Unexpected ways to keep your New Year’s resolutions

Katie Coakley
Weekly Correspondent
Red wine, in moderation, can improve cardiovascular health, according to Yale-New Haven Hospital, the primary teaching hospital of the Yale School of Medicine.
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

It happens every year: The advent of a new year brings a fresh start and, for many people, a desire for self-improvement. From losing weight to vowing to recycle more, estimates are that more than 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. However, the number of people who actually keep their resolutions is tiny: only 8 percent, according to research by the University of Scranton.

Just as there are hundreds of tips for keeping up with your resolutions, there are just as many reasons — and excuses — as to why these goals are difficult to keep. This year, instead of dreading the “new year, new you” phenomenon, consider approaching these resolutions from a different angle: break them to keep them.

The Resolution: Drink less alcohol to be healthy.

How to Keep It: Drink the right alcohol to be healthy.

It’s common sense that, if you are already a teetotaler, you shouldn’t start drinking to be healthy. However, if you have a clean bill of health and you currently imbibe, then studies show that you don’t have to stop the Syrah.

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For the past 10 years, research has indicated that moderate intake of alcohol — red wine, in particular — can improve cardiovascular health, according to Yale-New Haven Hospital, the primary teaching hospital of the Yale School of Medicine. Antioxidants that are present in the seeds and skin of red grapes are credited with the cardioprotective effects. These antioxidants, called flavonoids, reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing blood clotting, reducing the production of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and boosting HDL (the “good” cholesterol).

Of course, a good rule of thumb is “everything in moderation.” Men can benefit from one to two servings of red wine a day (a four-ounce glass of wine is equivalent to one serving), and women should consume only one serving per day to reap the maximum benefits.

The Resolution: Exercise more to get fit.

How to Keep It: Exercise more efficiently to get fit.

Sometimes bigger is not better. If your goal is to get fit and improve your overall physical health, then it’s important to analyze your current routine.

“Be honest with yourself,” said Rod Connolly, owner of Dogma Athletica in Edwards. “It’s important to figure out what you’ve been doing and why it’s not currently working.”

Essentially, a training formula is made up of three elements: frequency, duration and intensity. Intensity, by far and away, is the thing that your body adapts the most to, Connolly said.

Take running, for example. If you’ve been running for the same distance at the same pace for a while, then your body gets used to it and doesn’t have to work as hard. Changing the intensity of your workout stimulates your body to change, too.

“Incorporate shorter, high intensity intervals; try metabolic strength training; integrate plyometrics; get out of your comfort zone,” Connolly said. “Changing up your intensity is the best way to receive economy for your time.”

The Resolution: Go on a diet to eat less and lose weight.

How to Keep It: Go off the diet and eat more to lose weight.

The word “diet” is the first problem. Even using the “d-word” creates a feeling of deprivation, which is counteractive to a lasting change: No one is going to stick with something that doesn’t feel good.

“A diet is a food, calorie and lifestyle depriver,” said Mary Horn, wellness director at Packaging Incorporated in Eden Prairie, Minn. and a professor of nutrition at Pima College in Tucson, Ariz. “A diet has a beginning and an end. To see real, lasting results, you have to make a lifestyle change.”

Instead of dieting — eating less and feeling hungry — replace some higher calorie foods with foods high in water and fiber. The number of calories in a particular amount or weight of food is called “calorie density” or “energy density.” Low-calorie-dense foods are ones that don’t pack a lot of calories into each bite.

“You can eat more food when it’s nutrient dense rather than calorie dense,” explains Horn. “You can enjoy more rather than less.”

The Resolution: Reduce spending to save money.

How to Keep It: Spend money to save money.

It seems counterintuitive, but in certain cases, it makes sense to spend money to save money. Take credit cards, for example. In the debate between saving and paying off debt, it makes more money sense to pay off credit card debt rather than socking the same amount away in savings.

Credit card debt carries, on average, an annual percentage rate of approximately 13 percent for fixed rate cards and 15 percent for cards with a variable rate.

“By paying off credit accounts, you effectively earn a rate of return equal to the rate charged on your cards,” said Chris Farrell, economics editor for Marketplace Money. “For instance, if you owe $10,000 on 15-percent credit cards, paying that off is like making 15 percent on your money.”

Pay off those credit cards, then work on increasing your savings. Another worthwhile expenditure? Consider hiring a financial planner. Not just for folks with six-figure salaries, a financial planner can not only help you navigate the options for saving, but they can also point you toward investments that can help you when tax time comes around, too.

The Resolution: Keep my New Year’s resolutions.

How to Keep It: Be honest.

When it comes to keeping New Year’s resolutions, ask one simple question: “Why am I making this resolution?” Is it because you actually want to organize your kitchen cupboard or train for a marathon? Or is it because you feel like you should, and everyone around you is making similar resolutions?

“Too many people approach New Year’s resolutions as if they were punishments for ‘bad’ behavior,” said Pauline W. Whallin, Ph.D., of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association. “Ask yourself whether you really want to change a habit or behavior pattern, or whether you feel obligated to do so. If your heart isn’t in it, wait until a better time.”

If you are ready to make a change, whether it’s nutritional, physical, pecuniary or emotional, then there are plenty of resources available in Vail to help start off 2014 as part of the 8 percent.

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