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How to achieve those healthy changes

Most people will make some sort of New Year’s resolution this week, and research shows that four out of every five of us won’t keep the ones we make.

Here is some food for thought from two personal trainers and a wellness coordinator when it comes to some of the things to consider in the new days of the new year:

The mindset

“Start by acknowledging that this is an opportunity for change, that a resolution offers the chance to start again, to pick up the pace, to strive for better health and happiness,” said Mary Anne Cappellino, a personal trainer and wellness instructor for the BAC for Women. “Choose an attitude that focuses on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Powerful positive thinking sets a current to your life, enabling you to move swiftly and assertively toward your goal …

“A decision to improve your life has more power to it if you feel you are truly worthy and deserving of the benefits the new behavior will yield. A healthy self-esteem requires daily affirmations designed to define you as you are today and want to be. Get out of the past and use powerful positive words to build confidence: ‘I am exercising three times a week to enjoy more energy!’ ”

The process

“Poor use of time and lack of motivation are the two main barriers to success,” Cappellino said. “Many people intend to exercise more but never quite get to the gym, others resolve to eat better but grab the high-fat culprit on the road, while still more plan for better work-life balance only to return to an overscheduled agenda once again. You know how easy it is to get sidetracked, to start but not stick to an activity and then give up with an attitude of defeat.

“Resolutions are a process, not a onetime effort. If the goal is too far from where you are today, sabotage is likely. Heading into an activity too fast can also have you dropping out too quickly. Taking small but consistent steps can power up your pace and smooth out the pavement on this path to do better.”

Exercise rules

If you’re looking to get the to gym more often in the new year, it’s good to have a plan – and patience.

“Having a plan and setting realistic goals” is key to keeping a New Year’s resolution, said Eileen Fitzgibbons, personal trainer at Hive: The Lifespan Center in East Amherst. “Understand that sometimes our goals are not immediate.”

Most gyms across the region will be jammed in the coming weeks, but longtime fitness club members know it will be much easier to get a treadmill or elliptical come late February or early March.

“I think people want to see results in the first couple of weeks,” Fitzgibbons said, “and they get discouraged, and then their visits start to decrease. At least give something six to eight weeks, and at that point, start to re-evaluate your goals, re-evaluate what you’ve done. Then reset your goals for another six to eight weeks.”

Also realize that a weight loss or fitness goal will take work.

“It’s called working out for a reason,” Fitzgibbons said. “There’s work involved in it. Sometimes, even when it’s hard, you’ve just got to throw on your sneakers and go.”

“We all set goals, but without a plan we are at risk,” Cappellino added. “Be specific about what you want to do and how you will do it. A general goal, like ‘I want to exercise more,’ does not have the effective staying power as a more specific resolution that states ‘I will exercise by walking for 20 minutes three days a week with a friend at lunch break.’ ”

Get support

Share your resolution with friends and family, a co-worker or trainer at the gym, financial consultant or medical professional, Cappellino said. “Stating your goal makes you accountable and provides an opportunity for ongoing supportive dialogue. A trainer at the gym can coach you, instruct you on form and technique, encourage and help you to move toward your ultimate goal. … A buddy who exercises with you or a family member who joins you in an effort to eat better or balance life will help assure your success. You don’t need to go it alone and don‘t keep your success to yourself. By sharing your testimony, you give others the hope they need to make positive changes too.”

Better nutrition

Want to lose weight and eat better? Here are some tips from Gail Marchese, wellness coordinator at Tops:

• Plan and prepare meals in advance: Organize meals ahead of time to save time and avoid grabbing takeout or snacking on unhealthy foods. Put aside a few hours per week to shop and prepare meals for the upcoming week.

• Make nutrition a priority: Trade up for healthier food options with the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System at Tops or the organic options at markets across the region.

• Stock up on staples: Keep healthy essentials in the cupboards, including whole-wheat pasta, wraps or pitas, brown rice, canned beans and albacore tuna. Make sure to have plenty of nutritious snacks on hand including vegetables, fruits, low fat cheese and nuts.

• Avoid skipping breakfast: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It kick-starts the body’s metabolism and provides the energy needed to tackle the day. Try healthy breakfast options like lean protein and high-fiber foods including eggs or whole grains.

Personal growth

Resolutions need not always be weight-loss and fitness related.

“Ask yourself, ‘What can I do with my talents or gifts to help better someone else’s life?’ ” Cappellino suggested.

You can also find specific ways to be a better parent, child, relative, friend or employee, but again, be specific.

“I will get together with two of my friends at least once a month throughout 2014,” might be a good resolution. Or “I will spend at least two hours alone with each of my children, or have a ‘date night’ with my spouse, at least once a week.”

Meanwhile, Marchese said, schedule “me” time. “Take time out each day to relax and de-stress,” she said. “Read a book, take a bath or try a new healthy recipe. Making time to unwind decreases high blood pressure and fatigue while improving energy levels and concentration.”

Keep trying

“Take credit for achieving your resolution, but don’t dwell on failure if you fall short,” Cappellino said. “Just try again. Look at the barriers that were in your way. Maybe lack of time or boredom kept you from continuing to exercise. See how you might be able to do better next time by adjusting your schedule or mixing up your exercise activities to offer more variety, or even better, get into the gym where support is a valuable part of the experience. New Year’s may get you started, but every day is a perfect day to resolve to do better in every area of your life.”

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