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Experts give tips for healthy new year

Courtesy photo Northern Lights YMCA - Delta Center members stayed active with swim classes before COVID-19 restrictions canceled group classes.

ESCANABA — New Year’s resolutions are trending toward incremental and holistic approaches to health in 2021.

While more people are working at home due to COVID-19, Health Educator Erin Kiraly at Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties, said people seem to be making smaller, more incremental changes to create healthy routines this year, such as drinking more water and parking their cars farther away from the store to get more steps in. Seniors, Kiraly noted, are setting simple goals, such as moving more when they get up in the morning.

Northern Lights YMCA Executive Director Gary Nash said that while he doesn’t think COVID-19 has altered people’s tendency to want to get healthy at the start of the new year, restrictions may change how they go about doing so. Despite the pandemic, people are still coming to the YMCA, Nash said.

In addition to having to wear masks while at the facility, the YMCA has canceled group activities through Jan. 16, including fitness and water classes. The fitness center, hot tub and sauna remain open for use, as does the pool for individual swimmers.

According to Nash, those who want to succeed in achieving resolutions to get healthy will make the most progress if they go slowly.

“Remember that it took months or maybe even years for you to get in this condition of concern. It isn’t going to be a one-week or even one month fix. It will be a journey back to health,” he says.

Nash also advises people to check with their doctor before starting an exercise plan to see if they need any special guidance.

Nash recommends starting with a free consultation, such as one offered by the YMCA or many other gyms, as a way to get started. An expert in the field of exercise can help those just starting make a plan that allows them to build up their abilities and help ensure correct form.

“This shouldn’t require a lengthy commitment or a contract at first unless you feel that’s necessary,” Nash said, adding that those who wish to go farther can do so after getting an idea of where they are at.

When it comes to keeping yourself motivated, Kiraly says rewards can be a good way to motivate yourself, but she does not recommend using food as a reward for weight loss. Food-based rewards are often counterproductive to the goal of eating healthily, and if you are approaching weight loss largely through exercise. In the long run, trying to out-exercise a bad diet can lead to failure, self-blame, and even eating disorders.

Non-food reward ideas can be found online, and according to Kiraly, should be individualized.

Kiraly believes the buddy system helps keep people accountable while providing extra mental support.

“If you’re struggling, you can build each other up,” she said.

Kiraly noted the best buddy for getting healthy may not be someone you live with. Resisting your family’s game day nachos, for example, will be easier if they are not who checks in on your progress. It’s also important to know what a personal healthy body weight is, so that you can hold yourself accountable to your healthy eating plan even if your buddy slips off the wagon, she says.

Whatever your motivation, Kiraly says it has to come from within to spark behavioral change. Those looking for motivation from within may want to note the difference between their goals and their values. Goals are the “where,” the destination you want to arrive at, are finite and can be accomplished. Values are the “why” of motivation — not something to be arrived at, but something a person lives daily as part of their identity.

Nash reminds people that health is not just about the number on the scale. He emphasized that true wellness is holistic, including physical well-being, a positive work environment, healthy relationships, and a positive outlook.

“Well-being and true health is a journey and not a destination. It’s something you work at everyday of your life. It’s a choice you get to make,” Nash said.

Kiraly said the trends she has seen thus far confirm a more holistic search for wellness this year. One example demonstrated that people are seeking companionship in the midst of the pandemic through adopting and fostering pets. People are also making resolutions to turn within through activities such as meditation and yoga. Kiraly endorsed this approach, recommending starting the day with at least 15 minutes of quiet time and good vibes.

“Keep it realistic and keep it simple, and self-care, self-care, self-care,” she said.

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