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Four new year's resolutions worth keeping

On New Year's Day, many Americans develop lists of resolutions that they aim to keep during the new year, in order to better themselves. Many times they are meta-goals, like quitting smoking or losing weight. The fact that these resolutions are composed of several "mini-resolutions" often goes unrecognized and impedes the resolver's ability to stay the course. With this thought in mind, the Allentown Family Health Examiner offers four mini-resolutions aimed at helping resolvers make progress on the meta-resolutions.

Instead of taking a cold plunge outdoors, try improving your health in 2014
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
  1. Read labels before placing food items into your shopping cart. Although the FDA may permit hydrolyzed vegetable protein and monosodium glutamate in hundreds of processed food products, these very compounds may be responsible for sub-optimal health. Just because it's legal doesn't mean you should eat it. Strive to avoid foods with ingredients that you can't define -- and no, "an emulsifier" is not a definition, just a statement of purpose.
  2. Replace sweetened beverages with water. On average, Americans consume eight percent of their daily caloric intake via sweetened beverages such as soda, "juice drinks," and "energy drinks." Knocking out these products will save you money as well as reducing your consumption of unnecessary sugars and chemicals.
  3. When you read an article online or in a newspaper, or hear a report on TV, regarding a health or medicine claim, search for the source material online. The bulk of published research is available, at least as an abstract, from PubMed, the National Library of Medicine from the National Institutes of Health. Often, a reporter's "spin" on an article reflects his own personal biases, commercial interests of the media outlet, and how much time he had to prepare the story far more than it reveals about the actual research. Read the journal articles yourself and make your own decisions regarding whether mammography is a crucial diagnostic tool, coffee helps your health, or H1N1 is a grave threat to healthy Americans.
  4. Replace one chemical-based household or personal care product with a non-chemical alternative. The list of harms, both proven and likely, linked to synthetic chemicals in personal care and cleaning products, is long. Often, switching to a natural product -- like going from Windex to a 50 percent vinegar solution to clean windows and mirrors -- can save money, as author Ellen Sandbeck notes. If thousands of years of evolution didn't include daily exposure to endocrine disruptors, it's reasonable to assume that humans may be healthier without them. Give it a try in your house.

These four changes will require willpower, but they will help resolvers form the habits that make the big resolutions possible.

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