New Year’s Resolutions: Enhance your life, don’t deprive yourself

By Jamie Morris

Don't forget to eat your veggies in 2019 and beyond. (While not expressly a part of Canada's Food Guide, yes, even humans can eat clover...)

Type “gym membership,” “fitness,”  “diet,” or “smoking cessation” into Google Trends (a very cool online tool) and you’ll see that searches for all of them spike in early January. No coincidence: with a new year many of us resolve to turn over a new leaf, develop good habits and curb bad ones. By the end of January searches for those terms drop off and, unfortunately, by then many New Year’s resolutions are abandoned.

We asked experts in a number of fields for their thoughts. What’s a single piece of advice they’d offer? What’s a resolution that might be manageable and is definitely worth doing? What could help ensure we stick with it?

Here are their suggestions. The areas covered include healthy eating, fitness, substance use and abuse, and the environment.

Pick the ones that matter most to you, read what the experts have to say, and give it a shot.

Eat more vegetables and fruits (from Aisha Malik, dietician with HKPR Health Unit))

“When it comes to healthy eating, small reasonable goals are the key to success. If there is one goal to set for 2019, I would focus on increasing your intake of vegetables and fruit. Increased vegetable and fruit consumption is associated with many health benefits including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.


-Enjoy a variety of vegetables and fruit fresh, frozen or canned (with low or no added salt/sugar);

-Start with at least half cup of vegetables with your lunch and dinner with a goal of making half of your plate be vegetables;

-Add vegetables in your eggs, soups, stir-fries, casseroles, smoothies;

-Use shredded/pureed fruit and vegetables in baking;

-Make vegetables and fruit part of your snacks; and,

-Look beyond the grocery store and try to grow your own vegetables and fruit or buy from a farmer’s market, good food box, and food co-op.”

Schedule blocks of time for fitness. (Candace McGuigan, fitness coordinator

Parks, Recreation and Culture Division, City of Kawartha Lakes)

“You got that health membership, now put it into action by scheduling your workouts into your agenda or calendar on your phone by labelling “health time” or “my time.” You need to commit for success. Give yourself enough time to get to and from the gym, workout and shower if needed (1.5 – 2 hours). Book an orientation, so you have the confidence to use machines properly and effectively. Vary up your schedule aiming for 2 -3 times a week and add in a fitness class to bring a group atmosphere to your workout or a swim.”

If your goal is being physically active, start small and build some confidence as a New Year’s resolution. (Jordan Prosper, health promoter, Community Care Health & Care Network)

“Getting more physically active is a very popular resolution but often this plan derails early because people typically are not realistic in their goals. Start small and build some confidence in getting more active and systematically add on from there as your body allows. For example, getting more physically active could be parking further away from your destination so you are walking further to get there. It could also mean going for a 10 minute walk outside every day for a week and adding five minutes to each walk after that. It could also mean taking up gardening in the spring and summer months as well. All in all you want this resolution to become an every day habit so take small, attainable steps to help reach your goal of becoming a healthier you.”

Be responsible if you use alcohol or cannabis (Lisa Kaldeway, health promoter, Health Promotion Division, HKPR District Health Unit)

“Using alcohol or cannabis is a personal choice, but one that can have short-term and long-term effects on your health. It can also have impacts on others around you. The only way to avoid any risk is to abstain from use. If you choose to use either substance in 2019, consider making a commitment to follow Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines and Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines to reduce harms associated with use.”

Take advantage of January incentives to quit smoking. (Karen Taylor, public health nurse, Health Promotion Division, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit)

“Making the decision to quit smoking, quit vaping or reducing tobacco consumption is a good resolution, no matter what time of the year. National Non-smoking Week, January 20-26 occurs at the same time as two quit smoking contests: the Wouldurather contest and the First Week Challenge Contest.

Wouldurather: Want a share of $10,000 in prize money? For 18-29 year old residents, the wouldurather contest is an incentive to try quitting smoking, reducing cigarettes smoked or party without the smoke. For those who do not smoke, there is an incentive to stay smoke-free during the contest period.

First Week Challenge: Any resident over the age of 19, may win $500 by quitting for 7 days. Enroll in January and quit for the first week of February to be eligible. Rinse and repeat: this contest continues each month in 2019.

Say no to single-use plastics.

Say no to consuming single-use plastics. (Deb Pearson, environmentalist, member of Kawartha Lakes Environmental Advisory Committee)

“My resolution for this year and onward, is to say no to consuming single use plastics. It’s common knowledge now that we can’t recycle our way out of plastic pollution. Of the over 381 million tons of plastic waste produced each year only about 9 per cent is actually recycled; the rest is polluting our over-burdened landfills and the natural environment worldwide. It’s been said that if we continue business as usual by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. Reducing isn’t enough…refusing to accept single use plastics like water bottles, drinking straws, shopping bags and food packaging is the way to start. Food and product packaging is going to be the biggest challenge, but I think I can make a lot of changes in what goes into my shopping cart.

I know New Year’s resolutions have a poor track record, but I like what I read online recently: ‘Climate change mitigation makes me think about what someone recently said about exercise: it’s a celebration of what our bodies can do, not a punishment for what we have eaten. Likewise, taking these actions is a celebration of what we love about the world and what we want to maintain for the next generations. It’s not an exercise in renunciation.’”

Focus on enhancing your life rather than depriving yourself. (Tanya Kowalenko, educator and event planner for the Canadian Mental Health Association Haliburton, Kawartha, and Pine Ridge)

“People are often propelled to make New Year’s resolutions from feelings of shame, guilt and self-loathing. However, shame is rarely motivating for a long term behaviour change. Instead, ask yourself, how can I enhance my life? By focusing on enhancement as oppose to depriving yourself, you’re more likely to stick to your goals long term.

Movement is one of the best things you can do for your mental health because it releases feel-good chemicals (endorphins) into the body, which act as a natural anti-depressant, anxiety buster, and resilience builder. Focusing on how movement feels and having fun with it are both great motivators. “

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