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You've got this: how to make smart New Year's resolutions

Advice from the experts

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Like a juicy piece of gossip, New Year's resolutions are notoriously hard to keep. Here, a few health and fitness experts share their best advice for bringing you closer to some common goals — whether it's dropping a dress size or cutting back the time spent scrolling through social media feeds.


EAT RIGHT.

Shannon Robertson, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and food service director at Curahealth Hospital New Orleans, says you should view your health goals as a "reset" rather than a hard stop. That way, you can commit to moderate, realistic goals that allow flexibility. As an example, she talks about the food group everyone loves to hate: carbs.

  "Instead of feeling like a failure when you eat a piece of bread, a potato or any other starch, your new reset goal can be to indulge in your favorite pasta dish or loaded nachos once a week," she says. "There is still room to indulge without going overboard."

 Robertson says restrictive, all-or-nothing goals lead to frustration and overindulgence in the food groups you vowed to avoid in the first place.

DO'S

Sleep more. Proper sleep is linked to better mental health and a lower BMI (body mass index). More sleep equals less cortisol in the body, which can help keep your appetite in check.

Cook at home more frequently, where you control the calories in each meal.

DON'TS

Don't attempt to completely overhaul your diet on Jan. 1. Instead, make small, incremental changes.

Don't take yourself too seriously; find humor in challenging situations rather than feeling defeated.


GET MOVING:

Certified personal trainer Celeste Turner recommends incorporating physical activity into your daily routine — whether that means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from your destination.

 Turner advises setting both short-term and long-term exercise goals. A short-term goal may be as simple as, "I want to do 50 crunches by the end of next week." Long-term goals may include losing 10 pounds or shaving a few minutes off your lap time. Turner suggests creating an exercise plan and committing to it; it needs to become a habit. Sign up for a recurring workout class, find a gym buddy or hire a trainer for a day.

 Determining what motivates you also helps, she says. For example, purchasing a new pair of athletic shoes or a snazzy exercise outfit might get you to go for walks more often. If you're inspired by music, create a playlist that makes you want to move.

DO'S

Consult your physician before embarking on a new exercise program, especially if you’re not currently active.

Track your progress. Try smartphone apps like Map My Run or gadgets like a Fitbit.

DON'TS

Don't copy a trendy exercise you saw on Pinterest. Find one that works for you.

Don't skip breakfast, or any method of fueling your body.


CHEER UP.

Suzy Loeb, a licensed clinical social worker, suggests pinpointing specific areas of your life for improvement, such as finding a better job or expanding your social life, rather than telling yourself, "I'm going to be happier in 2018."

 Meditation may help decrease minor anxiety caused by everyday worries, but Loeb says people also can consider therapy.

 "I've been taught in my 25 years of practice that therapy is a gift that you can give yourself," she says. "If you're unclear about what your goals are, or what direction you should take, then it's never a bad idea to go to therapy. Sometimes you just need somebody to help you organize your thoughts."

DO'S

Do something physical daily — exercise can boost your mood.

Keep a daily log of your moods, including how you feel when you wake up and situations that cause you stress, as well as your reaction to them.

DON'TS

Don't focus on "big-ticket items" such as "I want to be happy," Loeb says. Focus on small goals that will gradually make you feel better.

Don't get caught up in negative thinking or behavior; stay positive.


GET REAL:

As the mom of two teenagers, Loeb stresses the importance of taking a break from screens every day. She says younger people may have trouble developing social skills, since they are focused on learning how to interact with people from behind a computer or other device. The lack of meaningful interactions and relationships can lead to isolation, depression and anxiety.

 Parents should set a good example for their children by disconnecting from social media apps on their phones. Rather than texting and tapping away at that glowing rectangle in the palm of your hand, engage in a face-to-face discussion with a friend or family member.

DO'S

Have a meaningful interaction with someone every day. It offers perspective that others' lives aren't as perfect as they appear on social media.

DON'TS

Don't compare your life to the lives of the people you follow on these outlets. Instead, remember that people only post "the good stuff," Loeb says, which is a "snippet of their lives that does not take into account the 99.9 percent of everything else that is going on." 

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