The annual kick in the pants: Making healthy New Year's resolutions.

With New Year's Day approaching rapidly, many will be pledging to make positive life changes for 2007. Whether your resolution is to take off the extra pounds gained from consuming holiday sweets, to stop smoking, or simply to be more active, health journals around the web are offering tips to help you stick with your healthful plans for the new year.

Noel Horton of the University of Maryland provides insight on sticking to your resolutions:

"Focus on realistic goals with measurable results," said Jill RachBeisel, M.D., director of community psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical Center and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "You need to break things down into small steps that you can manage."

For example, RachBeisel said that instead of trying to lose 50 pounds, focus on losing five pounds at a time. And instead of trying to lose five pounds a week, focus on losing a pound a week.

"Create bite-sized jobs for yourself that you'll be able to accomplish," said RachBeisel. "If your goal is too big, you'll feel defeated before you even get started."

WebMD writer Dulce Zamora includes helpful hints on making healthy changes to one's diet:

When women resolve to lose weight, they are often black and white about it, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She says women tend to want to cut out major food groups, telling themselves they cannot have any candy, dessert, or carbohydrates.

"It's a setup for failure, because by the time mid-January comes around, those resolutions are already in line for the next new year," says Taub-Dix. "It would be a much wiser decision to say, for example, 'I'm going to cut back on desserts.' Maybe pick a Saturday to have dessert." Instead of deprivation, practice moderation during the holidays.

The reduction approach is much more realistic than the all-or-nothing technique, which labels foods as "good" or "bad." When people see certain edibles as "bad," they can end up obsessing about it. Or they may see dieting as punishment for a year of unhealthy eating. Concentrate on getting adequate servings of whole grains, calcium, fiber, fruits and vegetables. This can be as easy as having a high-fiber cereal with milk and a banana.

And finally, Tracee Cornforth of About.com provides what may be the best New Year's resolution ever: get more sleep!!

A hormone called cortisol which controls appetite has been shown to be affected by sleep loss. This causes you to still feel hungry despite the fact that you have consumed an adequate amount of food. Other ways that sleep loss affects your ability to lose and maintain weight loss include:

* Interference with carbohydrate metabolism which may cause high blood glucose levels.
* Excess amounts of glucose encourages the overproduction of insulin which leads to the storage of excess body fat, as well as lead to insulin resistance (a significant sign of adult-onset diabetes.

According to Michael Thorpy, MD, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, "Sleep loss is associated with striking alterations in hormone levels that regulate the appetite and may be a contributing factor to obesity. Any American making a resolution to lose weight in the New Year should probably consider a parallel commitment for getting more sleep."

For more information on healthy New Year's Resolutions, please visit the source articles:

"New Year's Weight Loss," About.com;

"New Year's Resolution Guide," University of Maryland;

"5 Healthy Resolutions for Women," WebMD.com

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