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Be a Better You Year-Round

New Year’s resolutions

It’s a resolution that benefits the whole family

Jan. 1 always seems like the right time to commit to new life changes and goals, but the New Year’s resolution ordeal often becomes a self-punishing ritual where we focus on our failures and shortcomings, beating ourselves up for not having achieved more. Here’s an idea for this year. Focus on becoming a better you by taking care of yourself.

You may feel this is too selfish to be a resolution. We should be focusing on others — spouses, parents, children, friends — or on what’s wrong with us — our appearances, careers, personal shortcomings. The fact is, however, that you are the center of your own world, no matter how much you try to deny it or how much you do for others. And it’s not a bad thing. You are the nucleus of your individual universe. Nobody has quite the same combination of family, friends, co-workers, relationships and responsibilities that you do. As the center of your world, you have a responsibility to take the time and energy to improve yourself, thereby improving the lives of those intricately intertwined with yours.

When we talk about improving the self, most people jump straight to physical aspects, specifically losing weight. However, as humans we are much more complex than just our outward appearance. A true commitment to improvement will address the three major aspects of self — physical, mental and spiritual. By feeding, caring for, and even exercising these parts of yourself, you evolve into a stronger, more nurturing being. You feel healthier, more energetic, more patient and more at peace. Imagine this improved you as the center of your universe. Imagine the stability and comfort you could provide to all those in your world, in your network. Imagine if being a better you could also make you a better mother, a better daughter, a better friend, because the better you has endless energy and love. The more we take care of ourselves, the stronger and better we become, and we make our world better as a result.

Focusing energy on ourselves makes us feel confident. When we feel confident our abilities are maximized and we take advantage of opportunities we might have otherwise overlooked. Paying attention to yourself is not selfish. Our bodies and minds are the vessels through which all our actions are filtered, and if we disregard their care, we cannot expect to achieve great things with them.

Let’s examine further this idea of confidence. Why is confidence always the golden word when it comes to success? Confidence is recognizing one’s greatest hopes combined with using the tools at hand to fulfill those hopes. We believe the changes we want to make will happen and we utilize the skills, talents or connections we have today to start on a path toward that goal. Confidence is action spurred on by desire. It is the true meaning of the adage, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

What happens if we neglect ourselves, if we don’t nurture our physical, mental and spiritual well-being? Most likely, we lack the confidence vital to making bigger and better things happen. Furthermore, if you continually take yourself for granted, trying to effect change will simply run you ragged. Instead of focusing on what you could do better, first focus on what you already do well. Remind yourself that you are loved and appreciated, just as you would a spouse or friend. Thank yourself for all the great efforts you make, for going the extra mile for a friend or helping out a stranger. Appreciate all that you do and only then should you begin to think about what areas you would like to improve upon. You will likely find that once you take the time to appreciate yourself, happiness and contentment might be just one small change away.

There are things you can do to take care of yourself, appreciate yourself and find that confidence that will allow you to achieve just about anything your heart desires.

Stay Focused

Make a conscious decision to stay focused on yourself and any goals you set and continually remind yourself of what you want. Believe that you can have it and express it openly, without fear, guilt or shame. Often we let the minutiae of life obscure what’s really important. Try using positive affirmations to help you stay focused and mentally aware. Visualize what you want and speak it aloud five times. “I want to be this size. I want to be healthy. I want to be confident. I want to be happy.” You can move your life in a consistent and positive direction in the time it takes to make a peanut butter sandwich. Just be sure to keep your thoughts positive. Affirmations focus on what you want out of life, not about what you don’t want or are unhappy with.

Stay Fit

Make a simple commitment, not an overreaching one, so that you are not so daunted that you quit altogether. Choose moderate exercise for 20 minutes, three times a week, rather than a daily 5 a.m. run. Don’t burn yourself out with too many expectations and find an activity that you like. If you are interested in weight loss, focus on your nutritional plan first and supplement with exercise. When you are cutting calories on a weight loss plan, mild to moderate exercise is most useful.

Eat Right

You are what you eat really is a true statement. In our fast-paced society, packaged or prepared foods have become the standard. We are always on the go and don’t have time to cook for ourselves. The problem with these kinds of foods is that they contain a great many additives, such as high fructose corn syrup and dyes, which have been linked to cancer, obesity, depression, diabetes and heart disease. The foods we are eating actually are poisoning us.

The best solution is to incorporate organic foods into your diet because these foods maximize your body’s ability to acquire the necessary nutrients to improve our health and immune systems. Packaged foods do the opposite. Not only do they contain fewer nutrients, but the chemicals in them can prevent other vital nutrients from being absorbed. Our ideal diet should be made up of lean proteins, 25 g minimum at each meal, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, which decreases inflammation in the body and also helps to shave off the pounds. Losing weight healthfully is about learning to eat right rather than not eating at all, such as three meals a day plus healthy snacks.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

We need much more water than we think, at least eight to 10 glasses per day. Water is essential because it empowers the body to cleanse itself and stay hydrated. Studies have even shown that water consumption increases weight loss when paired with a healthy nutrition plan. Try to minimize the diet drinks. Although they have no calories, their artificial sweeteners can end up making you hungrier.

Sleep

So vital for mental and physical health, sleep allows the mind and body to recharge and refuel so that we can face the world fresh and revitalized. A good night’s sleep leaves the mind sharp and the body strong for the challenges of the day. Additionally, research has suggested that those who sleep less than six hours a night may gain up to 3.4 pounds a year, while those who get just one more hour each night do not see any increase in weight.

Commit to Being Joyful and Happy

An inability to find joy is related to the habit of ruminating on the past, obsessing over the “should, coulda, woulda” moments of life. From there, we proceed to worrying about future events we can’t control, completely bypassing the present. Our existence is colored only by the past and the future. Reflecting on the past and future makes people feel powerless, stressed and depressed, because in those arenas, they are. You can’t change what happened or alter what might happen. The only thing you can change is the present moment and we often fail to appreciate what we have, who we are and everything that is around us right now. What is happening right now is really what matters most. Once we live fully in the present and appreciate all that we have, the path to happiness will reveal itself.

May your New Year be blessed with joy and the awareness of the possibilities of enlightenment.


Dr. Cesar A. Lara is a board certified family physician and also works in the field of bariatrics, the medical treatment of obesity and weight loss. Visit www.cesarlaramd.com to learn more.

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