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Make an action plan for the New Year
Donna Krug

Last week I introduced you to a fact sheet I wrote that focuses on healthy living. A long and healthy life doesn’t just happen. Everyday choices influence the quality of life you experience. Decisions start before your feet hit the floor in the morning. For instance, you make a decision whether or not to set an alarm or what time to set the alarm. Many decisions during the day are food centered. Perhaps you think you just make three food decisions daily: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Well, think again. You choose how much or what kind of milk to pour on your cereal, whether to have a second helping of lasagna, if you will eat that pastry or drink soda or coffee at the office, and on and on. 

Other important decisions revolve around physical activity. Take the stairs or elevator? Exercise before or after work? Watch TV or go for a walk? Since all of these decisions affect how your day goes, it is important to consider making a few common-sense changes. Many serious health problems are directly related to personal habits or behavior. Having a written plan is an important first step in regaining or maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The bullet points that revolve around eating habits include: 

• Start your day with breakfast

• Include a fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack

• Reduce portion sizes

• Eat slowly and eat only until you are no longer hungry

• Choose to eat more nutrient-dense foods

• Eat whole foods instead of highly processed foods.

Along with choosing to consume healthier food, many people can a achieve a healthy lifestyle by increasing physical activity. Start by investing in a good pair of walking shoes and walk around your neighborhood or indoor exercise facility. Make sure you start slow, especially if you have been inactive for a period of time. Find a buddy to exercise with. It will help to have someone to hold you accountable for increasing you level of physical activity.

The most important part of an action plan is to choose something you want to do. If your doctor or a family member tells you that you need to walk more, but that is not something you want to do, it will most likely not be successful. Next, it needs to be something reasonable, such as something you can expect to be able to accomplish in a week or a month. A true action plan is behavior specific. Losing weight is not a behavior; cutting out a 20 ounce soda every day is. An action plan answers these questions: What? How much? When? How often?

The final piece of a successful action plan is to assess the confidence level that you will fulfill the contract. On a scale of one to 10 where one represents little confidence and 10 represents total confidence, your plan should rank at least a 7. 

I have a few action plan magnets that are write on/wipe off. If you are one of the first three people to stop by either of our Cottonwood offices, you will receive it. I hope your year is off to a great start!

Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. Contact her at 620-793-1910 or