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Don’t Resolve. Rethink.

This week, most of the chatter about New Year’s resolutions is about how terrible we are at keeping them. But there’s another side to the failed resolution story.

While some eschew joining the resolution bandwagon altogether, still others are motivated by the promise of a new year and the change it can offer. And, while many resolutions do get broken, according to the American Psychological Association, people are 10 times more likely to succeed with their goal if they make a New Year’s resolution.

So, while experts maintain nearly 60% will quit their resolutions after six months, that means 40% succeed in achieving long term change.

Even if you are ardently anti-resolution, the new year begs for a review of what has passed and what is to come. Rather than run off to the gym and buy five pounds of leafy greens first thing, start off the year with a little reflection first. Begin with pen and paper: 

What is working?
It’s easy to forget about healthful changes we’ve made and ignore positive habits we maintain. What have you been successful with in 2010? What efforts have proven fruitful over the past several months, regardless if those efforts were consistent? The new year is also an excellent time to review what invigorates and motivates us. Do you take particular joy in your noonday walk with co-workers? Feel nourished by the Sunday meals with family? What activities make you feel your best? Most productive? Most stress-free? Those are building blocks for future wellness. 

What must change?
Often, we know we fall into behavior traps that erode our health and wellness, but it’s easier to enter into a state of bad habit denial. Articulating the behaviors, habits and outside stressors that wreak havoc on our life is the first step. Consider what part of your life is ripe for change, and where change can be most beneficial. 

What’s doable?
Evaluate your resolution style and get real about what’s just lip service and what you are willing to achieve. Will you really turn into a body building maven this year? Will you make dinner for your family every night regardless of the challenges of your work day? Decide what changes you feel truly committed to and what changes will just lead down the road to disappointment.

Making Change in 2011: Our 5 Favorite Resolution Tips

1. Be Led By Your Left Brain.

To jump start a new healthy habit, leave your emotional self behind and follow the plan. Make a nightly salad or drive to the gym because that’s your new schedule—don’t get bogged down about whether it’s working. Try letting your intellect take over for the first few weeks, then evaluate your progress after those weeks are over to decide if your new habits are fruitful, rather than letting your emotions sabotage you. 

2. Prove You Can.

Lose ten pounds by March! Run a marathon by February! If you have a track record of failure, remember it’s human nature to get excited about lofty goals and then fall into the trap of “I knew I couldn’t do this.” Instead, prove to yourself that you are not goal averse. Set them small and achievable, just for that reason. Eat one piece of fruit a day (not 10), workout two days a week (not 7) and you’ll be invigorated when you find you can be successful. 

3. Think Zebra, Not Horse.

Sometimes tackling a problem straight on doesn’t get to the heart of the matter as well as coming at it sideways. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, don’t focus your resolution on what goes into your mouth. Instead, resolve to make January seed purchases for your vegetable garden, or resolve to buy more local foods. Did you know that each year, Americans waste an estimated 160 billion pounds of food? In your efforts to improve your diet, you might resolve to reduce the waste that comes out of your kitchen by eating more widely, meal planning, or buying frozen. 

4. Use the 10% Rule.

Resolutions are always about going whole hog—that’s why they are notorious victims of early burn out. Confronted with daily workouts your body fails; you can’t meet your oversized goals. Instead, resolve to commit to incremental change. Increase your workload no more than 10% each week. Eat just 10% less this week, change what you eat just 10%. Then do it 10% the next week. This year, embrace a little change and piecemeal your way to success instead.

5. Eat Your Servings.

If you are going to make a single change this year, resolve to get your servings of fruits and vegetables. You can start with wild blueberries, not just because they are our favorite fruit, but because they cover the best of healthful eating: they provide color, potent antioxidants, low calorie fiber, and health benefits for your blood vessels, eyes, brain and skin, just for starters. And because they are sweet and delicious on so many foods, they serve as a perfect example of big change in a small package.

Learning to Cook in 2011? All You Need Are These Three Foods

According to the New York Times, those who cook spend only 6.8 minutes more preparing food than those who don’t. Author Mark Bittman contends that with three basics — chopped salad, rice and lentils, and stir fries — you can cook and eat healthy for a lifetime. They represent meals that are super fast, super easy, and inexpensive, and they can be made with accessible food (especially when you take advantage of frozen).

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