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Ask the Expert: This Year Could Be Different

Thanks to certified Oncology Nutrition Specialist Susan J. Speer, MS, RD for sharing these fun and easy ways to make your resolutions work for you.

DoAnythingButLetItProduceJoyAt this time of year when people begin thinking of New Year’s resolutions, articles abound about making SMART resolutions: goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.

I recommend even smarter goals. Don’t set a “Don’t” goal. Do set a “Do” goal. Make your resolutions centered around positive action, add an element of fun, and you’re more likely to succeed. Consider these resolutions:

1. Frequent the farmers market.
FarmersMarketWant to eat more fruits and vegetables? Thinking about going more natural or organic? Don’t nag yourself about substituting fruit for dessert, instead resolve to frequent your local farmers’ market once a week. Not only is it a beautiful way to spend an afternoon, you might get inspired by purple cauliflower or a pink lady apple. Everything in a certified farmers’ market is not certified organic, but often you can talk directly to the farmer, ask questions about how they handle their crop, and even taste the produce before you buy. Plus, you will be rubbing elbows with other people trying to eat healthfully and live lightly on the earth. Check here to find a farmers’ market around Ventura County.

2. Join a CSA.
If you are already a farmers’ market regular, consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agricultural Group). CSA members pledge to support local farms by paying a subscriber fee monthly or seasonally. Once harvesting begins, members receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit, in a “vegetable box.” Depending on the CSA, boxes may also include herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy products and meat. Check here for a listing of CSAs around Ventura County. Many markets include recipes on their websites, or consider giving yourself the gift of Saltsman’s Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook.


3. Play often.
IQuotation-Dr-Seuss-fun-work-Meetville-Quotes-261205s exercise on your list of resolutions? Forget the “E” word (exercise) and instead just PLAY. If you’ve got young kids around, even better. Resolve to say “yes” to every request for activity: look for frogs in the backyard, go bike riding, run through the house playing fireman. Remember those Family Circle cartoons with the squiggly line maps of the routes kids will take? Just try to keep up and you’ll likely get a workout without all the work. If you don’t have kids for inspiration, you can still play. Try wii bowling, get a hula hoop, play miniature golf, or put up a badminton net.

4. Get your game on.
game night 1
Enjoy life more by interacting with those around you. Turn off the TV and play a game. Studies show that brain exercises like learning a new game help to reduce age-related cognitive decline and may even improve the symptoms of “chemo brain.” Haul out the old favorites like Monopoly, Sorry, Risk, or Scrabble. (We play Scrabble in teams to take the pressure off). Don’t forget card games. There’s fun for every age from Go Fish to Gin Rummy to Hearts. Branch out and try new games. Some of our family favorites are Apples to Apples, Pictionary and, our current favorite, Loaded Questions.

5. Take a class.
If the resolution you are considering is to be more active, take a class to get you moving. Learn ballroom dancing or take up golf. If stress management is your focus, take a class on meditation, tai chi or yoga. Or try something completely new – learn to play bridge or take a photography class.

6. Soothe Your Sleep.
If having more energy in 2015 sounds good, consider sleeping more. Count back from when you get up in the morning. Seven to 8 hours of sleep is ideal. Figure your healthiest bedtime and start winding down an hour before. Unplug from all electronics: computer, phone, and TV. Put together an enjoyable and relaxing sleep routine: take a hot shower or bath, do some gentle stretching exercises. Then get into bed. If you’re not quite ready for sleep resist the temptation to turn on the TV or surf the net on your phone. Read a book or leaf through a magazine with a cup of Sleepytime tea. At the appointed bedtime, lie down and close your eyes. Ah…

7. Smile more.
smiling dogBoost your happiness quotient with one simple trick: smile. Check in several times a day and see what your face is doing. If you’re not already sporting a big toothy grin, smile. If you need help getting in the mood, imagine some of your favorite things: a great vacation, the face of your grandchild, something you are grateful for. If you don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway. Studies show that even forcing a smile improves mood and hastens recovery from stressful emotions. Fake it ‘til you make it.

In fact, crack a grin every time you think of your New Year’s resolutions. Take a lighthearted approach to everything you do. People don’t do things that don’t feel good. Resolve to have some fun next year and ensure your success. Happy New Year!

Photo Courtesy of Mark Brandes Studio

Photo Courtesy of Mark Brandes 

Susan Speer is a certified Oncology Nutrition Specialist at the Cancer Center of Ventura County.  She has been developing and teaching programs in health promotion and disease management for more than 30 years and is the 2012 recipient of the Cancer Support Community VVSB’s Celebration of Excellence Award. Susan is heading for a family reunion Christmas and plans to start her resolutions early: play with the kids, organize an all-family game of Loaded Questions, and smile, smile, smile.

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