TAWAS CITY – Now that it’s more than a month into 2022, how well have you been maintaining your new year’s resolutions?
Kelly Davis says that, unfortunately, it’s all too common for people to give up on their goals – and to do so rather quickly. “In fact, studies show that two-thirds of people abandon their new year’s resolutions within a month.”
So if you’ve found yourself slacking with your efforts, you’re not alone. More importantly, it’s not too late to get back on track with the improvements you may want to make in your life.
Davis, a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in oncology nutrition, is among the experts who have shared input on the ways people can stick to their new year’s resolutions. The following includes tips for those seeking to scale back on overeating and alcohol consumption; to enhance their financial well-being; who desire to quit smoking; and who want to up their level of physical activity.
It’s okay to enjoy the occasional cocktail or a champagne toast at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and it’s also fine to indulge in rich foods every now and then. However, issues can arise if one overdoes it, or if these pleasures morph into a vice. This is where Davis’s area of expertise comes into play.
Her job includes working with oncology patients at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital Seton Cancer Institute in Saginaw. Along with providing virtual consultations for people in different locations, Davis also helps in other areas when needed.
A wealth of knowledge in her specific field, her tips for staying motivated with new year’s resolutions can also be of use to people who have a variety of different goals; not just health-related.
As for those who drink a bit too much or struggle with overeating, Davis was asked about the benefits they may realize, once they stop or cut back.
Whether someone is able to curb their smoking, unhealthy eating or excessive drinking, all of these can help reduce their risk of several different types of cancers.
Davis points out that it can reduce their risk of other chronic diseases, as well, such as diabetes and heart disease.
“But both excessive drinking and overeating can also provide unwanted calories,” she continued. “So therefore, reducing those can essentially help with weight loss – and just improve your overall well-being.” Further, the secondary benefits include less anxiety, clearer skin and better self-esteem, just to name a few.
While it’s known that smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer, Davis says that it can also damage almost every organ in the body. It increases the risk of heart attack, strokes, blood pressure and cholesterol, can impact wound healing and research shows that it reduces bone density in women and may increase infertility.
Likewise, excessive alcohol intake can damage many parts of the body, particularly, the digestive tract. Alcohol is an irritant that can affect the gastrointestinal tract wall and promote inflammation, leading to poor absorption of nutrients. Similar to smoking, it can also increase blood pressure.
And when people consume alcohol, they sometimes mix it with sugary beverages that can contribute to weight gain. Davis says people may forget to focus on the calories that they drink, and how much this can impact their weight. For example, one margarita may contain roughly 500 calories.
This can then spill over into one’s food choices, too. Davis explains that a lot of times when people drink alcohol, they crave sugary, salty and high-fat foods. This may lead to overeating and unwanted weight gain. Eating too much in the short-term can make one feel sluggish and tired, but in the long-term it can cause excess calories that end up being stored as fat, resulting in increased risk of such chronic health conditions as heart disease and diabetes.
As is also the case with other goals, some people who set resolutions related to smoking, eating habits and alcohol, may not follow through. Davis’s thoughts on this are that most people start out with lots of motivation coming into the new year, which is great. “But with all that motivation, people want to accomplish it all,” and can take on too much, too fast.
Therefore, she says it’s important to remember that some of these bad habits didn’t develop overnight, or even a period of weeks. It took a lot of time to build them, and it will also take time to break them. “So we need to be patient with ourselves and not go too extreme with setting our goals.”
Her advice, first and foremost, is for people to find their “why.” In other words, figure out your reason for making these changes, so that when you feel your motivation slipping, you can dig deep into why you started your journey and why it’s important to you.
She recommends that instead of just saying you want to improve your health, say you want to improve your health because… “And then try to visualize how you will feel once you reach that goal, and what you will be able to do once you create a new habit or reach that goal. Because that’s ultimately going to be your motivation to stick with your new year resolution long-term.”
Davis also says to not underestimate the power of making small changes. It’s got to be something you’re going to stick with in the long run, which doesn’t often happen when making an extreme change. “So I think setting small goals in the beginning, and then just building on it as you achieve those goals can be helpful.”
This could be something as simple as cutting out the sugar in your daily coffee. One teaspoon of sugar has about 16 calories, which doesn’t sound like much. But if you’re someone who has a few cups daily, over the course of a year it really can add up.
Davis says another tip is to think of it as adding more to your diet, rather than eliminating things. View it as an opportunity to try new foods and not think, for example, that you’re never going to eat fries again. You can add more fruits and vegetables to your plate, and maybe decrease the portions of other food, but it doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating them and never having them again. That’s where people can fail. They remove all of the things they love in the beginning, and then get burnt out because they’re being so restrictive with their diet.
When starting new resolutions, she says it’s good to make smart goals, as well. This means they are specific, measurable and achievable, and are relevant to you.
A vague resolution, such as planning to eat better, is very hard to measure and can be easy to forget. But a more specific goal is something that people can work toward. For instance, Davis says a good objective would be eating two servings of vegetables before 3 p.m., or packing a healthy snack for work each day.
When people set a resolution, she says it benefits them to have a goal that focuses on the habits they want to change, rather than weight loss. This goes back to finding your “why,” and building a long-term healthy lifestyle. “The weight loss will eventually come. If you work on those healthy habits, other things will follow.”
Building a good support system is also one of Davis’s suggestions. She says that it helps to surround yourself with others who have like-minded, positive attitudes and can support you in your journey along the way.
While some people’s resolutions are to slim down their waistlines in 2022, others may be looking to bulk up their wallets.
When it comes to money matters, Financial Advisor Sheila Malewska knows the ins and outs. Along with working at the Tawas City branch of Edward Jones for four years, she has also been a client of the company for 18 years.
Those at Edward Jones specialize in such areas as estates, preparing for retirement, living in retirement, paying for education and preparing for the unexpected.
Malewska – who is also the regional leader for women and diversity inclusion – says that when most people meet with her, they’re not quite sure what services they’re looking for or may be in need of. “They know they need something, but they don’t know what.”
So, besides offering retirement options and helping with savings, she says she has uncovered several things that her clients want, one of which is investment consulting.
Advanced strategies, whether it’s estate planning, charitable giving or staying within a certain tax bracket, is another area.
So is relationship management which, for instance, can entail somebody contacting their tax professional, to make sure that all the parties are working together toward the same goal. “So it’s client relationships,” Malewska says.
As for those who are looking at 2022 as the time to start investing, saving or doing more of each, she was asked why she thinks it’s important for people to focus on their financial health.
A big reason is that having a handle on finances can reduce anxiety. People are able to look past the headlines and not be scared about the news because they understand their goal. Everything from inflation and interest rates, to pandemics and elections, can affect the investment world in the short-term. But a financial pro can help by assisting you in constructing a portfolio which is built for the long-term and reflects your goals.
It can also help with avoiding emotional decisions, such as when someone has their eye on a new vehicle. Even though they want to make the purchase, if they aren’t really in a position where they should, they can recognize that they need to wait.
Some people can also make quick, emotion-driven decisions when the market either goes through a downturn or is on an uptick, and a financial advisor can help these individuals choose the right actions to take.
Malewska notes that a solid financial footing can allow a person to work toward multiple goals in their life, as well, such as investing for a retirement that’s years away while simultaneously saving for a child’s college education.
Being prepared for the unexpected is another benefit, as the unplanned events which can occur in one’s life may have serious financial impacts on them and their loved ones. Adequate insurances and the ability to pay for long-term care if needed, are some of these items to consider. A financial advisor can evaluate one’s protection needs and recommend appropriate solutions that fit within their overall strategy.
“And you can adapt to changing circumstances a whole lot better,” Malewska says. She explains that this is because there’s a plan in place and, while we can’t predict the future, we can prepare.
Estate planning, she continued, allows people to control their future and their legacy – which is yet another way to knock down some stress and worry.
In terms of managing their finances, Malewska says that some of the mistakes people make is thinking they can time the market, versus time in the market.
Waiting too long can also be a problem. She says she learned that people are more afraid to meet with a financial investor than a dentist, because a dentist can at least repair your teeth for a cost. However, “I can’t fix what you haven’t done. So, the sooner the better.”
When it comes to people losing sight of their goals, Malewska remarked that a new year’s resolution is similar to a destination. She likened this to a GPS, which is needed to help you go someplace you’re unfamiliar with. And typically, a resolution is a new want or goal in your life. So if you actually work on a strategy – much like a GPS gives a strategy of roads to take – you’re better off when you can stay put on that plan. “It’s okay if you take a wrong turn, but the GPS will put you back on track.”
And in the financial world, this often comes in the form of having a partner to give assistance. “It’s really hard to do on your own,” Malewska advises.
When someone is comfortable financially, it can have positive impacts on other areas of their life. She says this involves making a plan so that your future doesn’t control you. Instead, you can control your destiny and goals, with where you want to be. “And leave a legacy; that’s also nice.”
Her tips for staying motivated and committed to achieving such new year’s resolutions, include finding a partner with whom you can openly share your financial goal, be it a friend, spouse or financial advisor. “And then try to set a reoccurrence of that. Sometimes with my clients, when they want to start saving, I will automatically pull money from their bank account on a monthly basis so that we can accomplish it.”
Financial advisors and other professionals can give assistance, whether someone has tried to accomplish money goals on their own and then failed, or if they’re like a lot of folks who aren’t even sure where to begin.
According to Malewska, one of the first steps people should take if they want to explore their financial options or are considering teaming with an advisor, is to find someone with whom they’re comfortable working. “And whether that means you call three places or one, it’s your money and it’s an uncomfortable subject for a lot of people.” So it’s important to find somebody you can build trust with and not be afraid to ask questions.
For one person, a 1-800 number may be perfect, she says, while others prefer in-person assistance. Everybody is different and it all comes down to finding someone you can relate to.
Malewska points out that seeking a trusted friend’s referral is a decent way to get started, as well, and she adds that people can also look online and research who they may want to work with.
If a financial advisor turns out to be the best option for you, there are Edward Jones offices in Tawas City, East Tawas and Oscoda Township.
Malewska, who also goes through budgets with her clients, says that Edward Jones provides very personalized services, and that their work is about more than finances; it’s a relationship.
Another new year’s resolution people often set, is to be more active. Sharing insight into this is Jacquelyn Brown, a fourth grade teacher at Oscoda Area Schools, who has also taught physical education (PE) at the district and is a certified PLYOGA instructor.
She previously taught four years of PE in Cadillac, where she also coached numerous youth sports teams in volleyball, basketball and soccer. She has been involved in coaching soccer at the varsity level, as well as head coaching the girls junior varsity soccer team in Cadillac.
“In college, I had the opportunity to intern with the Central Michigan Girls Soccer Team as a student manager,” she also stated.
Increased physical activity remains a popular goal for the new year, but not everyone sticks with it. As for Brown’s take on why this is, “I think the biggest obstacle we face right now is our mindset on how we view failure. We are human and we will fail from time to time! We need to accept that setbacks are inevitable and also a learning opportunity,” she says.
“Maybe you skipped a workout because you were overly exhausted. What can you learn from this?” she continued. “Maybe you are waking up early to work out and sacrificing your sleep. This is counter productive to your goals because your body is not able to adequately recover. Can you change the time you plan on exercising or perhaps go to bed earlier? Try to find the lesson in the setback, and then think how you can adjust your current fitness plan or other areas of your life to better meet your goals.”
Brown’s tips to help people stay on course with their resolutions include being a lifelong learner. She recommends reading books about health and fitness, listening to podcasts and trying an in-person class with a certified instructor instead of just following a video.
She says that people can gain so much knowledge from experts in the field. “Science is constantly evolving and new discoveries are being made all the time. Staying up to date on the best researched based strategies can be the difference in your success. Plus, the more you learn, the more intrinsically motivated you will become.”
Another tip is to find the fun. “One of my favorite quotes is, ‘We don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.’ Teaching elementary PE is all about finding the fun,” she points out. “Kids love playing games, and they get hot and sweaty without batting an eye. You know what their goal is? Have fun, all day, everyday.”
But as adults, she says we can lose that mentality. “Exercise should never be a punishment. If it is, you can almost guarantee you won’t stick with it. So find your fun!” This could mean getting involved in the large pickleball following in the area, trying out some cardio drumming or exploring some of the endless outdoor possibilities.
Brown also suggests making it a family affair. She shares that her 2-year-old son hates when she tries to work out instead of play with him. “He crawls all over me and pulls on me from every direction. What can a mom do but bring him into my world? We march around the house, skip, bear crawl, frog jump, do dino yoga, whatever I can think of that is movement based and fun.
“Teach your kids and spouse to value fitness as you do,” she elaborates. “Tell them about what you are learning and doing and practice healthy habits together. Including your family in your fitness practice adds accountability and a support system.”
Brown notes that you will strengthen not only your muscles, but your relationships, as well.
As for why it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, “Our best days are not spent on the couch at home,” she says. “They are spent out in the world living boldly, and we need a healthy, strong body to enjoy those adventures to the fullest.”
She refers to exercise as her miracle drug, and says that it’s scientifically proven to improve memory and cognition, immediately boost mood, keep bones strong, help you detoxify, spark your brain into neurogenesis and so much more.
When it comes to fitness goals, Brown tends to steer away from the term “better shape.” Not only is it very nonspecific, but it also sends the message that one body “shape” is more desirable than another. “With fitness, many people struggle with attributing their whole self worth to their body image or a number on a scale. This is a very depressive mental state that can lead people into some dark corners. With my students, I encourage skill based goals. These are not only more specific, but really help to build confidence with mastery.”
A goal might be to learn a new jump rope trick or dribbling move. It might be a fitness goal, such as reaching a specific number on the sit-and-reach flexibility test.
Brown encourages adults to ditch the idea of “better shape” and strive for something like being able to hold a handstand for 30 seconds, benching a new max or finally getting your feet off the ground in crow pose at yoga class. “Make it specific to you!”
Kicking bad habits is another common new year’s resolution, and pitching the cigarettes tops the list for a number of people.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), quitting smoking has both immediate and long-term benefits for you and your loved ones, and it’s one of the most important things you can do for your health. There are many ways to quit tobacco, and MDHHS can help you find free and trusted resources to get you started. The department offers programs which can be done via telephone, online or even by text.
Visit michigan.gov/mdhhs, click on the “Keeping Michigan Healthy” tab, select “Primary Care & Public Health,” then choose “Tobacco” to find a number of related resources.
The Michigan Tobacco Quitline provides free information, treatment referrals, online programs and text messaging, 24/7, at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Free counseling and nicotine replacement therapy may be available to certain callers, as well, and the Quitline information can also be accessed at michigan.quitlogix.org/en-US/.