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Resolved to do better? Have your reasons in a row

It’s a new year and time for another round of resolutions. Typically, resolutions take the form of improving personal health, and that involves being more physically active, eating right and losing body fat. Experts are expected to guide us on these issues, and they usually do so by telling us what to do and how to go about it.

As such, our resolutions take the form of “I’m going to do this or that, and here’s how I’m going to do it.” Nothing wrong with having a plan, but if you don’t firmly establish why you are doing something, the what and how won’t take you very far. In fact, not emphasizing why is a major reason most resolutions are abandoned by sundown on New Year’s Day.

Let’s examine some of the whys.


An obvious why is common sense. If you are sedentary and have too much fat on your body, your health suffers in many ways.

Wrong, you say. You are sedentary and carry too much body fat, but you are healthy as a horse. You choose to believe you are the exception to a well-established rule. Maybe so, but are you sure? Or are you basing your assessment of health on the absence of symptoms? Nothing seems wrong, because there is no pain, no fever, no swelling, no shortness of breath, no skin rash.

If this sounds like you, and you are getting up there in years, your body already could be afflicted with several “silent” conditions that sooner or later very likely will rob you of the quality and/or quantity of life.

There often are no overt symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) or full-blown type 2 diabetes, severe clogging of the arteries, high blood pressure or several forms of cancer.

Big deal, you say, we all have to die of something, so what’s the difference? The difference is a heart attack at age 52 will severely impact the quality of life that remains.

Sure, medical science can now keep us alive for decades, but wouldn’t it be better to live those decades in health rather than taking a fistful of drugs, being limited by an impaired heart and fearful of another attack?

Another why is that times are changing. The incredible economic crises we are confronting demand change, and one of the biggest may be overhauling our health-care system. A major component is likely to be more individual responsibility. In the future, I suspect distinctions will be made for those with self-imposed health risks – smoking, obesity, inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, etc. – and such folks may not like how the new system taxes and treats them.

The biggest why is love. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, there are people who love you and depend on you in some way, and you owe it to them to be the best you can be, and to share life with them to the fullest and for as long as possible. Give them that opportunity by taking responsibility for your health and doing the right things.

This list provides some pretty compelling whys, and, hopefully, at least one of them can serve as a strong basis for your resolution. As to what and how, that’s the easy part, and there are many approaches from which to choose.

What and how

I suspect you already know what to do and how to go about it. You know how to exercise – walk out the door and keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you want something fancier, it’s easy to figure out. As a friend of mine, who is a strong critic of our soon-to-be-former president, likes to spoof and quote him as saying – “It ain’t rocket surgery.”

You know how to eat better, too. For starters, choose one of the following. Cut back on red meat and fatty dairy products; quit snacking on sugary garbage; give up soft drinks; consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The bottom line

Try something new this year. Resolve to sustain your resolution. Do that by first determining why you should make a change. Next, piece together the simplest what and how approach, one that is convenient and comfortable. If it is, you are more likely to do it consistently, and that’s the point.

Have a happy and blessed New Year!

Bryant Stamford is professor and chairman of the department of exercise science at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind. Address questions or suggestions to “The Body Shop,” The Courier-Journal, P.O. Box 740031, Louisville, Ky. 40201-7431

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