Friday, 3 January 2014

Resolve to change

Ever been guilty of abandoning your New Year resolutions? Kasmiah Mustapha has some tips that may help you stick to them

BECOMING healthier — whether by eating better, losing weight or exercising more — is one of the top resolutions people make as a new year approaches.
But those who have successfully made changes in their lives and those who have maintained the changes know that January alone does not determine if you will succeed.
Congratulations if you have realised that you need to make these changes. Pack some determination and hard work and you are on your way to success. It is important to focus on a long-term goal rather than think you can achieve everything in a short time.
Don’t make resolutions just because it’s a New Year. Follow your resolutions through. Here are some popular resolutions and suggestions on how to stick to your aims.

1. I want to quit smoking.
This needs strong willpower, physically and mentally. Some people can quit cold turkey while others may need some assistance. Nicotine replacement therapy is a popular method for the latter. Clinical trials have shown that NRT can increase the chances of quitting by 50-70 per cent.
According to WebMD, nicotine replacement therapies deliver the potent drug in ways that are far healthier and safer than cigarettes. Talk to a doctor to find out which is the best method for you, especially if you have other health issues.
To deal with withdrawal symptoms, chew sugarless gum, munch on carrots and celery sticks, eat mixed nuts and drink lots of water.
Studies have found that when people quit smoking, after just 20 minutes, their blood pressure and pulse return to normal. After 24 hours, their lungs start to clear and after two days, their bodies are nicotine-free and their sense of taste and smell improves. After one year, their heart attack risk is half than that of a smoker. Most importantly, five years after quitting, the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and bladder are cut in half.

2. I want to be free of stress.
This may sound completely impossible. Modern living opens up a lot of opportunities and with it comes stress. According to WebMD, some stress is normal, even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad effects. It weakens the immune system, making it harder to fight diseases. It can lead to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems and asthma.
The best way to handle stress is to manage it better. Time management allows you to focus on handling things that are important first so you will be less stressed to handle other things. Set aside some “me” time and spend it by reading your favourite book or listening to music. If you can afford it, take a holiday break from the monotony of your routine. Confiding in someone you trust may help ease the burden.

3. I want to exercise more.
You promised yourself you would start exercising to become healthy and fit. That was two years ago. This year, you’re making that same promise.
It is a good idea to start small and not jump into high intensity physical activity immediately. The easiest and simplest way to start is brisk walking for 30 minutes every day. Once you have gained the strength and stamina, move to other forms of exercise such as running, cycling, aerobics or weight lifting.
To achieve health benefits, experts recommend that you do between 20 and 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. However, if you are unable to do this, you can gain substantial health benefits by accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a day, at least five times a week.
If you hate doing it alone, get someone to become your exercise partner. By doing it with a friend or in a group, you will be more motivated.

4. I want to eat healthy.
Taking the first step towards living healthy means eating healthy. Avoid food high in salt and sugar. Eat a variety of food and include vegetables, whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds every day. Choose healthier fats and oils. Make sure half your plate is made up of fruit and vegetables. Switch from full cream to skim milk which has less fat. Make at least half your grains choices whole, not white and vary your protein food choices from lean chicken to beans and nuts.

5. I want to be more aware of my health risks.
Prevention is better than cure. It is important to go for regular health screening. Some feel it is unnecessary since they don’t feel ill. But regular screening can help with early detection. Some conditions that doctors commonly screen for are breast and cervical cancer in women, colorectal cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
It is recommended to have a comprehensive physical exam between the ages of 35 and 40. Between the ages of 40 and 50, you should receive an exam every 12-18 months depending on risk and ongoing health or behaviour issues. Annual exams should begin at 50.
Waiting to see a doctor only when there is something wrong may be too late, so take control of your health by being proactive with screening.

6. I want to go on a diet to lose weight.
You cannot go on a diet to lose weight, because when that programme stops, your old habits creep back and your weight increases. You need to change your food composition and reduce your portion.
Reducing portion does not mean skipping meals. According to, skipping meals occasionally may not derail your health, but when done regularly, can have detrimental effects on body weight. When your body believes that it is starving, it craves foods which pack more calories per volume. If you regularly skip meals, the resulting hunger and cravings may cause you to eat unhealthy foods you might otherwise avoid. This pattern, over time, could result in weight gain.
Instead, keep a food journal to know the food you have eaten that day. Use the calorie counter app to know your intake for that day.
Make a conscious choice to eat better — opt for skinless chicken, grilled meat and raw vegetables. Make lunch your main meal and if you are going for a party or kenduri, focus on meeting friends and relatives, not eating.
Audacious goals are compelling. Want to compete in a marathon or triathlon? Lose 20kg or just enough to fit into clothes you once loved. With perseverance, encouragement and support, you can do it. An ambitious aim often inspires others around you. Many will cheer you on. Some will be happy to help in practical ways, such as by training with you or taking on tasks you normally handle, to free up your time.

Now think tiny. Small steps move you forward to your ultimate goal. Just getting to first base can build your confidence to tackle — and succeed at — more difficult tasks. Don’t disdain easy choices. Break hard jobs down into smaller items, and enjoy breezing through the easy tasks first.

Make yourself accountable through a written or verbal promise to people you don’t want to let down. That will encourage you to slog through tough spots. One intrepid soul created a Facebook page devoted to her goals for weight loss. You can make a less public promise to your partner or child, a teacher, doctor, boss, or friends. Want more support? Post your promise on Facebook, tweet it to your followers, or seek out folks with like-minded goals online.

Don’t wait to call yourself a winner until you’ve pounded through the last kilometre of your big dream marathon or lost every unwanted ounce. Health changes are often incremental. Encourage yourself to keep at it by pausing to acknowledge success as you tick off small and big steps en route to a goal.

Any time you fail to make a change, consider it a step toward your goal. When you hit a snag, take a moment to think about what did and didn’t work. Maybe you took on too big a challenge? If so, scale back to a less ambitious challenge, or break the big one into tinier steps. If nailing down 30 consecutive minutes to exercise never seems to work on busy days, break that down by aiming for three 10-minute walks — one before work, one during lunch, one after work — or a 20-minute walk at lunch plus a 10-minute mix of marching, stair climbing, and jumping rope or similar activities slipped into your TV schedule.

Forget perfection. Set your sights on finishing that marathon, not on running it. If you compete to complete, you’ll be a winner even if you wind up walking as much as you run. With exercise — and so many other goals we set — you’ll benefit even when doing less than you’d like to do. Any activity is always better than none. If your goal for Tuesday is a 30-minute workout at the gym, but you only squeeze in 10 minutes, feel grateful for that. It’s enough. Maybe tomorrow will be better.


Read more: Resolve to change - Health - New Straits Times


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