senior woman exercisingBuilding Health By Dale Peterson, MD – 

A common New Year ritual is the making of resolutions.  Unfortunately, most are soon broken and forgotten.  Many are recycled year after year without effecting any positive change in our lives.

Resolutions are made for a reason. We know that unhealthy habits should be replaced by healthy ones. We know that it is possible to look and feel better by making changes in our daily routine. Why then is it so difficult to follow through?

Part of the answer may lie in the manner in which resolutions are typically made. In nearly every case they are general statements with no specific action plan. This makes New Year’s resolutions nothing more than a wish list in need of a genie in a bottle to make them come true.

A key to putting resolve into New Year resolutions is to move beyond the wish list to a concrete action plan. This is actually implicit in the word resolution. Resolution is the act of reducing a complex notion into simpler forms. It is the separating of a compound or mixture into its constituent parts.

An example of resolution is that of instructing a toddler how to clean his or her room. The general statement, Clean your room! is unlikely to achieve the desired result. The child doesn’t know where to begin or how to proceed. The complex task must be broken into component parts. The toys must be picked up and placed in their storage box. The books must be placed on the appropriate shelf. The stuffed animals are to be placed neatly on the bed. When the task is broken into its component parts and the instructions given step by step the chore is soon completed.


Resolutions are much more likely to become established behavior patterns if the general intent is translated into specific steps. As each successive step is mastered another can be added until the desired objective is achieved.


Suppose the resolution is to lose weight. A first step might be to give up high caloric beverages in favor of pure water. This can eliminate a sizable number of calories while providing the added benefit of improved hydration. Once this habit has become established the step of cutting back on portion sizes at meals might be instituted. Another simple step could be to begin a balanced nutritional supplement to provide the body with the vitamins and minerals it requires which generally lessens food cravings. More difficult measures such as eating low glycemic foods might follow.


If the resolution has been to start an exercise program a specific first step could be to schedule as specific time for activity each day. This might be as little as committing to walk for ten minutes after lunch each day. As the new habit becomes established the time commitment can be extended or others added. More aggressive activities may follow as the initial discipline leads to a higher energy level and even greater motivation.


This approach may successfully be applied to virtually any resolution. Positive changes need not be limited to the New Year, but may be instituted at any time. The key is to break the desired result into small, readily achievable goals and the goals into specific actions. Focused activity will bring progress, progress will result in greater confidence, and greater confidence will cause you to take the additional steps necessary to achieve success.


Reflecting upon our current situation and resolving to do better can be either an annual exercise in futility or a recurring practice that moves us onward and upward. The result depends upon our willingness to act upon our resolutions to bring about the desired changes in our lives. Making one major change is hard, but adapting to multiple small, incremental changes is relatively easy. Because we are much more likely to stay the course, taking the easy route is the surest way to achieve success.



Dale Petersen MD

By Dale Peterson, MD- Building Health

Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of  Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health.  His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges.  He is the author of Building Health by Design:  Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .

Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at

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