New Year's Near-Resolutions

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Happy New Year!

Other than making plans for New Year's Eve, arguably the most challenging part of one year rolling over into another is that whole resolution thing. You know, the part where some of your friends commit to losing 100 pounds in 12 months, to quit eating all desserts (ha!) or to go to the gym every day – twice!

That's my problem with resolutions as a concept. They seem, in many people, to inspire grand ambitions far beyond the reach of most people in realistic terms. There's little more deflating than setting one or more of the above resolutions and then finding oneself ducking the gym one day and instead eating a quart of ice cream while watching a Real Housewives marathon.

So, I have always thought it wise to make commitments – we can call them "resolutions" that are more practical and realistic. That way, one makes progress without setting himself up for disappointment. In my personal experience, I have found this particularly true when it comes to planning improved nutritional planning.

In that spirit, and to encourage you all to strive for attainable, positive nutritional goals, I offer the following as a few fairly easy "resolutions." But do yourself a favor – don't refer to them as "resolutions." It's just part of the new you.

1. Add-a-veg. This is actually a policy I developed for my kids, long before I started my process of losing more than 100 pounds healthily without a "diet." The idea was to get my kids to start eating more vegetables without them feeling that's what I was up to. When the kids were young, we ate like more traditional American families, as opposed to the Asian- and Mediterranean-influenced cooking, which dominates my healthy cooking today. It's easy to incorporate into singles' dining too. Simply prepare a meal as you might, hopefully following some of the tenets you're picking up from this column. Then, at the last minute, add another vegetable to whatever the dinner plate offers. It can be extremely simple and add virtually nothing to your prep time. Sautee some carrots with garlic; toss some broccoli into roast early; add a salad of mixed greens (think kale and spinach) or serve a small bowl of healthy soup as an appetizer. You might be surprised that in the context of a whole dinner, a little bonus veg will be tolerable, delicious and definitely a bonus to your nutrition intake.

2. Read. OK, so you wouldn't expect that to show up on this list! But it can be extremely helpful. As the footer of my column explains, I am no medical or nutritional expert. I only know what has worked for me, and enabled me to be in better physical shape in my mid-40s than I was in high school. What I learned, I did so from reading every nutrition-based story I could come across on the internet. Do your own research, read one article a day, and you'll find plenty additional tips on eating healthier.

3. Try the healthy carbs. OK, so I read that the whole anti-carb movement has its ups and downs, and I don't advocate eliminating them completely. Instead, my suggestion is to explore the carbs that have less of an impact on your blood sugar, dissolve more slowly, and provide greater nutrition. Think in terms of whole oat oatmeal (or Irish Oatmeal), think quinoa, think brown rice, barley, whole wheat couscous and buckwheat pasta. We'll explore how to liven each up in the columns to come, but familiarize yourself with these healthy alternatives.

4. A little exercise isn't bad. I'll be honest. My own weight loss has come with no more exercise than brisk walks with my dog. For some people, that's enough. Others will need more intense exercise to speed their metabolisms up. You will notice what works from how you feel. Go for it. Whether walking your own four-legged friend or hitting the gym, a little exercise will only make your weight loss and health maintenance goals a lot easier.

5. Don't pass those ethnic restaurants. OK, so Tex-Mex in Oklahoma might not be the healthiest "ethnic" food, but there are plenty of others from which to choose. There's a reason obesity is almost unheard of in some parts of the world, and it isn't always the UN's inability get necessary foood to starving people. A lot has to do with foreign diets. Think Asian when you do and you are likely to end up eating a lot healthier when you eat out or pick up take-out. Skip the sugar-laden standard Chinese and go for Japanese, Thai or Korean and you will eat well and healthily.

These are just good general suggestions to kick off your 2014. We'll have plenty more specific to help you year-round.

 -Michael W. Sasser is Oklahoma Magazine’s senior editor and an award-winning journalist. Neither a medical nor a nutrition expert, he shares his personal weight loss journey exclusively with Oklahoma Magazine readers. Reach him at editorsr@okmag.com.

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