Layers are imperative because if you get too hot, you can take some things off to cool down. Over your long sleeve moisture-wicking shirt, wear a fleece or wool pullover for insulation. Add an outer layer that will repel water and block wind.

Use Reflective Gear

Since the days are shorter and it might be dark when you work out, make sure to wear easy-to-see colors and other reflective gear that can help drivers see you in the dark. There are reflective vests that are mesh which won’t add weight and bulk, but can be seen hundreds of feet away and offer 360° of visibility. If you prefer to bike, flashing lights connected to your bike are another way to gain more visibility and ensure you can be seen, even if you are working out in the dark.

Cover Your Head and Ears

The majority of heat escapes the body from the head. Hats can keep in heat; look for hats made with moisture-wicking materials so as not to keep your head too sweaty. Headbands that cover the ears are also a great way to keep your head warm, without getting too sweaty.

Keep Hands and Feet Warm

Protect your fingers and toes from frostbite by wearing thin gloves that can be layered inside heavier lined gloves or mittens. Thermal socks are another essential winter workout item and can keep your feet cozy.

Have an Indoor Alternative

In really nasty weather, bring your workout indoors. This is a great time to cross train and try a new activity. Many gyms offer memberships on a month-to-month basis, which is a good opportunity to try a new class, start a weight training routine or try something completely new.  Did someone say zumba?

Easing into cold-weather activities, paying attention to layering, consuming plenty of calories and fluids before, during, and after exercise, while taking extra time to warm-up are all crucial this time of year. It is also important to budget time for exercise and get-up earlier to fit in time at the gym or your outdoor workout. Although it can be tough getting up early when it is dark and cold, it will definitely feel worth it when you know you started your day out right, took care of your workout and continued on your way to Celebrating your weight loss success.

Nutrition Tip of the Week

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 by hmackie

Author: Heather K. Mackie, MS, RD, LD

Week of January 21, 2013

BMI, Inches, and Weight – What is Important?  Is it Just a Bunch of Numbers?

As a weight loss surgery patient, you are constantly surrounded by numbers, but what do each of these numbers mean and which ones matter?  Let’s take a look at a few parameters that are commonly measured.

BMI – What is it?  What does it mean? Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from an individual’s height and weight.  BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.  To use the below table, find the appropriate height (in inches) in the left-hand column labeled height.  Move across to a given weight (in pounds).  The number at the top of the column is the BMI at that height and weight.  Pounds have been rounded off.

BMI Categories. Your BMI is often categorized.  A normal BMI refers to the least risk of chronic health conditions.  The higher your BMI, the greater your risk for chronic health conditions.  The opposite is also true; a BMI less than normal (i.e., underweight) may also increase your risk of chronic health conditions.

Category                             BMI (kg/m2)

Underweight                        < 18.5

Normal Weight                   18.5-24.99

Overweight                           > 25-29.99

Obese                                      > 30-39.99

Morbid Obesity                     > 40

Measurements – Why are they Important? Many patients will record their measurements when they start a weight loss program and continue doing so monthly.  This may be an additional tool when it comes to motivation as some patients report the scale not moving, while they are clearly losing inches.  It has been theorized that patients cycle with weight loss – meaning you lose some weight, and then plateau and possibly during that plateau you lose inches.  Recording your inches throughout your weight loss program will continue to provide positive reinforcement for the changes you are initiating.

Measurements – How and Where? Be sure to measure in exactly the same place every time.  It may be beneficial to employ a support person or healthcare provider to help you do your measurements to ensure accuracy.  Some common measurements and instructions are below:

  • Bust (women) – Place the measuring tape across your nipples and measure around the largest part of your chest.  Be sure to keep the tape parallel to the floor.
  • Chest (men) – Place the measuring tape around the largest part of your chest, slightly underneath your armpit, while keeping the tape parallel to the floor.
  • Waist (everyone) – Place the measuring tape about a ½ inch above your belly button (at the narrowest part of your waist) and measure around your torso.  Be sure to keep the tape parallel to the floor.  When measuring your waist, exhale and measure before inhaling again to get an accurate reading.
  • Hips (everyone) – Place the measuring tape across the widest part of your hips/buttocks and measure around while being sure to keep the tape parallel to the floor.
  • Thigh (everyone) – Measure the distance between the kneecap and the bend of your upper leg and hip.  Measure your thigh at half that distance (i.e., half of the length of your upper leg).  Make sure you keep all of your weight on the opposite leg when measuring (i.e., when measuring your right thigh, place your weight on your left leg).
  • Calves (everyone) – Measure at the fullest point in your calf (the widest circumference).
  • Upper arm (everyone) – Measure at half the distance between top of shoulder on arm and elbow (this should be around the bicep area).
  • Neck (everyone) – Measure around the largest part of the neck.

Tips for taking measurements:

  • Be sure to stand tall with your muscles relaxed and feet together.
  • When measuring, apply constant pressure to the tape to prevent sagging without pinching the skin.
  • Use a flexible measuring tape (plastic or cloth).
  • Measure under the same conditions (i.e., wear the same clothes or none).
  • If you have to do the measurements yourself, do so in front of a mirror to ensure tape is positioned correctly.
  • The exact place for these measurements will vary from person to person.  To ensure accuracy, remember to take them in the same place on your body every time.
  • Measure only on one side of the body (ex. right side only) and be sure to measure that side every time.

Remember, losing inches means you will be wearing a smaller size.  In order to be healthier, you have to lose both weight and inches.  You may want to use the chart below to track your progress.

Date: Date: Date: Date: Date: Date:
Chest/Bust
Waist
Hips
Thigh
Calf
Upper Arm
Neck
Total Inches
Inches Lost

Waist-to-Hip Ratio. Another common metric that some healthcare professionals review is your waist-to-hip ratio.  Since you are already taking your measurements, it is easy to calculate and evaluate this metric.  Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.  Research has taught us that those individuals with “apple-shaped” bodies (more weight around the waist) are at a higher health risk than those individuals with “pear-shaped” bodies (more weight around the hips).  Some resources suggest women aged 18-59 should have a waist-to-hip ratio less than or equal to 0.80.  Men aged 18-59 should have a waist-to-hip ratio less than or equal to 0.90.  Waist-to-hip ratios higher than this may increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Waist Measurement. Some professionals simply evaluate waist measurement as a tool to evaluate risk of heart disease and diabetes.  Women should have a waist measurement less than 35 inches, while men should have a waist measurement less than 40 inches.  Waist measurements higher than the recommended number may increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Graph Your Success. It is normal, even as a weight loss surgery patient to experience ups and downs with your weight loss.  However, what is the overall trend.  By graphing your weight, every time you weigh, it helps to see if the overall trend is up or down and help you adjust your eating patterns and activity accordingly.

With all of these numbers and recommendations, do not let your head start spinning.  Simply think about everything as improvement and progress.  While you may not have the “perfect” BMI if you are working towards reducing your weight and inches than you are doing amazing things!  If you are starting now, take your measurements, weight, and BMI so you can track your progress as many patients that have walked this path before you will tell you it is a great motivation tool.  If you are further out from your surgery, take your measurements today and start tracking on your way to health and wellness!

Also, keep in mind there is so much more to success than just numbers.  Are you off certain medications (blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.), are chronic health conditions under control, are you able to walk up a flight of stairs and not be out of breath?  These are amazing quality of life parameters that also come with weight loss and improvements in health.

One of my favorite things to do with patients when I worked in the clinic was to reassess their measurements.  We would take a piece of ribbon and measure out total inches lost.  It truly was an amazing moment to see how many total inches someone had lost – just imagine the smile on your face when you do it!  Sometimes that piece of ribbon was as tall as I am!!!!

Nutrition Tip of the Week

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 by admin

Author: Nadea S. Minet, MS, RD, LD

Week of January 14, 2013

Feed Your Skin

With the weather being colder (after all it is winter), it is common for skin to become dry, flaky, and sallow especially if you live in the Northern states where it gets tolerably cold (most days). Now before you go out and spend your entire paycheck on fancy lotions, potions, and creams, try nourishing your skin from the inside out.  What we put into our body (what you eat) is just as essential for a healthy glow as what we put on it. Skin is the body’s largest organ so it makes sense that what is good for your whole body is also good for your skin.  Here is a list of ten foods that will leave you glowing all winter long!

Almonds: The good stuff in almonds has to do with antioxidant activity.  Almonds’ vitamin E brightens drab lackluster skin by neutralizing free radicals, molecules that dull your look. Vitamin E combats skin-aging free radicals, especially protecting skin from sun damage due to UV-sunlight-generated free radicals.  Vitamin E tends to help skin hold in moisture, relieving dryness and making skin look dewy and younger.  Plus, almonds’ fatty acids make you gleam.

Dark Leafy Greens:  If you are not getting enough vitamin A in your diet, then your skin is suffering. Not enough of this nutrient makes skin dry and flaky. Green vegetables are full of beta-carotene and our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which acts as an antioxidant, preventing cell damage and premature aging.  With Vitamin A, you also get anti-acne benefits. Vitamin A has been used in acne medications for years. Spinach and other green, leafy foods provide tons of vitamin A, too, which helps your skin produce more fresh new cells and get rid of the old ones, reducing dryness and keeping your skin looking bright and young.  Go ahead and get Popeye on us — dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are excellent sources of vitamin A.

Citrus Fruits:  Vitamin C is a prime skincare ingredient in tons of beauty creams.  This vitamin aids in the body’s production of collagen, a protein that forms the basic structure of the skin.  Collagen breakdown can leave skin saggy.  We all know that citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are full of vitamin C, which is great for protecting against immune deficiencies like colds. But this essential nutrient also helps turn back the clock by preventing wrinkles and dark under-eye circles. Vitamin C may also fight inflammation and its antioxidant properties can neutralize the free radicals that can damage cells and cause premature aging to your face.

Chickpeas:  To help diminish scratches, scars, and dark spots, start snacking on hummus. Chickpeas’ protein delivers the amino acids essential for tissue growth and repair.  The manganese in chickpeas helps skin cells produce energy and fights wrinkle-causing free-radical damage. The molybdenum in chickpeas helps detox skin by aiding in the removal of sulfites – a common food preservative that can mess with skin’s smoothness. Also, chickpeas contain ample amounts of folic acid, a B vitamin that helps provide the fuel that skin cells need in order to repair damage from sun and toxins.

Green tea:  Green tea is an all-around skin healer. It releases catechin, an antioxidant with proven anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. It acts as an anti-inflammatory against acne and cuts.  When your skin takes its sweet time to spring back when you press it, green tea’s antioxidants may restore its bounce. Research found that drinking 2 to 6 cups a day not only helps prevent skin cancer but might also reverse the effects of sun damage by neutralizing the changes that appear in sun-exposed skin. This tea’s antioxidants degrade as it cools, so it’s best to drink it while it’s hot.

Fish:  Fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that hydrates dry patches. Omega-3’s may also help increase the production of collagen and elastin, two essentials for soft, no-flake skin.  Selenium is the nutrient that helps preserve elastin, a protein that keeps your skin smooth and tight. Antioxidants in fish are also believed to buffer against the sun by stopping free radicals created by UV exposure from damaging cells.  Fish like salmon, tuna, and trout are high in omega-3’s. Those good-for-you fats often help soften dry skin by holding in moisture, which helps decrease the look of wrinkles and plumps up skin.

Seafood:  We know fish can be really good for our overall health, however many types of shellfish can also work wonders for the skin especially oysters.  A crab roll (sushi anyone?) helps keep your face zit-free. When nasty things like oil and bacteria clog your pores, it leads to inflammation and acne. Enter zinc: It helps reduce inflammation and fight acne because it’s involved in metabolizing testosterone, which helps to minimize the pimple-making damage. Zinc assists in new-cell products and the sloughing off of dead skin, which gives the skin a nice fresh glow. It also helps to reduce oil production, reduce acne, and helps wounds to heal.

Tomatoes:  Bring on the red sauce! Lycopene, the phytochemical that makes tomatoes red, helps eliminate skin-aging free radicals caused by ultraviolet rays.  This is a great thing since sun damage can cause premature aging and skin cancer. Cooking tomatoes helps concentrate its lycopene levels, so tomato sauce, tomato paste, and even ketchup pack on the protection. So does a hunk of lycopene-rich watermelon.

Berries:  Just in case you need another excuse to eat more berries, they are great for you skin thanks to all the antioxidants they contain.  Antioxidants protect the skin from free radicals that disrupt healthy cell production, causing you to look older faster.  The antioxidants and phytochemicals in berries neutralize DNA-damaging free radicals, which reduces cell damage. When skin cells are protected from damage and disintegration, the skin looks younger for longer.  Vitamin C is another strong antioxidant found in berries. It is largely responsible for the health of collagen, which helps maintain cartilage stores and aids in joint flexibility. Eating vitamin C–rich berries will contribute to radiant skin and healthy hair.

Sunflower Oil:  Even well hydrated skin can look cracked without this oil’s linoleic acid, a fatty acid that helps create a soft outer layer of cells. The omega-6 fatty acids found in sunflower oil can be the ultimate moisturizer for people who suffer from dry, flaky, or itchy skin. They keep cell walls supple, allowing water to better penetrate the epidermis. Scientists have found that this oil may even help people who suffer from sever conditions such as eczema.

WATER:  Drinking plenty of water — at least your individual minimum intake — will help keep your skin young and healthy-looking. Water in caffeinated or sugary beverages does not count; water intake must be from pure, clean water, which rejuvenates skin cells. Water both hydrates cells and helps them move toxins out and nutrients in. When the body is properly hydrated, it sweats more efficiently, which helps keep the skin clean and clear.

The skin is one (or by some “the”) outside indicator of your inside health.  Putting expensive creams, lotions and treatments on the outside of the skin cannot alleviate complications that stem from inner nutritional deficiencies. Consuming the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones can reveal beautiful, youthful-looking skin without the high price tag of expensive cosmetics.  These are all very important reasons to eat right, stay well hydrated, and take your vitamins/supplements as recommended so you can Celebrate your weight loss success each and every day.

Nutrition Tip of the Week

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 by hmackie

Author: Heather K. Mackie, MS, RD, LD

Week of January 7, 2013

Winter Fruits & Veggies

As the mercury continues to fall in many parts of the country, it can become challenging to continue to eat a healthfully.  On a cold winter day it can be tempting to eat the holiday treats that are left or a bowl of canned soup, which is high in sodium.  However, keeping the body nourished properly during the winter months may seem more difficult, but is extremely important to help prevent weight gain (or continue to lose weight) and reduce the risk of those annoying winter colds.

What are the Obstacles? Many people report it is more difficult to eat healthy through the cold months.  We have made it past the winter holidays, but our health is still at risk.  Holiday eating of high sugar foods and alcohol consumption may decrease the ability of your immune system to ward of the common cold.

With it getting dark earlier in the evening hours and less exposure to sun will lower serotonin levels.  Serotonin drops may lead to depression and food cravings.  Try to eat outdoors on the few and far between sunny days for lunch or even move your desk closer to a window to increase sun exposure.  It may also be necessary to increase vitamin D supplementation (but talk to your healthcare provider first and blood work may be recommended) as vitamin D is the nutrient we absorb from the sunlight.    Serotonin levels may also be elevated with the consumption of healthy carbohydrates.  Whole grains and high-quality carbohydrates, such as yams, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and squash help to boost serotonin levels.  As a weight loss surgery patient, spaghetti squash makes a great substitution for spaghetti noodles since those tend to not be tolerated as well post-operatively.

However, be aware, intense mood changes may be more than a case of the wintertime blues.  As many as 10 million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Symptoms include depression, anxiety, overeating, and loss of interest with a sudden onset in the winter.  Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms.

Most individuals do not feel like preparing a meal during the wintertime, especially when it is already dark outside by the time you get home from work.  Many individuals feel fresh produce is not readily available this time of year or may be more expensive.  However, there are options.  Consider frozen fruits and vegetables during the winter months if fresh prices rise.  Frozen fruits and veggies are as nutritious as fresh this day in age since they are flash frozen quickly after harvesting.  In fact, sometimes they may have higher levels of nutrients since they do not have to travel across the country and sit in storage.  Frozen vegetables are healthier than canned since they are not high in salt.

Try to incorporate the fruits and veggies that are plentiful during the winter months.  These include pomegranates, cranberries, citrus fruits, grapes, and root vegetables.  These will add a healthy does of vitamins and minerals to your winter meal plan and some much needed variety.

Eating to Reduce Colds. While nothing can completely ward off the common cold, a healthy immune system will reduce a cold’s duration.  Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables during the winter months will increase your vitamin C levels, which has been shown to reduce the duration of colds by half a day and make them milder.  For example, foods rich in the antioxidant vitamin C and beta-carotene include citrus fruits, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and spinach have been shown to have immune-strengthening power.  Zinc has also been shown to fight infections.  To increase your zinc intake, include foods such as fish, oysters, poultry, eggs, milk, and unprocessed grains and cereals.

Another nutritional powerhouse includes a healthy level of good bacteria.  Fermented dairy products, such as kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut provide live cultures.  However, keep in mind the nutritional content of these foods, as they will vary in calories, sugar, fat, and sodium.

Drinking green tea may ward off germs due to the polyphenol, catechins, which may stimulate the production and activity of cells specially associated with combating viruses.

Overeating and under eating can also be an issue when it comes a healthy immune system.  Both very low calorie diets and very high calorie diets may decrease an individual’s immune function.  High fat diets will also impact our immune function in a negative manner.  Eating a diet that contains 30% of calories as healthy fats is ideal for health and wellness.

A multivitamin is a good bet when it comes to boosting immune function, but all weight loss surgery patients should already be doing this!  Also, try to eat a variety of foods from all food groups to maintain a healthy eating plan and boost the immune system.

Extra Tips. Many individuals prefer the comfort of a warm beverage or soup during the winter months.  Opt for sugar-free, decaffeinated beverages.  Look for soups low in sodium or consider making your own from scratch to control the nutritional value.  Lentils, among other beans, are a very economical staple for many soups, while providing fiber and protein.

Remember to maintain your exercise routine throughout the winter months.  You may have to change up your routine for something indoors during the coldest months or change the time of day.  If you prefer to be outdoors, look for activities you can do during your lunch break.

Winter months may feel drab and gray, but pack in some winter fruits and veggies and you can add some color to your plate while reducing your risk of colds and maintain your waistline while CELEBRATING your journey to wellness.

Caution: With the discussion of specific nutrients, please do not take supplements of individual nutrients without speaking to your healthcare provider first.  Too much of a good thing is not always good.

Nutrition Tip of the Week

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 by admin

Author: Nadea S. Minet, MS, RD, LD

Week of December 31, 2012

Should You Make a New Year’s Resolution?

As another year has ended, it’s only natural to reflect on what the year has meant to you.  It’s that time of year when you declare your New Year’s resolution.  You inspire to turn over a new leaf, full of lofty and potentially life changing anticipation. However, if you’re like the 120 million Americans who ring in the New Year with a resolution, ~ 36% quickly break theirs, which leaves them feeling pessimistic and in a worse place than they started.

So should we make New Year’s resolutions?  Despite the high fail rate, resolutions can be helpful and life changing as long as they’re realistic.  I find it extremely effective to spend a few hours every few months looking at my life and reorganizing, reflecting, rethinking and preplanning for the months that lie ahead.  Often times we go through life accomplishing what we have too, but we don’t take the time to do what really makes us happy.  When you step back to evaluate, it can give you the perspective you need to keep moving forward.  If you are interested in making resolutions that remain, here are a few tips I’ve found to be advantageous.

Make your Goal Specific. If your goal is merely “Try to improve my eat habits this year”, you maybe setting yourself up to not succeed.  This goal is much too general and vague.  How are you going to know if you’ve met your goal?  What does “improving your eating habits” really mean and/or look like?  A more defined goal would be to state a specific plan such as “My goal is to eat 3-5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables everyday”.  Even this goal is vague but it’s definitely better than the first.  “Find 3 new healthy recipes for making a vegetable side dish the whole family can enjoy and will actually eat” is specific and measurable.  It has a clear finish line, and you know when it has been accomplished.  That sense of victory helps motivate you to make and keep new goals.

Make it Realistic. Making specific goals are a good affiliate to making realistic goals.  If you set your goals impossibly high, you are in essence setting yourself up for failure.  Make your goals something you know you can attain.  This doesn’t mean the goal is necessarily “easy” and that you won’t have to work hard to attain it, but it has to be something you can actually accomplish.  Huge, awe-inspiring goals are great, but feeling like a failure if/when they’re not reached doesn’t keep us motivated and reaching for the next goal.  Making your goals realistic increases you chance of accomplishing it.

Get Excited about your New Year’s Resolution.  Instead of the broad, highly restrictive, flying-leap resolutions of Atkins diet rules, or hours and hours of weekly gym visitations, this year why not try to shape resolutions you might actually enjoy?  If you hate to run, making a goal to run 4-5 times per week is probably not the best goal for you. However, if you love yoga or Pilates, try signing up for a group class at your local gym or purchase a DVD to workout with at home.  Looking at weight specifically, the more weight you would like to permanently lose, the more of your life you’ll need to permanently change.  Try adopting changes you honestly enjoy, because doing the exact opposite is a surefire way to guarantee those changes won’t stick.

Make Each Goal Step by Step. Another point I’ve found valuable is making goals step-by-step.  Here’s an example using the previous goal of finding 3 new healthy recipes for making a vegetable side dish.  My first goal for January might be along the lines of “Find 3 vegetable side dish recipes my family currently enjoys” and “Make a large dinner salad once a week for the family”.  Once I have accomplished these specific realistic goals for the month of January, I can move onto new goals set for February.

Make Mini Goals.  Say you have resolved to lose 50 pounds by July 1st.  You have developed a specific resolution, but you still need to breed an action plan for how you are going to make this goal a reality.  This is where the mini goal setting comes into play.  First, figure our how many months and/or days you have to work with and second how you can reach this goal sooner.  Knowing you must lose 8.3 pounds per month to reach your goal of losing 50 pounds over the next 6 months will help you be more apt to do whatever it takes to make this happen.  At the end of each month, move forward after any “obstacles”, and Celebrate your successes.

Failing isn’t Failing. Succeeding sometimes means giving yourself a little slack or grace.  If your goal is to cut back on sugar, and you eat a slice of birthday cake at your nephew’s 2nd birthday party, don’t let this discourage you.  Consider the event a setback, and get back on track right this moment.  Don’t wait till tomorrow or Monday.  You aren’t going to be perfect everyday.  If your resolution demands perfection, you need to change your goal since you are setting yourself up to fail.  So whether your goal is cutting something out (sugar) or adding something in (fruits and vegetables), don’t let setbacks discourage you from focusing on your goals and continuing the journey.  Failing once, isn’t failing your goal.

Don’t Make a Goal for the Whole Year. Setting your goal deadline for an exceedingly long time in the distant future is not going to “keep you on the path” per se.  The sense of urgency to get the goal accomplished disappears, which is why I prefer to make realistic, specific goals for each month of the year.  This gives me clear deadlines to achieve in a timely fashion, and keeps me on track throughout the entire year since I’m always focused on my main goal.

Keep Accountable. Having a partner with similar goals to keep you accountable is more fun.  If you want to exercise more, it’s ideal to have an exercise companion.  Eating healthier/better is the same; it’s encouraging having friends with the same or similar goals.  Even if you don’t have those types of friends in “real life”, online accountability can be just as helpful (can you say Facebook and/or Twitter).  Simply stating, posting, tweeting or sharing your goals with others can give you a sense of accountability and motivation.

Give your New Year’s Resolution a Date. “This year, I’m going to pay off my credit card debt.” That’s a great resolution for both your wallet and your financial future, but there’s no date attached to it. Saying you’ll do something “this year” gives you the opportunity to procrastinate until December 31st; think about a date by which you could probably accomplish your goal. Now add 30 days to the date you chose.  If you make your goal date too difficult, you run the risk of “failing” and quitting altogether. Buy choosing a goal date that is easily attainable, this gives you a little more flexibility to reach your goal.

Whatever 2012 brought you, it probably didn’t happen by pure luck.  You remembered to take you vitamins because you set an alarm on your phone.  You went on an amazing vacation because you made it a priority to work extremely hard and saved every extra penny to put towards the vacation.  This is how all New Year’s Resolutions start – you imagine something you want and you make it a priority. January 1st marks the beginning of a new calendar year, which means a fresh start.  A new year gives you the chance to rethink strategies you’ve used in the past and move in a better direction. You can resolve to lose weight, exercise more, spend less, or floss your teeth regularly, but those are just words.  Empty claims that sound good, but have no measure of success don’t get us very far.  Try choosing a resolution for 2013 and pick something that excites you.  This will keep you on track all year long and you can Celebrate your success with others and most importantly, yourself.