Skip the Resolutions: Just Pick One Thing and Stick With It

A small investment of time can reap big health dividends

GREENBRAE, CA — A team led by psychologist Roy Baumeister discovered in 1998 that willpower, much like a muscle, can be fatigued. Among other things, his findings may explain why people have such difficulty sticking to long lists of New Year’s resolutions. Presented with many tasks at once, they simply run out of willpower. But Baumeister’s research also found that willpower can be developed. By starting small and focusing on a few tasks, study participants not only improved their chances of success, but built willpower and endurance for more difficult tasks.

With that in mind, Marin General Hospital asked local physicians to recommend just one healthy action to focus on in 2013 that will provide significant payback with relatively little effort. We hope you’ll find one that inspires you. Good luck—and happy New Year!

Irene Teper, MD, Internal Medicine: “Always eat breakfast—even if it’s something small that you can eat at your desk at work, like a low fat yogurt or a hard-boiled egg.”  Studies show that a healthy, lean protein-based breakfast is linked to healthier weight and better food choices throughout the day. And children who eat breakfast have been shown to perform significantly better in school.

Mark Drucker, DPM, Podiatry: “There’s a joke about a tombstone that reads, ‘I told people my feet were killing me!’ The point is, your feet aren’t supposed to hurt.  If they do, see a podiatrist.”  Sore feet can be a sign of various correctable foot problems that discourage people from getting the exercise they need, and can lead to more serious problems if not addressed.

Rachel Bauer, MD, FAAP, Pediatrics: “Teach school-aged children to know when to drink more water, which is essential to good health. Have them look at the color of their "pee" in the toilet; if it’s dark yellow, their body is asking for more water.” Due to their smaller body sizes, children become dehydrated much more quickly than adults.

Schuman Tam, MD, Asthma and Allergies: “If you never get off the couch, just adding 10 minutes of brisk walking every evening—or 30 minutes three times a week—will make a huge difference. You don’t have to become a jock; just be disciplined.” Exercise helps to improve efficiency of breathing, which in turn may help reduce the resistance to breathing and help prevent asthma/allergy symptoms.

Michael Oechsel, MD, Orthopedics: “People hold onto their running/workout shoes long past their ‘pull date’. This is one time when ‘retail therapy’ works; this doctor prescribes shopping for a new pair of workout shoes, even if the old ones still look okay!” Running shoes lose shock absorption, cushioning and stability over time, increasing the stress and impact on your legs and joints.

David Galland, MD, Obstetrics and Gynecology: “Do 15 minutes of daily yoga practice. It’s good for the body and mind.” In a study reported by Harvard Mental Health in 2008, practicing yoga appeared to be helpful in reducing anxiety and depression, as well as decreasing sensitivity to pain.

Uma Lerner, MD, Psychiatry: “Regularly assess what is contributing to and detracting from your happiness and make the necessary changes to create a more peaceful, contented, and supported life.” Living with chronic stress and unhappiness can contribute to serious physical problems ranging from migraines, hair loss, gum disease and increased susceptibility to colds and flu to diabetes, heart disease and obesity. 

Marion G. Parke, DPM, AACFAS, Podiatry: “Ladies, avoid wearing heels that are taller than two inches for any length of time. A wedge or kitten heel is the best option for daily dress shoes if your work requires them.” Research shows that once a heel tops two inches you are putting six to eight times your body weight on the front of your foot.  

E. Regina Widman, MD, Family Practice: “Keep your brain and body active every day, and have some spiritual practice to help with daily stress. Remember, we are body/mind/spirit, all in one.” Studies show that maintaining a higher level of cognitive activity substantially reduces the annual rate of cognitive decline in healthy individuals. Physical exercise releases natural chemicals that improve mood and make people feel happier.

Tori Murray, RD, Nutrition: “Focus on eating ‘mindfully,’ without distractions such as TV, computers, or books.” The February 2011 Harvard Health Letter reported that research suggests slower, more thoughtful eating can help overcome weight problems and steer some people away from less-healthful choices.

Joel Sklar, MD, FACC, Cardiology: “When snacking on hors d’ oeuvres, the first five things you eat should be ‘cardiologist approved’: for instance, carrot sticks, fresh fruit, sliced vegetables, bread without the cheese and sparkling water before a glass of wine. You’ll curb your cravings for the calorie-packed crab cakes and cheese dip that follow.” It would be better if you never ate those high fat, high-calorie foods, but starting with healthier things will at least reduce the damage.

About Marin General Hospital

Marin General Hospital, located in Greenbrae, CA, is the only full-service, acute care hospital in Marin County. It is the only source in Marin County for many important services and programs including: 

  • Designated Trauma Center – experienced multidisciplinary team specializing in providing state-of-the-art trauma care 24/7
  • Labor And Delivery Services – with Obstetrician/Nurse Midwife teams available for all deliveries, and a level II neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
  • Full-Service Cancer Care – a nationally recognized cancer care program with survival rates exceeding the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB) rates for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers
  • Comprehensive Heart and Vascular Care – the County’s only vascular and heart surgery, plus sophisticated care for A-fib
  • Accredited Chest Pain Center – with a lifesaving door-to-treatment time of just 44 minutes, compared to the national average of 100 minutes
  • Inpatient Pediatric Program – 24/7 board-certified pediatricians available for inpatient and emergency care
  • Spine & Brain Institute – a single point of access to comprehensive spine and brain care, including emergency and elective brain and spine surgery
  • Certified Primary Stroke Center – that can treat all types of stroke on site
  • Acute Inpatient Psychiatric Services – with treatment programs tailored to meet specific patient needs

For more information or a physician referral, please visit www.maringeneral.org or call the Marin General Health Line at 1-888-99-MY-MGH (1-888-996-9644).