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Making, Keeping, and (Sometimes), Breaking New Year’s Resolutions

We’ve all been there. It’s been an overindulgent holiday season. A new year is right around the corner. It’s time to make some promises and some changes. It’s time for those famous New Year’s Resolutions.

If you are feeling this way, then you are not alone. According to Deborah pulmonologist Howard Waksman, MD the New Year seems like a great time to make a change.

Howard Waksman, MD
Pulmonologist Howard Waksman, MD

“For many of us the time from Thanksgiving, through Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year is a time of gathering with friends and family. It often is a busy and hectic period, with higher stress levels from juggling much more packed schedules, and sometimes bounces between richly prepared meals to eating on the run with more take-out and fast food. Often exercise and wellness activities are put ‘on hold’ until we get through the season.”

Dr. Waksman notes that not surprisingly survey statistics point to exercise, eating healthier, and losing weight as among the top resolutions that people make. “This makes a lot of sense, since people are often coming off a stretch of pretty unhealthy habits.”

He adds: “For me, I am always happy to see quitting smoking as one of the top ten resolutions. Clearly as a pulmonologist the health of people’s lungs is paramount to me.”

Making and Keeping Resolutions

Dr. Waksman advises to try and stick with manageable resolutions that you are more likely to keep. “You will only be disappointed if you tell yourself that you are going to make radical changes. While it’s true that some people can make serious resolutions, follow through with them, and have outstanding results, the majority of us have to move at a more manageable pace. For example, instead of resolving to lose 50 pounds, why not start with five? If you hit that benchmark in the long weeks of winter, you will feel so much more motivated to keep on going. If you don’t hit a goal that maybe was unrealistic to start with, you might simply give up on your resolution. The same goes for exercise. Don’t start out planning to run a mile, when maybe the better resolution is to walk around the block!”

Dr. Waksman also recommends that rather than big resolutions, it is sometimes effective to simply make some small everyday lifestyle changes that can add up a lot. Some of his suggestions are:

  • Go for a walk every day and find a walking buddy, which makes the walk much more enjoyable, and something to look forward to, rather than a chore
  • Try portion control when eating meals and put those leftovers in the refrigerator before you eat. Skipping seconds can really help to limit those extra calories.
  • Get on a solid sleep schedule, aiming for eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Turn off your phone when enjoying meals with family or friends. It’s a great way to reduce stress.
  • Give yourself an extra 15 minutes in the morning to prepare and eat a good breakfast, like eggs, oatmeal with fruit, or a smoothie.
  • Add more exercise to your day by taking the stairs and walking the longer route by parking further from the front door of a store when you go shopping.
  • Make healthy exchanges when you can — try soy or almond milk for dairy, and brush on coconut or olive oil instead of butter and margarine.
  • Tackle that bookmarked project which caught your eye. Now is the time to focus on you!

(And Breaking) New Year’s Resolutions

Despite all your best efforts, Dr. Waksman says that the vast majority of people who make resolutions don’t stick with them.

“This is very common. There are a lot of reasons why this happens including selecting resolutions that are too difficult to keep, not having any way of tracking progress or holding yourself accountable for that progress, a lack of planning to help those achieve those goals, and doubting yourself. All of these are pretty simple fixes, but if you are serious about achieving a resolution, planning and bench-marking can help keep you on track.”

“I also remind my patients that January isn’t always the only time to think about lifestyle changes. Eating well, exercising, and staying healthy is a year-long commitment. If you work hard at it during the year, you may not need to make resolutions for change, you might just have to get back to your baseline healthy habits, and those extra pounds will shed themselves.”

He adds: “Above all, do not get discouraged if you do make a resolution and don’t achieve it. Every day is an opportunity to make small and important changes in your lives. You can choose to be happier. You can choose water over soda. You can choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Every moment is an opening for you to step into a healthier future.“

Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, NJ is an 89-bed teaching hospital that specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, research, and treatment of heart, lung, and vascular diseases. Founded in 1922, Deborah has been a regional and nationally recognized leader throughout its 100-year history, during which time it has healed 2.3 million patients from every corner of the United States and 87 countries in the world. From performing the first open heart surgeries (adult and pediatric) in New Jersey, to running one of the highest volume left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) implant programs in the region, Deborah has stood at the forefront of medical innovation, all while never wavering from its founding mission “there is no price on life.” Deborah is consistently recognized as a leader in patient care from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, ranked among the top hospitals in New Jersey for patient satisfaction; holds a top-tier Society of Thoracic Surgeons rating which places Deborah among the best cardiac surgery programs in the country; and is designated a national Top Teaching Hospital by The Leapfrog Group. Deborah is an Alliance member of the Cleveland Clinic Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute. 

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