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Mission: somewhat possible

Local health experts also make resolutions... sometimes they even keep them

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Every new year you make another health-related resolution. And at the end of every year you wonder why you didn't succeed.

You're not alone in your struggle to attain your health goals.

I talked with five Winnipeg health experts about their own health resolutions, how they achieve them and why they sometimes fail:

PETER JONES: director of the Richardson Centre For Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. He's also a nutritional biochemist and research scientist who likes to stay active, especially in the summer.

2011 resolution: "I was trying to peel off a couple of pounds. Lose all those good things that I've been consuming for the previous month at all the Christmas parties," says Jones, who managed to lose 10 pounds within the first few weeks of 2011.

Strategy: He "lost the big portion sizes," opting for smaller breakfasts, smaller lunches and even smaller dinners.

Did he succeed? No, considering he gained all of the weight back by March.

Obstacles: "As I started to lose weight, unfortunately your metabolism slows down, too. You stop burning as much energy," says Jones, who admits that he didn't exercise as much as he should have. He was also kept busy with family, travel and work.

2012 resolution: Same as the one he made at the start of this year.

New strategy: "I'm going to combine it with an aggressive exercise campaign," says Jones, noting that increased muscle mass will mean he'll burn more calories, even at rest. He also cites studies that suggest exercise decreases appetite. Jones, a father of five, is taking a sabbatical from University of Manitoba in January. "I'm chilling this coming year. That's going to put emphasis on all the things I want to do for me, as opposed as to for work."

RUTH ASPER: personal trainer and owner of Strategym. Also founded Tights, one of the first aerobics studios in Winnipeg.

2011 resolution: To keep hydrated by drinking more water.

Strategy: She received a new water bottle as a gift and tried to make good use of it.

Did she succeed? Somewhat. "I had to keep reminding myself. That is something that is a challenge when you're on the run," says Asper.

Past successes: "I used to write out resolutions on birch bark and display them so they would look really nice and calming -- and good reminders and positive motivators."

2012 resolution: To take up skating. "I never learned to skate as a child," says Asper, who wants to "embrace our lovely winter weather." The mother of three says she has made the skating resolution in the past but never succeeded, probably because she used to borrow her kids' skates, which didn't fit her well and made skating uncomfortable.

New strategy: "I bought a pair of skates. And I really like the skates I bought," says Asper. "They're all sharpened and ready to go."

Advice she gives clients about resolutions: "I really believe strongly in things like fitness and health being a long-term health commitment. Making resolutions that you haven't actually fully embraced as a complete change in your lifestyle aren't necessarily the best way to go."

DEAN KRIELLAARS: University of Manitoba kinesiology professor and researcher. Also trains elite athletes.

2011 resolution: "I personally don't do New Year's resolutions. And there's a reason why. If you're already thinking you're going to do one, you should do it right now."

Why he dislikes New Year's resolutions: "It's flawed thinking. There's no doubt in my mind that New Year's resolutions are rarely kept," says Kriellaars, noting that there's strong evidence proving that "weight cycling" (or bouts of losing and gaining weight) leads to excess abdominal fat, which is the most life-threatening kind of fat. The science is really clear on this."

His biggest non-New Year's resolution coup: In the spring of 1988, Kriellaars lost 40 pounds in a few months (after gaining it while working for his doctorate degree). He's kept the weight off since.

Motivation for his biggest health promise success: "You get that glimpse of yourself in the mirror. And that triggered it. I said, 'Enough is enough.' Stop the insanity. Fix this problem now."

How he did it: "I knew what I was doing and I know the math."

Current health resolution: Pledged in October to compete in the Death Race, an extreme 125-kilometre mountain race in Alberta.

Strategy: He's treating himself like one of his own personal training clients. "On my computer, I keep my training goals, my workout plan."

UCHE ODIATU: a bodybuilding champion, dentist and motivational speaker. Has also co-written several fitness books with his wife, Kary.

2011 resolution: To take yoga classes two to three times a week. "Instead of working out harder, I wanted to work out quieter," says Odiatu, noting that he knew yoga was an activity that was outside his comfort zone.

Strategy: The former Winnipegger who now lives in Toronto joined a hot yoga studio. He chose one that offered numerous classes and even some that started as late as 9:45 p.m. -- perfect for his work schedule.

Did he succeed? Yes.

Tips for success: "I really hate talking about something unless I take action. I had my own accountability factor."

Favourite New Year's resolution experience: During a seminar the Odiatus attended, the creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series urged the crowd to make a list of 100 life goals. "By goal 15 or 16, you start struggling," says Odiatu. "By the time you get to 50 you start being silly. After than you get the childlike stuff you're no longer censoring. That's really what's at your inner core." For years, the couple would refer to their lists and check off what they accomplished.

BARB CAJAS:, owner of CORE Training and Therapy. She's also a personal trainer, judo champion and University of Winnipeg instructor.

Philosophy about fitness resolutions: "If you're already in the field and walking the talk you tend not have to make resolutions about fitness," says Cajas.

2011 nutrition-related resolution: To eat more vegetables. Cajas explains that even though she grew up on a farm and around a vegetable garden, she's never loved veggies -- probably she has a hard time digesting them.

Motivation: "I felt I wasn't walking the talk. I'm in the (health) field and I need to be setting an example."

Strategy: She's made a conscious effort to eat tomatoes (although technically a fruit) at breakfast. She also takes cut-up, raw veggies with her to work. Since she loves rice, she's now adds vegetables to her rice.

Did she succeed? Cajas says she stuck to her resolution "70 per cent." It's a big improvement from the previous year, she says, noting that she used to only get veggies once a month or so when she ordered them at a restaurant.

2012 resolution: Same as 2011; to eat more vegetables.

How she plans to improve her strategy: She's still has trouble digesting certain raw vegetables. She plans to look for recipes for cooked veggies in hopes that the cooking them will make them easier to stomach.

Resolution philosophy she shares with her clients: Set small, attainable goals. Don't take an all-or-nothing approach.

Follow Shamona on Twitter: @ShamonaHarnett

Have an interesting story idea you'd like Shamona to write about? Contact her at shamona.harnett@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2011 D1

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