The practice of making New Year’s resolutions is not a new concept. In fact, ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first to both celebrate a new year and make promises for the coming year. Those ancient “promises,” however, were not made to the Babylonians themselves, but to the gods they worshipped. Unlike modern resolutions, Babylonians focused their promises around paying debts and returning the things they borrowed during the previous year. If your New Year’s resolution is to return your library books on time, consider yourself a modern Babylonian. But, if your resolution is a little more contemporary—like losing weight, saving money or getting organized—you’re joining a legion of fellow goal-setting enthusiasts who look for a fresh start on January 1st.
Resolving to change is always the first step, however, keeping resolutions is a well documented uphill battle for the majority of people making resolutions. Approximately 80% of Americans will fail their resolution attempts before February. Only 8% will actually see their resolutions through to the end of the year. To help you make your resolutions last for 2021, we asked local experts in the top six resolution fields for their advice.
Losing weight, getting into shape, getting healthy, toning up, exercising—no matter how you label it, getting fit is always at the top of the resolution list. Vern Gauthier from Fit For You Exclusive knows a thing or two about making fitness goals a reality. For over 35 years, Vern has been advising people throughout their weight loss journey and his first bit of advice might surprise you.
“Start slowly,” he says, “the worst thing you can do is to over-exert yourself at the beginning. If you start slowly, you’re more likely to continue.”
Vern also suggests doing more than cardio, “weight resistance is a big part of exercise, and we always advise clients to incorporate two or three days of weight training into their exercise routine.”
Even if weight loss is the goal, Vern says it’s important to look beyond the numbers on the scale.
“First of all, it’s important to understand your metabolism. You might cut too many calories, and your body isn’t getting what it needs. I recommend getting a meta check, which pinpoints the exact number of calories your body needs at rest. Once we have that number, we can work on an exercise program and a nutrition program that will work for you.”
And, if you’re worried about not knowing where to start, look no further than a personal training session.
“Personal training is crucial to getting achieving your goals. We’re going to listen to what you want to do, assess you and send you on a road to success.”
Fit For You Exclusive memberships include three personal training sessions, with further session packages available for purchase, so members are given a solid foundation to their health journey.
Eating a healthy diet can be a daunting task, especially if you’re just learning about good nutrition. We reached out to Carol Bell, Registered Dietician at Table Health in Traverse City for a little advice. Carol understand that starting the process of making good nutritional choices can seem challenging at first, “It just takes a bit of practice and getting inspiration from people who are already doing it. Find a mentor, see a dietician, get books, watch YouTube videos.”
For Carol, a big part of teaching proper nutrition is to cut through the noise of fad diets, like the current low-carb craze, “Carbohydrates are the current scapegoat for some health problems. This happens every few years in nutrition research. It used to be cholesterol, then all fats, then fruit and now all carbs get a bad rap. Fad diet programs are not always appropriate for all people. We try to squeeze people into a ‘one size fits all’ diet and say this is what you should do. Healthy diets include foods from a variety of food groups: fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, meats, fish, grains, maybe dairy for some people. The goal is to find the right approach for your health goals. Eliminating carbohydrates also eliminates many phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals that prevent cancer and nourish the healthy bacteria in the gut. This bacteria is the basis of much nutrition research now. If we are eliminating carb foods that feed the healthy bacteria, we also may be increasing our risk for diseases like colon cancer.”
To help kick start your journey to good nutrition, Carol recommends that the average adult aim for 5 servings of veggies that include 2-3 cups of leafy greens, 1 cup yellow/orange/red veggies, 2 cups cruciferous vegetables, generous onions and garlic. Additionally your diet should include 2-3 fruits, 1 serving of nuts, 1-3 servings beans or peas, ½ cup- 2 cups grains or starchy vegetables and 1-2 servings meat/fish (if you eat meat/fish).
Sample meal plan:
-Breakfast: 2 cups green tea ½ hour before breakfast; 1 cup or 1 piece of fruit; Whole grain sourdough bread topped with hummus, slice of tomato and spinach, cup of unsweetened almond milk
-Lunch: 2 cups of a hearty vegetable lentil soup or vegetable chicken soup (lots of vegetables); side salad of chopped peppers, olives and cucumbers; 2 small oatmeal cookies
-Afternoon snack: Tangerine, 2-3 romaine leaves or celery sticks, few almonds (always eat the veggies first to make sure you get enough of these in your day, and then follow with fruit and nuts)
-Dinner: Baked flounder with dried herbs (like basil, parsley, oregano); 2 cups sautéed kale and red cabbage, 1 baked sweet potato, fruit for dessert, if desired.
For those looking to achieve their health goals by working with a dietician, Carol works directly with clients from the beginning “we learn together, create menus, practice cooking in our teaching kitchen or take a tour of a grocery store—whatever it takes to help you move toward your goals.”
For me, the idea of having a completely organized home—where everything has a place—is the ultimate fantasy. And, I’m not alone. De-cluttering is among the top resolutions for Americans every year. We reached out to Kirsten Manke Pappas from WINK Interior Designs to help turn the fantasy of an organized space into reality. Kirsten says she looks at function first when it comes to de-cluttering and interior design, and first works with clients to identify needs, “What do you need in a particular room in order for it to function properly? What are your needs? Are there furniture pieces that are impeding the homes natural traffic patterns? What type of storage do your rooms need? I also try to identify drop zones. Where is the mail piling up? Do coats and shoes tend to pile up near doorways?”
Once functional needs are identified, Kirsten employs a strategy directly from one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, “There is a saying by Benjamin Franklin, ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ It means the best way to be organized is to have things kept tidily away. Closet organizers, drawer organizers are great ways to declutter and keep things tidy. Also, keep things simple. People buy goods and often buy things they don’t need. Ask. ‘am I buying this because I need it or is it an impulse buy?’ Some people buy goods because it was a great deal only to collect dust. Control your impulses. Or maybe they buy too much because it is a promotion or it is sold in bulk. Can you find a family member or friend that you can share these items with? Unless it’s a pandemic and it’s toilette paper, then hoard hard.”
Small spaces can be especially difficult to organize, but Kirsten says if you have a small place, simply look up. “Think vertically. If you are short on floor space, use shelving or a stacked chest of drawers. Even an end table that has three tiers or nesting tables. And, if it’s a small kitchen, take your cabinets up to the ceiling. Identify areas that can use storage containers that will easily slide under your beds or sofas. Even installing a Murphy bed in a home office is a creative way to use wall space. Also, think about furniture that is multifunctional—like an ottoman that opens up to store blankets or board games in the living room.”
The art of tidying up is beyond a resolution—it’s a literal book and Netflix. Series from organizational expert Marie Condo. But, Kirsten says even though she appreciates the practice of con Mari, it’s important to remember that not everything in your home will bring you joy, “Not everything in life will bring you joy-but it might bring joy to others in your household- like your child’s VHS collection that fills bins in a much needed closet area. Maybe right now isn’t the right time to practice con Mari. Right now, many people need joy in their life—and a lot of it! Don’t deprive yourself or stress about the amount of joy an item should bring. Maybe look at items that bring joy to your life, and share that item to bring joy to another/s life. It’s win-win. You get to declutter and bring joy to someone else.”
And, for those of us looking for a glimpse into the design trends for 2021, Kirsten has a few ideas.
“The pandemic has taught many families ‘survival’ skills for the home. I think home offices will be big—or at least an area in your home where you can hop on a zoom call and still look professional. Also, creating areas in your home that help with relaxation and stress and provide some solitude and privacy. We are also seeing a lot more use of happy colors and refraining from an all grey palette.”
After a soul crushing year like 2020, it’s no wonder more Americans than ever are reporting high stress and anxiety levels. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults over the age of 18. Anxiety and depression in teens has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and many people (teens and adults alike) is looking for ways to combat the stress in their life. Although everyone will experience stress and anxiety at one time or another, the difference between the two is that stress is a response to a threatening situation and anxiety is a reaction to the stress.
Dr. Lawrence Probes, MD is the staff Psychiatrist at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Traverse City. He says we’re actually programmed for certain amounts of stress, “Most people say that stress interferes at least moderately in their lives. Stress and anxiety are both a part of the body’s natural fight or flight response.”
But, when moderate stress becomes major stress, our bodies can show physical signs. Dr. Probes says to look for signs like dizziness, headaches, teeth grinding and/or jaw clenching, upset stomach or heartburn, tight muscles—especially in the neck, face and shoulders—difficulty falling and staying asleep, rapid heartbeat, fatigue, increased or decreased appetites that can lead to weight gain or weight loss, nausea, diarrhea, body aches, feeling “out of it” or “spaced out,” trembling or shaking and sexual difficulties.
While removing all stress is not a likely possibility, Dr. Probes says there are beneficial ways to minimize the effects of stress. “Try reframing the situations to look for ways to keep a positive attitude. Recognize that some things cannot be changed and try asserting yourself positively, without becoming aggressive, angry, defensive or passive.”
Dr. Probes says there are other proven ways to mitigate the stress in your life, “Regular exercise cannot be overemphasized! Try a daily walk, and eat healthy, well-balanced meals. You can also try relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga.”
Managing your time efficiently ad learning to set limits or boundaries is also advisable for reducing stress. Dr. Probes says making a plan that includes time management, rest periods and good sleep hygiene is crucial. It is also important to limit the use of drugs, alcohol and other compulsive behaviors and pursue healthy hobbies and interests.
Adults are not the only ones dealing with stress. Parents may be especially concerned with stress and anxiety in their children. Dr. Probes says the best thing to do is look for the physical signs of anxiety and depression in young people, “Changes in sleep patterns (like) taking longer to fall asleep, waking up tired, not feeling well rested, changes in eating patterns, increased frequency of headaches, short-temperedness (more than usual), recurring minor illnesses or request muscle aches. They may also appear more disorganized than usual or have difficulties completing tasks. Or, they may appear to have a greater sense of persistent time pressure or an increase in generalized frustration and anger.” Other physical signs of stress, depression and anxiety in children are: headaches, upset stomachs, chest pain, heart palpitations or increased heart rate, insomnia, nightmares, bedwetting, decreased appetite, comfort-eating or bingeing, or pretending to be sick to avoid activities. There can be emotional symptoms of stress in kids too, and Dr. Probes says to look for signs like anxiety, mood swings, restlessness or clinginess, new or recurring treats, increased emotions like anger, crying, stubbornness or aggression, decreased concentration or motivation, emotional overreactions to minor incidents and even regression in the form of comforting behaviors from early childhood, like thumb-sucking, nail-biting, or sleeping with comfort items.
Sometimes, you might need additional help managing stress and anxiety, and seeking a professional is a wise choice, “Consider treatment with a psychologist or other mental health provider and look for support while you cope from friends and loved ones.”
Another top resolution year after year is to find a way to save money. Geoff Streit, VP of Commercial Lending at 4Front Credit Union understands that saving money starts with building a sustainable budget.
“This is the hardest thing for many families to do. Balancing financial stability with all the frills of the modern world can be tough. Start with what is usually the easy part…how much is brought home each week/month? Then track the expenses and bills and debts. From a simplistic standpoint many people use the 50/30/20 rule. 50% of the take home pay should be for needs (like) housing, utilities, food, insurance. 30% should be for wants (like) going out to eat, vacations, impulse buys. And, 20% is saved or used to pay down/pay off debt.”
When it comes to building your budget, however, Geoff says it’s extremely important to include affordable entertainment. “If all the work people do is to pay bills and survive, it is quite challenging to find motivation long term for those things. Having some ‘fun’ money to budget with will make budgeting easier and more sustainable in the long term.”
“Pay yourself first. Force the savings to come out before everything else. Whether it is through a company-sponsored retirement plan like a 401k, or by automating a deduction from your bank account into a savings account, or into an investment account.” Speaking of an investment account, Geoff says if it’s available through work, take advantage of it. “You can also look at investing into a Roth IRA. The sooner a person can put money away for retirement, the longer that money has time to potentially grow.”
Sometimes, building a line item for savings can come from examining your current expenses. Geoff says refinancing, and shopping for a better value can be good options.
“With interest rates as low as they are, refinancing a mortgage can make plenty of sense. If you plan to stay in your home at least 2 years, the costs associated with refinancing will typically be outweighed by the savings from a lower interest rate. Usually, it only makes sense to refinance if the rate is 1% less (than your current rate) or more. However, if that rate is 0.50% less it could still make sense. Shopping for other budget items, like insurance, every few years is not a bad idea, however, sometimes you get what you pay for. Although insurance can feel like a commodity there is some benefit to knowing your agent, especially if you find yourself in a claims situation.”
For those looking to consolidate debt in order to save money, Geoff says it can be a great option.
“If a person has become more disciplined in their savings, then debt consolidation loans can be a good tool to help speed up a debt reduction process. However, if spending is still not under control then these loans are at best a way to kick the can down the road. For those who have learned to control spending, these loans can sometimes save hundreds of dollars per month.”
As far as credit cards go, Geoff says they can be a useful tool—but they have sharp edges.
“If you know how to use them and avoid carrying balances for extended periods of time, they can help people who have non-stable income. However, the majority of credit card purchases that American’s make is for things they didn’t need in the first place. For example, if I spend $1,000 on a new TV using my credit card and the rate is 9% and I make minimum payments every month on it that TV will likely end up costing me closer to $1,200 over time. They can be helpful, but they can also make purchases more expensive than needed.”
Personal finances aside, many businesses suffered immensely in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Geoff says companies can be better prepared for further shutdowns if they can keep cold, hard, cash on hand.
“Cash is king. The companies that will be better suited to survive further shutdowns are the ones that will sit on more cash than they historically have. Instead of buying the new equipment at the end of the year, a business owner could look at something more moderately priced, or try to get more use from the equipment they already have. Businesses that can adapt in ways in which they can continue to drive revenue will be the ones that can be expected to be left standing.”
Cutting Back on Drinking:
For many people, cutting back on drinking is always at the top of the list of New Year’s resolutions. For Matt Zerilli, PORCH Recovery Center Manager for Addiction Treatment Services, that’s not a surprise.
“The holidays can be such an emotional time, especially this year, and people tend to over-indulge just as a way to deal. I think the fact that the season is immediately followed by a transition into a new year naturally makes people feel the urge to flip the dial all the other way to try and get a fresh start.’
But, cutting back on alcohol isn’t always enough. Matt says asking yourself if you need to cut back on alcohol, or, if you need to become entirely sober is an important question to ask.
“It really comes down to a person’s individual reflection on what a healthy relationship with substances means to them. There is this problematic myth that a person has to hit ‘rock bottom’ in order to assess their relationship with substances. This is not true! It is never too early—or too late—to think about making healthy changes in your life. Because everyone’s relationship with substances is so different, we are starting to see many pathways become available for people to create healthier lifestyles. These pathways include abstinence-based support groups, mindfulness activities like yoga and meditation, groups that encourage better planning and life skills around substances, and many more. There is definitely no ‘one size fits all’ and I encourage people to try multiple options in order to find what resonates with them.”
If you’re struggling to come to terms with your drinking habits—or, wondering if your social drinking has become an alcohol dependency—Matt says it’s important to reflect on the type of drinking you’re engaging in.
“Some questions to consider are: Is alcohol having an effect on your relationships? Is your drinking creating unwanted side effects at work or school? What effect is drinking having on your mental and or physical health? Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not the costs of alcohol outweigh the benefits in terms of living a happy life.”
Alcohol abuse isn’t the only substance individuals may be dealing with. Recreational marijuana can also lead to problems.
“The increased availability and ‘normalization/ of marijuana has definitely resulted in more problematic use. Marijuana, just like any other mind altering substance, can become problematic when it is being used as a way to avoid thoughts or emotions that are difficult to face. A way to think of these thoughts and emotions are like a ‘check engine’ (light) on your car. If you avoid them in the short term, they may result in bigger problems later.”
Matt says for many people, participating in “Dry January”—a month of abstaining from alcohol—can help you discover what it’s like to be sober.
“Short breaks from drinking like ‘Dry January’ are a good way to try out what it feels like to be sober for an extended period of time. An important thing to remember with any type of addiction is that it has little to do with how much will power a person has. If someone is not drinking for a month but finds themselves seeking other ways to cope, this may indicate the need to look for additional support.”
If you are looking for additional help, Matt Zerilli says the team at The Porch in Traverse City is a valuable resource.
“The Porch is a project of Addiction Treatment Services and our goal is to connect people at all stages of recovery with resources. We offer free Certified Peer Recovery Coaching—think of it like a personal trainer, but instead of physical fitness, we focus on recovery! (We have) lots of groups and activities, and can plug you in with any level of support you need. Change is always hard, but it is important that you know that you are not alone.”
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