Dr. Zorba Paster: Resolutions offer chance for reflection

December 29, 2018 GMT

The world is divided into those who like New Year’s resolutions and those who hate them. Not sure where you are on that continuum, but I’m on the resolution side.

It’s not that I cling to them, but making resolutions gives me time to reflect on my successes and failures of the past year. It helps me to crystallize how I might make the next year better than this one. So if you are a resolution-maker, then read on to see what I have to say.

First off, pay attention to the kinds of resolutions being made. Studies — and, yes, there are studies on this — show resolutions are very short-lived. Diet and exercise resolutions generally last one to three days then people just go back to their usual ways. Don’t make a resolution you know you’ll never keep.


Next, try not to make foolish resolutions. Avoid things like, “I’ll lose 20 pounds this year on a beef-and-mutton diet.” It might have been the most popular diet 100 years ago in London, but don’t make that resolution today.

I know many of you would like to lose 20 pounds by Valentine’s Day, but do you really think you can accomplish that? Really? A sense of reality is important in making those resolutions because then they’re more doable and worthwhile. If you can do it, go for it; if not, then scale it back a bit.

Before I go on, let me digress a bit. I have some specific suggestions for you regarding popular resolutions.

1. If you’re a smoker, yes, you can quit. Nearly 20 percent of Wisconsinites still smoke. When I talk to smokers in the office, nearly all of them want to quit but don’t know how. Drugs such as bupropion and Chantix work. Vaping might work for a while, but then quitting that bad habit could become an issue. Nicotine replacement with gum and the patch works. But the most important ingredient here is perseverance. Quitting smoking doesn’t work without that.

2. Yes, you can lose weight. Why not choose something reasonable, like losing 10 pounds by spring? You can do it. Studies do not show any one way that works above all others — they’re all about the same. So perhaps you’re looking for a high-fat, low-carb diet. Or maybe the Atkins diet? The Scarsdale diet? The gluten-free paleo-vegan diet? It doesn’t matter as long as you eat less. That’s the key. Eating less is really the ultimate goal in dieting.

3. Finally, when it comes to exercise, the best exercise you can do is the exercise you will do. We sit too much. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. But we should sit down thinking about how to get up. Putting some vim in your walk, a glide in your step, will work. Yes, 30 minutes a day of vigorous exercise is optimal, but 10 minutes of quick walking or dancing in the shower will do, too. Here, the key is that something is better than nothing.


So now for my big three personal resolutions. These are my own goals for the New Year.

1. Treasure the moments with my family. And when I say treasure, I mean it with a capital T. Sometimes too many things in life interfere with this. I can do more.

2. Love the life I have. I have blessings that my grandparents from England on one side and Poland on the other never had. So many of us live like royalty. We have food from all over the world at our fingertips, heat-controlled lodging and any number of creature comforts at our disposal. Flights around the country are available in a silver tube. What took our ancestors a year to do — on a wagon train out West — takes us hours. And it’s not dangerous or deadly.

We complain too much about the little First World things that upset us. My ancestors came to this country just looking for a roof over their head and enough money to feed the family. My grandfather from Poland wanted to escape being cannon fodder.

During the Depression, my grandfather had trouble feeding his six kids. So in addition to toiling as a leather worker, he helped the milkman deliver milk and handed out towels in the men’s bathroom at a fancy Chicago hotel — just for the tips. He never ever complained. He never, ever expected what we have today. I should be more thankful this coming year than I am.

3. Think about death. I’m 71. I have five, 10, maybe 15 or 20 years to live. So what am I doing today? I need to think about that more than I do. A good friend — very fit, ate right, exercised all the time — was biking with her wonderful husband in Ireland when she turned a corner and smashed into a truck. She was gone in an instant. One never knows.

So with that, I’ll leave you with my favorite Zen poem I try to recite every morning. It’s a game-changer for me.


Great is the problem of life and death.

Time passes quickly by and opportunity is lost.

Each of us should strive to awaken.


Do not squander your life.

Happy New Year. Stay well.