New Year's Resolutions That Aren't Losing Weight
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Each year, many of us resolve to eat healthy food, get fit and, yup, lose weight. And while those goals are as admirable as they are popular -- especially for people who are at a weight-related health risk -- the reality is that fewer than half of people actually stick to their goals six months in.
So instead of the tired old promise to lose weight, we have 12 new healthy resolutions to try for 2012. Click through for our suggestions, then tell us in the comments what you're resolving to do in the new year.
Americans are increasingly sleep deprived -- one survey found that nearly 30 percent of adults sleep six or fewer hours each night, <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsSleep/" target="_hplink">according to the CDC</a>, despite the fact that the target number should be between seven and nine hours a night. And while we often glorify sleep deprivation in our society -- pushing people to skimp on sleep to socialize, work or be more "productive" -- it has been <a href="http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/important-sleep-habits" target="_hplink">linked to serious health problems</a>, including memory impairment, decreased alertness, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity, to name a few -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-deitz-md/children-sleep_b_1132517.html" target="_hplink">one recent HuffPost</a> blog compared the sleep deprivation epidemic to the cigarette smoking epidemic. Make 2012 the year you put sleep back on the priority list. Sleep is just as important for your health as getting exercise, fresh air and good food, explains HuffPost blogger Russell Rosenberg, Ph.D., CEO of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation. "It's an important piece to the overall health puzzle." Need a little motivation? While Rosenberg says many people are familiar with the short-term affects of sleep deprivation, they don't consider the long-term consequences."If you continue to abuse your sleep, chances are your health will be negatively impacted in the long run," he says, explaining that people often use the same excuses they use when they can't stick to a diet, exercise plan or other health behaviors -- they don't have the time or the discipline. "Like any of those other things, it just takes proper planning and scheduling." This year, resolve to check the gadgets at the door (research shows using them before bed can disrupt sleep) and commit to at least seven hours a night.
Improve Your Posture
How often do you catch yourself slouched over your desk after a long day of work? Proper posture can, among other benefits, cut back on the abnormal wearing of joints that causes arthritis, prevent back and muscle aches, and decrease stress on the ligaments that hold the spine together, <a href="http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy_living/back_health/hic_posture_for_a_healthy_back.aspx" target="_hplink">according to the Cleveland Clinic</a>. Plus, standing up straight has a way of making you simply look better (and often more alert). <a href="http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy_living/back_health/hic_posture_for_a_healthy_back.aspx" target="_hplink">Click over to the Cleveland Clinic</a> for tips on improving posture throughout each of your daily activities.
Use Your Vacation Days
According to <a href="http://www.expedia.com/p/info-other/vacation_deprivation.htm" target="_hplink">Expedia.com's 2011 Vacation Deprivation Study</a>, the average American leaves three vacation days unused at the end of the year -- the U.S. actually ranked as one of the most vacation deprived countries. The top-cited reason for skipping those extra days was lack of planning, the survey revealed, so map out how you're going to spend your 2012 days now. In fact, a 2010 study found that the <a href="http://www.springerlink.com/content/233331654742r175/" target="_hplink">biggest vacation happiness spike</a> comes from the act of planning the trip.
Kick The Diet Soda Habit
We already know that sugar-packed soda can be a recipe for health disaster -- but in 2011, some disturbing news came out about its calorie-free counterpart. Two studies presented this past summer suggest that diet soda may be associated with a wider waist in humans, and that aspartame (the artificial flavor that makes the drink sweet) raises blood sugar in mice prone to diabetes, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/29/diet-soda-weight-gain_n_886409.html" target="_hplink">The Huffington Post reported</a> when the findings were released. So why not skip the whole thing for 2012? To kick the habit, first identify what it is that draws you to a diet soda. If it's the caffeine, consider replacing it with unsweetened iced tea, coffee or green tea, says HuffPost blogger Cheryl Forberg, R.D., nutritionist for NBC's "The Biggest Loser." If the fizz is the draw, find a sweet replacement with a naturally carbonated water, like Pellegrino, mixed with just a splash of juice. Of course, water is your best bet -- if you can't stand it plain, add just enough juice to change the color along with an orange or a lime. Like a diet, depriving yourself completely of something you love can lead to overindulging later, Forberg warns. If diet soda is something you can't do without, she suggests limiting it to a once a week treat or cutting down on the overall number you drink.
Remember To Breathe
Breathing sounds simple enough, but slowing down and taking a few deep breaths can actually help your brain to relax, <a href="http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-breathing-exercises-for-relaxation" target="_hplink">according to WebMD</a>. "Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders," HuffPost blogger Dr. Andrew Weil <a href="http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html" target="_hplink">writes on his website</a> -- click over for three of his simple breathing exercises.
Stop Snacking Just To Snack
When the best-intentioned co-worker brings in leftover holiday cookies for you to sample, it can be hard to resist -- even if you're not hungry. "Just acknowledging that you do that is the first step," Forberg says. Eating when you're not hungry can lead to bigger problems, she explains, such as serious emotional eating, and the first step in stopping is to be aware that you're doing it in the first place. Mindless eating at work can add up -- <a href="http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-eating-tips/8-things-you-don%E2%80%99t-know-about-calories/7-snack-time-more-mealtime" target="_hplink">one report</a> found that Americans add nearly 600 calories to their daily intake from snacking alone. The next time you're tempted by a treat when you're not actually hungry, have a list in your head of other healthy replacement practices to try instead, Forberg suggests, such as drinking a cup of tea, taking a stroll or walking over for a quick chat break with a co-worker.
Take Makeup Off Before Bed
Sometimes, when you're really tired, washing your face at the end of the day seems like an impossible chore -- but it's worth it. "The powder and chemicals in makeup truly can clog pores and add to microscopic inflammation if they are ground into your skin by the pillow every night," says Jessica Krant, founder of <a href="http://www.artofdermatology.com/" target="_hplink">Art of Dermatology</a> in New York City and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "Keeping mascara on also dries out lashes and makes them more brittle and prone to breaking or being torn out by virtue of being stuck together." She says the best way to remove makeup is to use a gentle remover made for sensitive skin, followed by a gentle cleanser and a light moisturizer. "Good old fashioned cold cream does the trick, too, " Krant says. "Of course a skipped night once every few months won't really do anything too awful, unless you get a flake of mascara in your eye while sleeping, but over the long haul, the fewer nights of skin smothered with chemicals and irritants, the better."
Do 10 Minutes Of Yoga A Day
In the past year alone, studies have indicated that yoga is linked to easing symptoms of conditions such as <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111024164708.htm" target="_hplink">back pain</a>, <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110526064641.htm" target="_hplink">rheumatoid arthritis</a>, <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110604181903.htm" target="_hplink">stroke</a>, <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110727131421.htm" target="_hplink">fibromyalgia</a> and <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110518181257.htm" target="_hplink">breast cancer</a>. And that's just on top of the <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/yoga/CM00004" target="_hplink">already acknowledged benefits</a> of striking a pose, including stress reduction, management of other health conditions and weight loss, according to The Mayo Clinic. Try taking a yoga class in 2012, or popping in a yoga DVD at home. If you don't have time for a whole session, start small with 10 minutes or so -- for pose ideas, check out these moves to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elena-brower/yoga-wellness_b_1092453.html" target="_hplink">connect the mind</a> and body from <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elena-brower" target="_hplink">HuffPost blogger Elena Brower</a>.
Bike Or Walk To Work Once A Week
While biking or walking to work is, of course, greener and cheaper than driving, it can also have serious health benefits -- one study this year, for instance, found that even as little as five minutes of biking a day can stave off weight gain for middle aged women, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/17/bike-to-work-week_n_863152.html" target="_hplink">The Huffington Post reported last summer</a>. <a href="http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/walking-to-work-or-school" target="_hplink">And people who walk to work</a>, even once or twice a week, report higher energy levels, lower stress levels, and decreased frequencies of becoming sick. Combining the time you've already dedicated to commuting with working out can also help busy workers find time to squeeze daily activity in, <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2008-03-03/health/hm.urban.fitness_1_mass-transit-fletcher-plans-commuter-train?_s=PM:HEALTH" target="_hplink">reports CNN</a>.
Quit Saying 'Sorry' -- Unless You Really Are
An apology can be an incredibly powerful way of asking for forgiveness and moving on -- but sometimes it's simply overdone. We had an epiphany after reading this article last month from Jezebel: <blockquote>I'm an apology addict. Most women I know are similarly afflicted. We think our value as females is dependent on being literally and figuratively pliable to the point of contortions that would make a pretzel or a porn star jealous. And in so doing, we not only devalue our actual important and genuine apologies ("I'm sorry I slept with your brother.") but posit ourselves as being ever in error, constantly over-speaking, overspending, over-laughing, over-crying, overeating, over-existing.</blockquote> The piece inspired us -- and so next time, before you apologize for bumping in to someone, for not being able to find something in the store or for simply existing, ask yourself: are you really sorry? If not, skip the apology. <a href="http://jezebel.com/5867378/i-am-so-not-sorry-about-my-vagina-and-other-apologies-we-should-retract" target="_hplink">Click over to Jezebel to read the whole article. </a>
Ditch Sky-High Heels
Uber-high heels is one trend we'd like to lose in 2012. Last year, we saw celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Jennifer Hudson step out in a whopping six-and-a-half inch heel, and London shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/10/power-platform-high-heel-shoe" target="_hplink">told the <em>Guardian</em></a> in May that four-inch heels now look a bit "mumsy" in comparison to the newer, higher styles, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/20/2011-health-trends-11-fad_n_1158803.html#s557990&title=Stilettos_Stretch_Skyward" target="_hplink">HuffPost Healthy Living reported</a> in our list of fads we don't want to see in 2012. Any heel over an inch and a half will start creating functional and biomechanical problems in your body, says <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-robert-a-kornfeld" target="_hplink">HuffPost blogger Dr. Robert A. Kornfeld</a>, DPM, founder of the Institute for Integrative Podatric Medicine. The human body was built to walk from heel to toe, he explains, and in a high heel, you're walking mostly on the front of the toe. "You're creating a natural imbalance in your walk," he says. "It's like if you drive a car with one tire out of alignment, eventually that tire is going to blow out." And, over time, you start using the muscles of the lower extremity improperly, which can create low back stress, foot pain and knee and hip stress. If you have to wear a high heeled pump to work, Kornfeld recommends switching to a comfort style shoe for the commute -- and practice lots of stretching (such as yoga) to increase the range of motion and keep the muscles healthy.
Do One Thing A Week Only Because You Want To
We give you permission -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-norman/put-yourself-on-the-list_b_999055.html" target="_hplink">put yourself on the list</a>. Get a manicure, take a walk, do something because you want to. And don't feel guilty -- in fact, give it the same priority as you would to an important project at work or a commitment to a family member.