Websites can help maintain your resolve

  • Article by: RANDY A. SALAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 14, 2008 - 5:31 PM

Don't give up already on that New Year's resolution. Let these free online tools get you back on track.

Remember that New Year's resolution you made two weeks ago? Yeah, that one. You've probably abandoned it already, or maybe you haven't even started. Don't fret. There's help online.

Here are 10 popular vows people make each year, as compiled recently by Star Tribune relationships reporter Gail Rosenblum, and a resourceful, free website that will help keep you on course for each one.

Lose weight, exercise more ...

What we have here is the terrifying trio of New Year's resolutions. They are often expressed separately, but they're inevitably intertwined. These three websites will help you attack any of these resolutions individually or all at once.

• Trendy Traineo (www.traineo.com), which has been earning raves, provides all kinds of tools to help you track your eating and workout habits. Its gimmick: Up to four motivators (people you choose through the site) are apprised of your progress to provide praise when you succeed and encouragement when you falter. That accountability and support can be hard to ignore.

• If you want something simpler, the no-frills Calorie-Count (www.calorie-count.com) offers many of the same tools and nutritional information, as well as a community of like-minded people to share experiences and answer questions.

Eat Better America (www.eatbetteramerica.com) was created by Golden Valley-based General Mills -- so it's not unusual to see its products mentioned -- but there really is a lot to like. One great feature is Healthify My Recipe, in which users submit a favorite recipe and General Mills' food experts come up with a variation that preserves the taste while lowering calories, reducing fat and eliminating unhealthy ingredients.

Pay off debt/save money

The name of J.D. Roth's blog is as sensible as his financial advice -- Get Rich Slowly (www.getrichslowly.org). He knows what he's talking about, too. In 2004, he was $35,000 in debt; in December, he celebrated being debt-free (except for a mortgage) for the first time in 20 years. His tips don't involve schemes, just realistic suggestions, such as setting goals and tracking your spending. In keeping with the theme of resolutions, he says, "I believe that personal growth is systemic, that in order to improve financially, you have to improve in other areas of your life."

Get a better job

Most people know Monster.com as the largest job-finding website, but it also has a thriving section called Monster Career Advice (career-advice.monster.com) that's filled with tips on things such as honing your interview skills and taking self-assessments to see what job might suit you best. Pay special attention to the Career Changers section (www.startribune.com/a3834), which includes samples of letters explaining to employers why you want to make a career change and advice on how to give your résumé a makeover.

Drink less alcohol

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (www.niaaa.nih.gov), part of the National Institutes of Health, is practical in its approach to getting people to drink less. Its online publication "How to Cut Down on Your Drinking" (www.startribune.com/a3824) includes a step-by-step plan as well as sample worksheets to help you meet your goal. And if you falter and need a jolt, its calculators (www.startribune.com/a3828) showing the caloric and monetary hit of your alcohol habit should do it.

Quit smoking

Having trouble kicking the cigarette habit? You just need some inspiration. That's where Mary (www.maryquits.com) and Bob (www.bobquits.com) come in. They are longtime smokers who quit with the help of resources offered by the American Legacy Foundation, the antismoking group formed as part of a court settlement with cigarette makers. Although their names are fake, Mary and Bob are real people who kicked their addiction in 28 days, including a week's preparation. Their stories are expressed in one-a-day webisodes, like a reality TV show, as well as in daily journals. A wealth of background material and links steer you toward free help, too. As she works out at a gym in the final episode, a fitter Mary -- noting that she would otherwise probably be smoking her eighth or ninth cigarette -- gives this ultimate advice to would-be quitters: "Make sure you have a plan." That's what these two websites are all about.

Reduce stress

Stressed out? The award-winning website of the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com), based in Rochester, Minn., can help. Its Stress Center (www.startribune.com/a3827) is filled with articles and tools on how to cope with all kinds of stress, whether it's from family relationships, work or diet. If you need regular reminders by e-mail, sign up for Pick Me Up Books' free Daily Stress Tip (www.pickmeupbooks.com/subscribefw.html), drawn from its publication "Why Make Yourself Crazy: 300 Strategies for a Stress-Free Life."

Take a trip

If I'm planning a trip, my first stop is always Kayak (www.kayak.com). It's not an online travel agency, but rather an essential tool that combs dozens of sites to find the best deals on airfare, hotels and rental cars. The filtering capabilities and other options are mind-numbing, including flexible date searches for any destination. If you find a deal you like, just follow the links to purchase or set up e-mail alerts to be notified of better deals. A pending merger with competing site SideStep, which will add features such as travel guides, will make the indispensable Kayak even more useful.

Volunteer

Type in your ZIP code, and VolunteerMatch (www.volunteermatch.org) will apprise you of nearby volunteer opportunities. They can be within 5 miles or as far as statewide -- your choice. On a recent visit to the site, more than 1,600 volunteer positions were listed for the Twin Cities. Don't forget, too, that you can search virtually for volunteer opportunities online, such as grant writing and website maintenance, so you don't even have to leave your computer to help a charity.

Randy A. Salas • 612-673-4542

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