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A new pathway to a healthier life is easy as ‘5-4-3-2-1-0’

Now that the new year has gotten underway, how are your resolutions going? Are you still doing the things you said you’d do to improve your life?

Or perhaps you’re like almost everybody else and have already forgotten them. I certainly have had mixed results with my New Year’s resolutions – sometimes I’m still at them well into the year, and other times I’ve forgotten what resolutions I even made.

With that in mind, I’ll give you my two-part series on New Year’s resolutions. It includes something I’ve been lecturing about all over the country, something that might be a new way of thinking about how to improve your health.

I call it “5-4-3-2-1-0.” Are you ready? Set? Go!

Five: Servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Choose a cup of leafy vegetable such as spinach rather than iceberg lettuce. The more vibrant the color, the more super nutrition it has. Or have ½ cup of vegetable juice. As for fruit, a serving includes one medium-sized fruit – an orange the size of a baseball, for example – or ½ cup of unsweetened juice.

This resolution is easy to accomplish; it just takes practice and some planning. I think of this as the first step toward the Mediterranean diet – if you’re not sure what this is, just Google it. Or better yet, buy a cookbook that embodies it, such as “The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners: The Complete Guide.”

Four: The pillars of financial health. Reduce your debt, spend less, save for the future and give some away.

Reducing debt is difficult, and it ties directly to spending less. If you cut up your credit card and, yes, your debit card, and start paying for everything in cash, you’ll quickly understand how much you’re spending. Using actual money is different than using those cards.

Saving for the future means fully funding your IRA or 401K retirement plan, and it’s important. Too many seniors have to work later in life because they never put away enough money for the future.

As for my final pillar, no matter where you are in the financial spectrum you can always donate to someone needy, or to a cause you support. Even a dollar into a container at a checkout counter can make you feel better. Do it and you benefit. You reduce stress every time you give something away.

Three: Good friends. We all need someone to watch our back, to share our tea, to hike the trail, to pal around with.

We have become more of an atomized society, segregating ourselves into smaller and smaller units. Enlarging your social network can mean shutting off your smartphone – it’s dumb to go to a restaurant and start texting others, rather than talking to the friends right next to you.

If I went out to eat with others, then started reading the newspaper or a book, the others at the table would say, “What’s going on?” It’s the same with the phone. Learn to turn it off or leave it in the car.

Next week: Numbers two, one and the most important, zero.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a physician, professor, author and broadcast journalist. He hosts a radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7; email him at zorba@wpr.org.

See related story, Pages 8-9, 11