MARSHALL - New Year's is a time for making resolutions, and predictably a lot of resolutions concern diet and exercise, losing weight, and quitting smoking.
Fitness clubs, dietitians, and smoking cessation clinics confirm a spike in memberships around this time of year.
"We do see a spike because of New Year's resolutions," said Amber Werner, membership director at the Marshall Area YMCA. "We run a 'Pay the Day' promotion in January. If you join on Jan. 1 the membership fee is one dollar, two dollars on Jan. 2, etc. And we do see an increase on people wanting to personal train in January."
Zach Kaspar, manager of Anytime Fitness, also sees an increase in memberships at the beginning of the year, though many are coy about admitting to joining because of New Year's resolutions.
"I'd say it's at every fitness club," Kaspar said. "One of the questions I usually ask is, 'What brought you in today?' They usually say, 'It's about time,' or, 'I've been thinking about it for a while.' They'll laugh about it, but they know."
Cheryl Rude, a dietician at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, said this is the time of year a lot of programs start at the YMCA or Avera.
"Weight loss is probably the top one," Rude said. "We have a variety of ways someone can do that."
Rude said a team of a doctor, dietician and exercise physiologist does a medical evaluation of the client and makes recommendation for changes of diet and exercise.
Theresa Boeck, exercise physiologist at Avera also notices an increase in the number of people wanting to start living healthier lifestyles.
"Usually we'll see a spike in people who start resolutions and try to achieve them in the first couple of months," Boeck said. "Most people want to improve their health, high blood pressure, or cholesterol."
Quitting smoking is also big on the list of resolutions.
"At this time we get a huge rush of people wanting to quit," said Kris Wegner, a certified physician's assistant who runs smoking cessation programs at Affiliated Community Medical Centers. "Sometimes it's for their family, a Christmas present for their kids. Mid-January we see about a 25 percent increase in the desire to quit, then it falls off."
But is a New Year's resolution the best way to make improvements in your life?
"No," said Dr. Walter Thompson, a psychiatrist at Avera Marshall Psychiatric Clinic. "They need to work at them throughout the year. Doing it at New Year is setting themselves up for disappointment if they don't accomplish what they set out to do."
Thompson said there's nothing wrong with deciding to try at new year, but there is an element of magical thinking about New Year's resolutions that something is going to happen without too much effort.
Wegner cautioned that a decision to quit smoking must come when the smoker is ready, as part of an overall lifestyle change.
"If people try to quit as a New Year's resolution they may come in for an initial visit and not follow through," Wegner said. "Unfortunately people think, 'I failed." I don't think they failed, they weren't ready. New Year's is a good time to think about it, but what they need to think is, 'Am I ready?' New Year's gives some people motivation, but it's hard on people, too, when they think, 'That was my resolution last year and I failed.'"
The common thread that runs through all health professionals advice about living a healthier lifestyle, losing weight, and quitting smoking is take small steps, have patience, and build confidence. Don't expect dramatic improvement to come right away, and be forgiving of yourself for occasional relapses.
Stephanie McKee, certified physician's assistant at ACMC, said at New Year's the clinic sees an influx of people who want to lose weight right away, often by surgical intervention. McKee cautioned a healthy weight loss rate is no more than a half-pound to two pounds a week.
Experts agree that radical lifestyle changes involve breaking old habits, establishing new habits, and making the new habit routine. And that does not happen quickly.
"The idea of a New Year's resolution is a good thing, but it takes time," McKee said. "Time to eat at home, cook good food, and exercise. Most people have multiple jobs and don't have time. Their New Year's resolution should be to make time for themselves."
McKee advised if weight loss is the ultimate goal, people should set a series of short-term goals.
"Be realistic," McKee said.