How time does fly … it seems like only yesterday I strapped on my heart rate monitor and hit the gym; the sweet sounds of Mandarin dancing in my ear, all in my quest to help YOU become a better person in ’09 (ok … me too). Remember? Only one month ago I set out to pre-test “solutions” to four of the most common New Year’s resolutions. You and I both know they’ve made your list at least once if not every year as January 1st approaches.

Resolution #1: Lose weight

Let me begin by saying I know why people start their resolutions after the holiday season. Between business and pleasure I have racked up countless hours of party time chitchat, dozens of sugar coated Santas, peppermint sticks, gummy-something or others, and I’m pretty sure my liver could pass for foie gras.

That said, I have hit the gym religiously, thanks, not in part, but entirely to the guilt imparted upon me from my new heart rate monitor the Polar FT-40, lovingly referred to in the 6am hour, as the “FU-40”. In all its splendid glory, it goes beyond just monitoring calories burned (and by calories I mean number of drinks/desserts I have or plan to consume sans aforementioned guilt). It actually records and remembers data from your past 75 workouts, so my gym time was uncomplicated, cut and dry. And for me, the FT-40 was and will continue to be “the great motivator”. It’s easy to use; just strap on the chest band, and with a single press of a button, the clock and calorie monitor begin ticking, and it’s much cuter than my old heart rate monitor.

Now for this clearly unscientific experiment, I gave the second monitor I was testing to my dad. It’s the FA-20 and designed for the non-athlete (sorry dad). It is supposed to monitor steps taken and calories burned without the use of a chest strap. Here’s what he had to say about it:

The FA-20 is a really neat replacement for the old pedometer. Remember that 10,000 steps you’re supposed to take every day? Well, the FA-20 keeps track of all that and more. It gives you little reminders to “get going tubby”. And it worked! I actually found myself WALKING (can you imagine) where before I’d take an elevator or grab a cab. It passes for a stylish and attractive watch. But it works as a non-stop Jiminy Cricket—reminding you that activity is what works the best. Now it’s not monitoring your pulse or your heart rate. I think it works on the natural swing of your arms as you walk or jog. However it does it’s magic, it’s a 24/7 guardian of your health, and every time I’d check to see what time it was, I’d be reminded to get off my butt and GO.

So….all in all I’d say that anything that gets you moving is worth the investment. After all, who can put a price on good health?

Resolution #2: Improve my academic excellence (by learning Mandarin)

Mandarin is hard. I mean, really, really, really HARD. So hard that I can’t write something witty in Mandarin because I’m afraid that my attempt to say something could mean the difference between a simple “hello, it’s nice weather we’re having” and the truth about how you really look in those pants. And I’ve seen the commercials. Michael Phelps used the Rosetta Stone DVD’s to learn mandarin. But the guy also won EIGHT OLYMIPIC GOLD MEDALS (so it’s not as simple as saying if he can do it I can too).

In all fairness I now know a few basics and in case you’re wondering, the word “holidays” is Mandarin for “going broke and gaining ten pounds”.

It would help if I was more motivated to learn Mandarin, of course. Based on the years I spent in high school and college, this certainly was the quickest method to master a language that I’ve encountered. And I put some of the practice lessons on my iPod. At least I can now understand a bunch of basic phrases. All in all—it works if you’re willing to do the work.

Resolution #3: Get healthier

The Meals from Nu-Kitchen are, well … delicious. In fact I’m convinced they bring Thomas Keller and Mario Batali right into my hallway to prepare my meals every night. The food is that good and that expensive. But cost aside, (recession RESMESSION!) if you can afford roughly $40 a day, this food service can’t be beat. Every morning a cooler bag is delivered right outside my front door with five freshly prepared (and did I mention delicious?) meals for the day. It beats the hell out of any brown bag lunching I’ve ever done and my mother made me steak sandwiches when I was a kid (Skippy what?).

I haven’t lost any weight but on the flip side, I haven’t gained any this holiday season either.

Resolution 4: Improve my overall appearance (with a bright white smile)

When it comes to peroxide….you get what you pay for.

Topping my list of whitening wonders is the Liquid Smile pen. It gave the best results and was really easy to carry around. Every night you simply “paint” the gel on your teeth and (voila!) wake in the morning with brighter, whiter teeth. The only disadvantage is that you have to order it online so it’s not as easy to get as the other two I tried.

A close second was the Go Smile whitening system. The kit contains 14 ampoules that allow you to “Flip, Pop and Whiten” your way to a brighter smile. The ampoules are small enough to toss in your purse and the daily touch-ups are a great way to get rid of a “red-wine” smile. These can be bought online but are also sold at stores all over the place (like Sephora) so this “system” is much easier to get a hold of.

In third place were the Crest Whitestrips. They work, but the “strip” system is much messier and more of a hassle than the other two. And you need to leave them on for 30 minutes, twice a day, which is as tedious for me as learning Mandarin. On the plus side, the strips are roughly half the cost of the other two, and they are the smallest and most portable.

My “Resolution Round-up”

It wasn’t easy, and at times, it wasn’t pretty. But I’m hoping this will help you on your journey to becoming a better you. And this New Years, as you raise your champagne glass and reflect upon all those things you wish you had (or maybe had not) done in 2008, I hope you’ll applaud my tenacious dedication to the betterment of mankind, one pound at a time.

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