As personal trainers we’ve probably all heard this resolution 1,00 times over: “I want to be healthier this year,” but what exactly does that mean? 

The obvious cliché assumptions attached to that declaration are “lose weight” or “look better.” The vagueness of saying, “I want to be healthier,” is often conflated with aesthetics, yet truly has nothing to do with one’s overall wellbeing. 

Rather than correlating healthy new year resolutions to physical appearance, I propose identifying ways that make clients really feel better and have lasting impacts on their lifelong health. 

Health Changes: Naked to the Eye

About ten years ago I decided that my health-conscious resolutions would be things that impact my health in ways that the average person, or myself cannot even see. Every year I make a resolution to try something new to be healthier without an emphasis on body image.

Now, before I am dubbed a silly, Californian hippy, I promise not to suggest natural deodorants or toothpastes, but the following is a list of alternative health resolutions and their respective healthy swaps that perhaps might be ideal for your clients. 

Hair Toss

My alternative resolution journey began when I decided to stop chemically treating my hair. While I freely admit that dying my hair all colors imaginable, and unimaginable was one of the most thrilling phases of my adolescence, I decided to replace all the ammonia, sulfates, and acetates with a more natural color process: henna. This health change eventually evolved into a regular routine of growing and donating my hair in lieu of coloring.

Check My Nails

A little over a year ago I had a conversation with a Ph.D. candidate about her research in “toxicology.” I’d assumed, stupidly, that meant substance abuse, or forensic science. Wrong.

She told me of the reproductive side effects in women and birth defects of babies born to women working in nail salons. Singing the verse, “I do my hair toss; check my nails,” from Lizzo’s Good as Hell doesn’t evoke the strong, powerful woman vibe I imagine it would if I had gel or acrylic nails. Turns out nail buffing isn’t so bad, and on the plus side, I’ve stopped contributing to the negative impact of nail techs’ health while also saving money.

Bad Taste in the Mouth

In 2010, when I got health insurance for the first time in my life, I resolved to replace old mercury fillings with porcelain. While the FDA does not currently list mercury fillings as harmful, my breath and mouth have a less metallic taste and odor. Be sure to do your research and discuss options with your dentist to make sure this is a healthy option for you.

A Watched Pot Never Boils

Teflon coated pans are made with a polymer called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) that, when heated to 570 degrees can release carcinogenic compounds into the air and your food. In 2018 I became a fan of poached eggs, since swapping out Teflon pans for stainless steel and cast-iron meant I no longer had a non-stick option for frying or scrambling them. But there are no polymers in my breakfast. Or lunch or dinner. Conversely, my iron deficiency seems to have cleared up.

Sorry, Not Sorry!

In an attempt to make a more emotionally and mentally impactful healthy change, I’ve decided for 2020 that I need to stop saying “sorry” so darn much. I grew up saying sorry to begin and end sentences. This impulse to apologize for everything can project a lack of assuredness in my decisions. This year my apologies will come only when truly warranted.


Some of these resolutions may seem hokey or cause some to eye roll, but they do provoke a thought that takes the “I want to be healthy,” to a level beyond the way we look on the outside.

There are myriad alternative health resolutions. Have you come up with your own? 

Theresa Perales

Theresa Perales has an MA in Spanish, and is an ESL teacher at San Diego State University (SDSU). After years of struggling with her weight, she decided to give exercise a try. A passion for health and fitness grew instantly and inspired her to become certified as a personal trainer with NFPT, and as a group fitness instructor with AFAA Group Fitness and Madd Dog Athletics® Spinning. Theresa believes that nutrition and fitness are not about aesthetics but ultimately about feeling healthy and empowered.