Don Mauer: New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be hard

Jan. 01, 2013 @ 03:08 PM

The new year just began and the holiday season voted most likely to add pounds is over. If you have done well, and are the same weight you were the day before Thanksgiving: Congratulations!
If the weight on your scale has slowly crept upwards these last six weeks, do not panic, there is an answer.
As the year begins, consider making a single resolution that you can actually keep throughout the coming year. Here’s my story:
After a brief hiatus from regular exercise, in the beginning of July I made a resolution to return to a regular exercise program and stick to it. Today, six months later, I am still faithful to my program. This is true even when I travel. I make certain to pack my sweatshirt, sweat pants and cross-training shoes. I also pack my swim trunks. If I have not already exercised that morning, I squeeze in a long walk upon arriving at the hotel. Or, if it’s cold and wet, as it was when I was in Boston recently, I locate the exercise facility in my hotel and use their treadmill. After my exercise I like to shower, put on my swim trunks and go for a relaxing swim.
When I am home, if the weather does not allow me to walk in the wooded park near my house, I head for an enclosed mall and walk there for 45 minutes, using the stairs to go to the upper tier. It’s a good workout for me, and occasionally somebody recognizes me from my picture, and I get a chance to chat.
For me, my resolution in July was a good one. It was reasonable and therefore, doable. Now, how about you? Have you let your exercise program slide these last few weeks (or longer)? You could make a resolution to begin exercising again in 2013 with a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood. I hope the sun will be shining and although it will be cold, you will feel good about yourself when you return home. By taking it a day at a time, you are through Day 1 and looking forward to Day 2.
Perhaps your exercise program is just fine, but the pounds have slowly been ascending anyway. A good resolution may be to start a food diary and keep up with it for the next week. By the following Friday evening sit down with your diary, a calculator, and a good food counts book and do the math. You may be surprised that the calorie count is not as high as you expected. In fact, it may be only 100 calories more than your goal. One hundred unburned calories per day can mean a weight gain of more than 10 pounds in a year, even if you are exercising.
Next, if you wish to lose the extra weight, look back at the diary and see which 200 calories can be removed each day. If you do so, by this time next year you could lose 10 pounds.
This is a terrific resolution, and here’s why: Your food diary will give you an excellent working handle on your current food plan. Removing the 200 daily calories means that your food plan is not changing that much. You can continue to consume the same foods you enjoyed that previous week, but exclude one or two portions, or remove nothing and reduce the portion sizes. No need to start from scratch.
This technique may be as simple as switching from drinking two sodas a day that are sweetened, to drinking two a day that are artificially sweetened and have zero calories. Or, substituting two tablespoons of fat-free or very low-fat trans fat-free margarine for butter or full-fat margarine, effortlessly removes 200 calories and 25 fat grams. All you are doing is simply refining the food plan you already have.
Does this sound easy? It should, because it is. No need to be anxious.
Over the next couple of days give this some thought and make a commitment. Then, raise a glass of calorie-free, fat-free sparkling spring to this new year knowing that you will soon be healthier and happier.
Happy New Year.
Don Mauer’s “Lean and Lovin’ It” column appears every other Wednesday. Don welcomes comments, suggestions and recipe makeover requests at leanwizard@aol.com.
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This stew is wonderful served for dinner during our colder January days. It is low in fat and high in protein and fiber. But, that’s not the only good part, it is absolutely delicious. The recipe works just as well cut in half. And, leftovers taste even better. What a great way to start the new year.

Cumin-Scented Chicken Stew with Garbanzo Beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 chicken breast halves, skinned, washed under cold water, patted dry and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes (or to taste)
4 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans (chick-peas), rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

In a large heavy pot heat the oil over medium-high heat and in it brown the breasts, in batches, transferring each breast to a large plate when browned.
Reduce the heat to moderately-low and add the onion, garlic, cumin, ginger, and the red pepper flakes and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Return the chicken and whatever juices have accumulated to the pot, add the broth and the garbanzo beans, and simmer the mixture, covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done. taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately sprinkled with the cilantro leaves. Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition values per serving (without added salt): 329 calories (21.2 percent from fat), 7.8 g fat(1.4 g saturated fat), 7.9 g dietary fiber, 40.5 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 73 mg cholesterol, 515 mg sodium.
Lean Suggestion: To make this meal complete, serve the stew over hot cooked rice or cooked yolkless noodles.