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Keep healthy New Year’s resolutions simple and specific

SIMCOE, JANUARY 3, 2012 – Exercising more, eating better, and quitting smoking are all common, and admirable, New Year’s resolutions. The only problem is that by February or March, if not sooner, most of these well-intentioned plans for a healthier lifestyle have been abandoned for the ease and comfort of former, familiar habits and routines.

Despite the discouraging success rates of resolutions, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit says the start of a new year is still a great time to take steps to improve your health, but keeping your goals simple and specific is your best strategy.

“Rather than saying ‘I will exercise more this year,’ try ‘I will go for a walk at lunch on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday,’ says Michele Crowley, Physical Activity Health Promoter with the Health Unit. “You don’t need to rush out and buy a gym membership. Realistic changes that are easy to incorporate into daily patterns will go a long way when it comes to improving your health,”

Research has shown that resolutions that feel like punishment lead to negative feelings, which increases your chance of relapsing into old, unhealthy habits. Any successful resolution needs to be based on an honest desire to change, and viewed as an opportunity to improve you health and yourself in a positive way rather than to punish yourself for past behaviours.

“Specific, measurable resolutions allow people to feel a sense of accomplishment every day, and even if someone misses a day they can get right back on track,” added Michelle Saraiva, Public Health Dietitian with the Health Unit. “Small behaviour-change plans such as making sure to include a colourful veggie, such as broccoli or carrots, with dinner at least three times a week are easier to stick to compared to resolutions like “I will eat healthier.”

Many people have a tendency to make more than one New Year’s resolution at a time, such as quitting smoking, eating healthier foods, and more effectively managing their stress. This poses another threat to their chance of success. Each of those resolutions requires difficult behaviour changes, with each deserving a person’s full and complete effort.

“When people try to change more than one habit at a time, the task often becomes too overwhelming. This sets them up for failure and leads them back to their old patterns of behaviour,” added Haley Caldwell, Health Promoter with the Health Unit. “For that reason, it is best to choose one habit, the one that’s most important to you, and commit to making that change.”

If your resolution is to quit smoking, the Health Unit recommends that you take a few minutes to make a quit plan. The plan should include specifics such as a quit date, a written list of reasons why you want to quit, a list of ‘triggers’ that could cause you to falter in your goal, and solutions to help overcome them. The Health Unit offers help with creating personal quit plans, and also provides free Quit Kits to anyone looking to kick their tobacco addiction.

Other ‘Small Step’ ideas for improving your health in the upcoming year are also available on the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s website at www.hnhu.org by clicking on Resolution Solution for 2012.

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Media contact:
Michelle Saraiva
Public Health Dietitian, Population Health Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3237 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623
michelle.saraiva@hnhu.org