Experts share tips on reaching goals for 2012

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 1, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — David Bass knows what it’s like to break a New Year’s resolution.
He tried to quit smoking seven different times before actually ditching the habit about eight years ago.
“It’s one of the hardest resolutions to keep,” Bass, a respiratory manager at Rowan-Regional Medical Center, said. “It’s like Mark Twain said: “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world, I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.’”
Spencer resident Ann Bostian said her resolutions usually revolve around losing weight.
“Every January, I start and make it until about March,” she said. “Every year, it’s the same, and every year, I add about three pounds to the previous year’s weight.
“But I never give up, and each year my resolution is the same: Think thin.”
Earlene Brown, a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist at Rowan Regional, said there are many reasons why people don’t follow through with New Year’s resolutions.
“People don’t keep their resolutions because change is hard work,” she said. “It takes a lot of time and effort, and we have to consciously think about making that change.”
Setting broad goals can lead to failure.
“Say somebody says, ‘I want to get in shape,’ ” Brown said. “Well that can mean a lot of different things.”
In her practice, Brown encourages people to make SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely.
“We try to make that goal very specific so if you or I looked at that person’s behavior we could see a difference,” she said. “Sometimes if we have a fuzzy goal, it’s hard to tell if we’ve reached it or not.”
Brown said many people also think about resolutions in a black-and-white manner.
“They have that all or nothing thinking that they have to be perfect,” she said. “Sometimes its easier if we get discouraged and just give up rather than recommitting.”
If someone slips and eats a slice of cheesecake or smokes a cigarette, Brown said they oftentimes think they’ve failed at their goal to lose weight or quit smoking, but that’s not the case.
“You have to keep getting back on the wagon,” she said.
A Post reporter gathered advice from local experts about how to keep some of the most common New Year’s resolutions. Many of them agree that the key to success is persistence.
“If you fall off your health wagon 100 times, try again,” says Ester Marsh, associate executive director of the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA. “And don’t wait until the New Year, try not to give up.”
Save money
Steve Fisher, president of F&M Bank, said the key to saving money is figuring out how much you can spare and then getting it out of your regular checking account as soon as possible.
“Use a payroll deduction or an automatic transfer from checking to savings,” he said. “If you don’t see it, you don’t miss it and you learn to live on what you see there.”
Another tip Fisher offers is making it harder to access.
“Don’t make it easy to transfer into your checking account on the Internet,” he said.
Fisher suggests setting up your account where you can only make withdrawals or transfers at the bank.
“The easier it is to get, the quicker it is to use those savings,” he said.
Fisher said it’s important for people to pay themselves first, by dedicating a portion of each paycheck to savings.
“Make it a habit and make it something you won’t miss,” he said. “Because there will be a time when you need it so you want to make sure that money is there.”
Eat healthier
Valerie Velte, a community and corporate outreach nurse for Rowan-Regional and the wellness nurse for the Rowan County YMCAs, said those looking to make some changes in their diet should start small.
That can include changes like ditching salt, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed and fried foods.
But Velte said it’s less about what people eat and more about their habits, like how many times a day and how much they eat.
“In general, smaller meals throughout the day are better than three larger meals,” she said. “And avoid eating after 7 p.m.”
Velte said people should also branch out and try new things.
“If a person has never tried soy, I encourage them to try a Boca burger or something like that,” she said. “When you put a lot of toppings and healthy stuff on it, you make yourself think you’re eating a regular burger.”
Another key to healthy eating is planning out meals.
“Sit down and take time to figure out what you’re going to eat,” Velte said. “That way you’re not scrounging around looking for food and eating something you don’t want.”
Velte said changing habits is also a good start.
That can mean switching from frying to baking, eating breakfast instead of skipping out, measuring quantities, reading labels, replacing water with soda and never eating in the car.
“Be organized, get rid of the foods that you know are not good for you,” she said. “Start fresh.”
And Velte said it’s important to recognize triggers.
“If chocolate is your trigger keep your box of chocolates on the very top shelf of your kitchen,” she said. “As you’re climbing up there to get a piece it will raise your awareness.”
But don’t completely deprive yourself of cravings. That could lead to failure.
“Let yourself have a little,” Velte said.
Get fit
Marsh said the first thing people who have resolved to get fit need to do is make a plan.
“Whether it’s joining a gym or a program,” she said. “They need to find something that will help them reach that goal.
One way to create a plan is through logging food intake and exercise. Marsh said that can be done on cellphone applications, websites or simply by jotting it down in a notebook.
“It’s about making yourself accountable,” she said.
Moderation is also key.
“If they haven’t been working out at all they need to take baby steps,” Marsh said. “If you’ve never gone to the gym before, start with once a week and make that a regular thing until you get up to three to fives times a week.
“Most people will stop because they go too hard, too soon, too fast.”
After people get an exercise regimen down, they need to focus on reaching their target heart rate, which is calculated as between 60 and 85 percent of 220 minus their age.
“That’s where you need to be,” Marsh said. “If you are just moving and not exerting yourself, you won’t see the benefits.”
And results take time, Marsh said.
“It may take you 20 years to put 50 pounds on and some people want it gone in a month,” she said. “It’s going to take a little while.”
But Marsh said people will notice some changes rather quickly.
“The health benefits start almost immediately when you walk through the doors,” she said. “If you don’t like to exercise, hang on to the health benefits … you are going to feel better instantly.
“If you put health as the No. 1 focus, the rest will come.”
Manage debt
Lou Adkins, a housing counselor with the Salisbury Community Development Corporation, said the first and most important piece of advice she has for those looking to get a handle on debt is “do not use charge cards.”
Credit cards with high interest rates can take years to pay down, which means the items purchased end up costing far more than the original price tag.
That’s why Adkins said people should stay away from them.
“Don’t buy anything that you don’t have to have,” she said “Really, don’t buy anything unless you have the cash to pay for it.”
Adkins, who works with people in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure, said she oftentimes sees people who are making credit card payments, but skipping out on their mortgage.
“Pay your mortgage before you pay anything on your charge cards,” she said.
If people have the money, Adkins suggests paying a little toward old debt each month.
“Pay down some small old debt,” she said.
Adkins said following Fisher’s advice to pay yourself first by putting money into savings will also help people manage debt.
“That way, they have some money if there is an emergency,” she said.
Quit smoking
Bass said when people are ready to quit smoking they need to lay the groundwork by getting rid of ashtrays and cigarette and setting a date to stop.
“Take stock and make sure that you are ready,” he said. “Encourage people around you to help you quit.”
Bass said it’s important to take a couple of days to really hone in on your smoking habits.
“Look at your habits and see the things you associate with smoking,” he said.
For example, smoking every morning while drinking coffee. Bass said instead of drinking coffee and smoking, someone could go for a morning walk.
“If you change that habit pattern, it helps break the habit,” he said.
And Bass said that doesn’t necessarily mean quitting cold turkey. He said people can turn to nicotine patches or gum to help with cravings.
Bass said there are also programs available to help people ditch smoking. The American Lung Association offers “Freedom from Smoking” online at, a three-month membership costs $15.
The most important tip Bass can offer is to not give up.
“As soon as you slip up, go back to planning how you’re going to quit again,” he said. “You have to remember that you haven’t failed because you made a mistake.”
Reduce, reuse,recycle
John Wear, director of the Center for the Environment at Catawba College, said a few simple changes are all that’s needed to go green in 2012.
His first suggestion is placing a recycle bin close to the waste can.
“That way yo don’t have to make a special effort to recycle anything,” he said.
Wear said when people sit down and think about it, there are a number of things that can be reused; it’s just a matter of being conscious of that.
“We can reuse in many ways. Sometimes it’s being satisfied in life with what you’ve got and realizing you don’t have to have the newest model,” he said. “It can sort of simplify your life.”
Thinking ahead can also help reduce the amount of waste that’s produced.
“Take a water bottle with you wherever you go, that helps drastically reduce the use of bottled water,” he said.
Wear said people can also take advantage of reusable bags while shopping.
“The secret there is developing a system for getting them back into the car and actually taking them inside with you when you go shopping so you can use them.”
Another important aspect of going green is realizing the impact it has on the environment.
“Understanding why it’s important is a good motivator,” he said “It’s not just about reducing the amount going into the landfill, it’s about reducing the waste of materials that really has usage in the future for future generations.”
The first thing Jackie Harris, associate director of United Way of Rowan, asks people who call her office about volunteering is what interests them.
“If you are going to stick with something you have to be happy with what you’re doing,” she said. “The first thing they have to do is find their niche.”
That could mean working with the elderly, mentoring children, assisting the handicapped or building things.
“Make sure where you’re volunteering appeals to you and your personality,” she said. “That’s the most important thing.”
After people narrow down the right agency to volunteer with, Harris said it’s important that they don’t overcommit.
“Make sure your hours meet your needs,” she said. “If you get boxed into a time or a day that doesn’t really suit you, that can be stressful.”
Harris said there are options out there for people who are free during the day, at night and on weekends.
And, she said, some volunteering can be done without leaving home.
“If it fits into their lives, they’re more apt to continue doing it,” Harris said.
Harris said if it doesn’t work out with one agency, people can try volunteering somewhere else.
“It’s not a good thing to stay where you are unhappy; it ends up showing in your volunteer work,” she said.
No matter where you volunteer, Harris said it’s good to lend a hand.
“I just think volunteering is really important,” she said. “And it’s not just for the recipient, you really gain a lot by volunteering yourself.”