Ask an expert


Last updated 1/23/2020 at 8:51am | View PDF

What is the best way to start the new year off right?

“My personal recommendation on how to improve your health is start small. If your goal is to lose weight, build muscle or just be healthier, start with small goals. Find a starting point — it could be just to move your body more — and go from there.

“Once you have successfully built that habit, add on something else. Maybe it’s as small as to only eat dessert once a week or to take a multivitamin every day. With small goals, slowly adding as you go, it’s easier to find success. And, remember that all exercise is good for you. If you enjoy what you are doing you are more likely to stick with it in the long term. But, don’t be afraid to try something new, either. Sometimes a new class or routine can keep you motivated.”

— Tifani O’Rourke, part owner,

Energie Pilates Spa

“Developing a healthier diet does not need to be complicated. Small changes go a long way. Here are some easy tips to start your journey to better health:

1. Increase your fiber by eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds. Women, strive for 25-30 grams per day and men, strive for 30-35 grams per day.

2. Focus on water. Decrease your intake of sodas and other sugary drinks and make water your main beverage.

3. Eat more whole grains. Try brown rice instead of white rice and experiment with other grains such as quinoa, millet, farro and amaranth.

4. Include beans and lentils into your daily routine. Do these give you digestive problems? Eat them more often in small amounts and add a little vinegar or kombu while they are cooking.

5. Decrease refined and processed foods. Watch added sugars, since refined sugars lack nutritional value. Women, strive for no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day and men, no more than 9 teaspoons (4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon).

6. Put the powdered vegetables and fruits away and eat the real stuff. Nothing provides the variety of nutrients and fiber like actual fruits and vegetables.

— Angela Dennison, oncology dietitian,

Wellness House

“Many people like to start off the new year with resolutions around making positive choices that will create more life balance. Remember to be kind to yourself if you get off track. It is often the negative self-talk that keeps one from getting back on track. Speak to yourself as you would a friend or loved one. While we aren’t always in charge of things life brings our way, we can be in charge of how we react.”

— Alisa Messana, licensed clinical social worker

“First, use your school’s winter break to recharge. It is easier to work hard in the new year if you feel rejuvenated. Enjoy your family and friends as well as time to yourself.

“The weekend before school starts, take a look at your backpack. Empty out last semester’s materials to make room for the new. If your folders or binders are broken and spiral notebooks full, get new ones.

“Take ownership of your screen time. Decide what is a healthy and reasonable amount of screen time and schedule your technology fun, instead of just getting lost in your phone or computer.

“In addition to simply being ‘good habits,’ these practices reduce anxiety and increase confidence. You will boost your mental health as well as your academic success by having an organized and focused approach to your schoolwork.”

— Ann Wilson and colleagues at

The Village Tutors

“As you make your 2020 resolutions, don’t overlook the opportunity to invest in your spiritual life. The best way to invest spiritually is to visit a local congregation for teaching, worship and friendship. Hinsdale has numerous churches with excellent pastors who are ready to journey with you and help you and your family grow spiritually. Seek them out for a cup of coffee (I’m sure they’ll buy!) and conversation. God bless you in this new year!”

— Lars Stromberg, lead pastor,

Hinsdale Covenant Church

— compiled by Pamela Lannom


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