New year, new everything, new life?

New, new, new … It is amazing how people suddenly get into a state of “changing everything” when each new year starts.

It is the time! The time for the traditional New Year’s resolutions. But why not at any time of the year? Why not Easter, your birthday, anyone else’s birthday, any other day? Should we call it tradition, habit, routine?

Any day would be good to start changing when you are not doing the right thing. Any other day would be better for a change-of-lifestyle resolution than New Year’s day as it would mean a really unique, strong, independent decision.

Weight, exercise, better relationships and quitting smoking have been at the top of the turn-of-the-calendar objectives for both sexes, and health-related ones are indeed the most popular.

I am not going to tell you what to eat, how to diet, or how to stop smoking. The most important thing is to consider any New Year’s resolution in a realistic way, which most people do not.

This brings us to the most popular New Year’s resolution: to lose weight.

Lose weight, eat less junk food… they top many New Year’s resolution lists. But sticking with these good intentions is just not easy.

The problem is most people have unrealistic expectations.

When anyone resolves to lose weight, they often decide this is the year they are going to completely change everything about their diet. They tend to cut out major food groups, telling themselves they cannot have any sweets or carbohydrates.

This is just too hard to do and it is a set-up for failure because by the time mid-January comes round, those resolutions are already in line … for the next New Year. Willpower is not the issue; willpower goes away easily when it comes to depriving yourself. Nobody gets excited about that, it is depressing.

A much wiser decision would be to cut back on dessert and have it only once a week, maybe on Saturday.

Think positive, think that you will feel better and have more energy if you eat healthily.

So, resolve to eat better and be healthier instead of just “losing weight”.

Have you ever asked yourself why you eat and drink? To feed your body? To compensate for problems? Because it is one of life’s pleasures? Because it is important as a social and business behaviour?

All this is true, but the same is still possible with better eating habits. Because better eating habits should be a whole year’s resolution, not just a New Year’s resolution.

When making dietary changes, start small and set a few realistic goals. In the long run, you will have better self-esteem and more self-confidence because you will actually stick with them. Instead of deprivation, practice moderation.

The reduction approach is much more realistic than the all-or-nothing attitude. Food is good, necessary and one of life’s pleasures. Just because we are over the weight we should be, there is no reason why we should not enjoy food.

Making small changes, in your diet and exercise habits, will do your body a whole lot of good and bring pleasant rewards into your quality of life.

2016 is here. Where has 2015 gone? If you think back, what have you achieved out of your 2015 New Year’s resolutions?

Did you quit smoking? Did you lose weight? Have you really exercised as much as you decided you would do this time last year?

Are you going to start everything all over again, exactly the same way? And fail, once more, exactly the same way? Boring, frustrating and very disappointing.

Should we then stop all this nonsense about resolutions that we can never keep and reflect on the past 12 months, looking ahead to a more realistic approach in changes that we really can make today to improve our quality of life and our health… tomorrow, during this new year and all the new years to come?

We must look at health and quality of life as a whole, not as separate parts.

Keep in mind: what makes you put on weight is not what you eat between Christmas and New Year but what you eat between New Year and Christmas.

If your main resolution for 2016 is to live healthier, make it an every day resolution, 365 days of the year. That is the only way it will really work.

In this New Year, thousands of people will become ill and many will die prematurely for reasons that are entirely preventable.

In 2016, without question, you should continue to turn to your physician to provide the highest quality of care for you and your family. If that is the case, perhaps you will look at your resolutions as something the doctor ordered.

Aim for a good quality of life and do not ignore reality. The Homo Sapiens is supposed to think and be rational!

To not let ourselves die prematurely should be everyone’s 2016 resolution.

Best healthy wishes for 2016!

Dr. Maria Alice

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Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service / Medilagos. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve