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Resolutions vary, but they don't waver in popularity
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When writing out your New Year's resolutions, it's best to stick to realistic expectations, experts say. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

Lose weight. Quit smoking. Save money.

To some folks, making a New Year's resolution may seem silly. To others, it is a beloved custom worth continuing.

But regardless of how realistic the objective, a new year often means new resolutions or, perhaps, renewing old resolutions unfulfilled from a previous year.

Lisa Meyer, a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Cumming, said New Year's resolutions can be mentally healthy since they're a type of goal-setting.

"It's important to have goals so we continue to grow," she said. "If we're not growing, we're going to stagnate."

She said many people make them due to the start of the new year being "accompanied with a renewed motivation for making changes."

"We end the year with Christmas, which is the icon of hope and goodwill and people are wanting to get on track to do things different and have a fresh start in the new year," Meyer said.

Norman Baker, a deacon and Stephen Ministry leader at Parkway Presbyterian Church, said resolutions relate to Christian faith.

"I think people have more hope for the future after the Christmas experience," he said. "Going to the Christmas Eve candlelight services and things really help people to have more hope for the future."

That hope, he believes, leads to a desire for people to want to "better their lives."

"I think people recognize they need to change things for the good," he said. "They want to get their lives straightened out, whether that's losing weight or going to church every Sunday."

Baker said he encourages others to make resolutions, but only if the goal is attainable.

"If they do make [resolutions], it would be good if they're realistic and not some pie-in-the-sky type of thing," he said. "It needs to be something they can actually achieve and can stick with.

"If they want to totally make themselves over or something, they might give up." 

Health-related New Year's resolutions are "among the most popular, if not the most," said Forsyth County extension agent Michele Melton.

"What better time to talk about healthy habits than right when everybody's making those New Year's resolutions to drop those holiday pounds," she said.

Addie Ackerson, a registered dietician at Northside Hospital-Forsyth, agreed.

"During the first of the year, everyone gets back on the wagon of working out and eating healthy," she said.

Meyer, the licensed professional counselor, said resolutions can vary widely from "personal to professional to profound."

She said she encourages her clients to set resolutions and makes them herself.

"A lot of them go by the wayside, but one or two typically stick," she said.

To Meyer, resolutions stemming from changes in the previous year -- such as taking a relationship to another level or working harder at a job -- usually are more easy to keep.

"Those that are habit-related are harder to stick with," she said. "Things like eating better and going to the gym more or quitting smoking are usually tough."

That didn't stop Irma Appel, who nearly 40 years ago resolved to stop drinking.

Appel, now 82, said she was only having a couple of beers a day after work, but “I heard on the news it was not going to do me any good and I didn’t get no benefits out of them, so I quit that."

This year's resolution?

“Now, I’m going to lay off the sugar and pay more attention to my heart and my health," she said.

The time-honored tradition of New Year's resolutions seems to have evolved little over the years, with many in Forsyth County’s senior population taking their cue from resolutions past.

Both Marlene Baer, and Angela Bellarmino are familiar with resolving to lose weight.

Baer, 74, said every year “it’s been the same."

"I say I’m going to do it and yet I gain weight," she said.

When she was in her 20s and 30s, Baer said, she “was nice and thin, so I didn’t have to say it then.”

Bellarmino, 86, was the opposite. Now slim, she said she “was a very heavy girl and I got teased a lot.”

“I was determined I was going to lose weight,” she said about making annual weight-loss resolutions. “Then I just resigned myself that if I’m going to be heavy, I’m going to be heavy.”

It wasn’t until she was married that she started watching what she ate. And it didn’t take a resolution.

“I just thought, ‘no,’ this is no good,” she said.

Ruby Atkinson, 85, said she never had much luck with resolutions, so she’s sticking to the basics this year.

“My resolution is to live another year,” she said. “At my age, you have to think about that.”

Mildred Cohen, 89, is taking a different approach.

“I don’t make them anymore because they’re made to be broken and they’re broken very, very shortly afterwards,” she said.

Zita Goldberg, 82, said her resolutions have always focused around one main objective, which was usually successful.

“I wanted to date this guy, I wanted to date that guy, I was always after this one’s boyfriend,” she said. “My first resolution ... when I was about 10 years old was getting a boyfriend.”

Whatever the objective, Meyer said New Year's resolutions can keep us moving in the right direction.

"Setting resolutions are important because if we have no goals, no where to move toward, then we have no real purpose in life," she said.

Staff writers Alyssa LaRenzie and Jennifer Sami contributed to this report.