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People who succeed in keeping their resolutions choose ambitious goals that enhance their self-esteem.
The cable news network CNN tells us that about 100,000,000 people in the United States just made New Year's resolutions. And Dr. John Norcross, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton told National Public Radio that six months from now, about 40,000,000 Americans will have kept at least one of those resolutions.

Here at SteadyHealth we know just how difficult it can be to follow through on New Year's resolutions to lose weight, to eat healthy, to get a handle on stress and get more sleep, and to quit smoking. (OK, we actually have only observed how difficult it is for other people to keep their resolutions to quit smoking because we never started.) But here are our best suggestions on how you can succeed in keeping the four most common resolutions made at the start of every new year. Let's start with the top three.

Losing More Weight

It's amazing that only 100,000,000 Americans make New Year's resolutions to lose weight. Holiday overindulgence meets winter inactivity over almost the entire USA, and most of us weight more in January than we did the month before. But if we weigh more every January than we did the January before, we're in real trouble. How is it possible actually to take off the pounds we resolve to lose?

While weight loss does not result from an invariable relationship between calories in, calories out, and calories burned, the simple fact of the matter is that almost all of us need to eat less to weigh less. Theoretically, it's possible to eat more, exercise more, lose fat, and gain muscle. Achieving this nearly-impossible goal requires careful planning and a good understanding of how the timing of nutrients affects muscle and fat. It you don't have a personal trainer—and a very knowledgeable one—or you aren't a nutrition scientist (and maybe even if you are), you probably will have no choice but to eat less.

How can you be sure you are eating less? Don't rely on guesstimates. Keep a food journal. Log every single morsel and drop of everything you eat and drink every day. In addition, weigh yourself each and every day. You'll know exactly where your diet challenges are, and you'll know even before you step on the scales what you need to do to lose weight and keep it off.

Eating Healthy

From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, most Americans eat plenty of healthy food. They also eat plenty of unhealthy food and sometimes they eat everything in sight. Along with eating less, however, most of us resolve to eat healthier.

You don't have to launch a vegan raw foods diet or go all-organic or throw out all the goodies in your house to eat healthier. Just make one beneficial change at a time:

  • Start using stevia instead of sugar.
  • Add one vegetable a day to your diet. Try eating veggies for breakfast, or make a habit of eating a small side salad when you eat a sandwich.
  • Make your lunches at home. You'll save money and you can know exactly how many calories, carbs, and fat grams you'll be getting at your midday meal.
  • Make one more meal every week from scratch. You'll have complete control of the ingredients and it's likely to be your tastiest meal of the week.

Getting a Handle on Stress and Getting More Sleep

Do you stress out over controlling stress? Following intricate guidelines for stress reduction—learning yoga routines as an absolute beginner or taking a complex program of herbs and nutritional supplements, for example—really isn't relaxing. Here's a better approach.

Choose an activity you find relaxing. It could be anything from shooting skeet to taking a warm bath. Then arrange your schedule so that you can devote 15 to 30 minutes to that activity every day. While the activity is soothing, taking charge of your schedule is empowering.

And how can you get more sleep?

For most Americans, getting more sleep involves turning of the computer and the TV at least an hour before bedtime. Turn off your cellphone, too. The surest way to get enough sleep is to go to bed every night and wake up every morning at the same time—weekends included. You won't need to sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays if you get enough sleep during the week.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Myung SK, Seo HG, Cheong YS, Park S, Lee WB, Fong GT. Association of Sociodemographic Factors, Smoking-Related Beliefs, and Smoking Restrictions With Intention to Quit Smoking in Korean Adults: Findings From the ITC Korea Survey. J Epidemiol. 2011 Dec 17. [Epub ahead of print]
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