Plan now to make 2008 healthier and happier


When you get to be a certain age, changing old habits isn’t easy. We are lulled by the usual things: getting along on five hours of sleep a night; the mindless munching of too many taco chips; sidestepping our workout because we’re too busy, too tired, too stressed. We know we can live healthier and feel perkier, but instead we are stuck in old habits. It’s not right or wrong; it’s just how it is.

During the next few weeks, you’re going to be inundated with reminders to make your New Year’s resolutions for 2008. You’ll look around, maybe peek at yourself naked in the mirror, and make all sorts of promises involving a healthier lifestyle: I’ll eat smarter … get more rest … exercise daily…

Right. As everyone knows, most of those promises die an early death. Making change happen requires planning and intention, and can’t be done on remote control. For most of us, the best of our New Year’s intentions last a few short weeks. After that we tend to forget what gym we signed up for, plow back into the pasta bowl and spend a good chunk of winter watching the next five pounds pile on.

So what’s your plan to make real change happen for you, first quarter, 2008? If your answer is “duh,” or if you suddenly have the urge to stop reading and turn the page, I offer up the following three suggestions:

Go inside

No one else can decide for you what healthy lifestyle changes you want to make. If you’re happy as a fat person, but just want to get fitter, start there. If you’re looking to drop soft drinks and add grass-fed beef to your diet, that’s good, too. The point is, lifestyle change is only meaningful if it’s meaningful to you.

So close your eyes, settle yourself and dig deep. Is 2008 the year you begin your home yoga practice? Buy a bike and ride to work? Banish all the toxic products from under your sink?

Find a path and people it with supporters

Do not expect to go the lifestyle change route alone. Some can fly solo, but for many it really does take a village. Remember reading a news story a while ago that your chances of getting fat ballooned if you hung around with fat friends? Apply that same principle to positive change: If you want to develop a passion for running, or meditation, or cleaner eating, get involved with conscious people who are already there.

Some ideas: Find inspiring teachers. Join a club or take a class. Sign up for healthy lifestyle magazines and read articles instead of watching TV. Hire a trustworthy nutritionist who can analyze your individual needs. To make change happen more quickly, surround yourself with a flow of information and health professionals.

Overcome all obstacles

Change is not linear. What does that mean? It means you may or may not succeed the first time or even the fifth time you decide to quit smoking, exercise more, quit Big Macs. Not only is that OK, it’s normal. Be patient. And persistent. Measure your success by how many times you are willing to start over. Change is just around the corner; sometimes it’s the change we want, and sometimes it’s not. We call that dealing with calamity, and that, too, can be a healthy lifestyle goal for the crazy political year ahead.

Marilynn Preston is a fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to