It’s about that time. The ol’ “New Year, New You” push. Like many, you may be feeling pressure to totally renovate your body, fit into smaller jeans, reverse the hands of time, and grow shinier, thicker hair. I know I feel pressure to improve. It’s been a while since I cleansed. I hear the silly voices of “should” in my mind. “Kris, you know you should clean it up a bit.” Heck, I wrote a New York Times bestseller that talks about the importance of periodic tune-ups (ahem…Crazy Sexy Diet, a terrific book if I do say so myself). But to be totally honest and real with you, I have zero desire to start a big program. It’s just not where I am right now in my life. I’m sure I’ll cleanse again in the future. Right now, the only thing I want to do is go to your house, sit around in PJ’s, and talk about my feelings! I want to marinate in my desires and heal my heart where it is broken.

However, (didn’t you feel the “however” coming?), the start of a new year presents us with wonderful opportunities to gently improve our lifestyle habits.

So let’s try something new and totally daring. Instead of giving you a full on overhaul plan, I’d like to encourage you to test drive a few simple shifts this month. These easy upgrades have the power to sustainably improve your life if you consistently hang out with them.

Change doesn’t have to be intense. Your life is already pretty packed, too packed if you ask me. But a periodic health inventory will identify where your sails are soaring and sagging.

Looking back on my self experimentation (victories and failures) and my coaching practice, smaller changes equal big wins, especially when you stick with them. And listen up, perfectionist: You don’t have to stick with them 100% of the time to be successful. Pretty revolutionary stuff, right? Not so much. It’s actually quite obvious, and, yet, we keep searching for the grand system, the metamorphosis plan.

For the majority of us, when we start from an extreme place and seek extreme results, we set ourselves up for extreme disappointment.

Simplicity. Elegance. Stability. Let a turtle be your mentor. Slow and steady, my friend. From a spiritual perspective, there is no race. There is no “there” when you get there.

Have you ever looked through a fashion magazine and stumbled on one of those what’s “in” and what’s “out” lists? Well, in my Crazy Sexy fashion rag, quick fixes and cut-to-the-chase answers are definitely a 2013 fashion faux pas. Put them on your don’t list and move on, sisters and brothers!

Kind and Gentle Tips for a Healthy 2013

Pick one or two points to focus on this month. If they all resonate, go for it. I’ve kept this short, sweet, and doable. Keep in mind that these suggestions are not about “never” doing something ever again. I want to set you up for success, not bloody falling-off-the-wagon accidents followed by self-flagellating. If you slip, congratulations! You’re HUMAN. Ask yourself why and listen carefully to the answers. Growth-a-go-go. If these tips work for you, keep them going, one glorious day at a time.

1. Kiss Yourself Each Morning

Start your day slowly and with love. Here’s how I kiss myself each morning: I wake up when it’s still dark, light a candle, read spiritual text, and take long deep breaths. I make tea and write if I’m moved to. That’s it. Even if you have to get up fifteen minutes earlier. Choose a time when your home is quiet and you’re the only soul awake. Or ask the waking souls to shhh so you can have your personal space. This step is worth it. You don’t have to choose monk-like activities. Do what your kiss beckons you to do.

2. I’ll Have a Green Juice and a Side of Coffee, Please

Green juice will give you a great sustainable boost of nourishing energy. If you love coffee (I hear ya!), instead of giving it up, peel back to one cup and have your green juice first. Give your body a healthy burst of nutrients, alkalinity, and antioxidants, then sip the joey.

3. I Know You Love Sugar, but You Are Sweet Enough

Instead of grabbing a cookie, choose a ripe piece of fruit instead. OK, I know it’s not as stimulating as Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, but we’re trying to create some new healthy habits by deprogramming your addiction. If you crave sugar this month, choose fruit as much as possible. Move from baked and processed treats to a serving of nature grown goodness, preferably organic. If extra weight is your issue, just watch the pounds fall off with this one simple step. Once your palate gets reset, most sugar will seem too sweet. You’ll take two or three bites and move on. Easy, breezy, satisfying.

Remember, your sugar cravings are not always about the sugar. Sugar is a mental trip too. It only becomes a physical trip when you overdo it. If you’re a habitual (and powerless) cookie gobbler, ask yourself what that urge is really about. Do you need more sweetness in your life? A time out from anxiety and stress? Some love? An apology?

Try this: Dust off your imaginary crystal ball. Look into the futuristic glass and picture how you will feel after the binge. Is this how you want to feel? If the answer is “no,” thank the crystal ball and then slowly back away from the cookie. Do not make eye contact. Do not make any sudden movements. Get out of the room and call an adult. If the answer is “yes,” ask yourself “why.” Next, unpack the why. Your healing potential lives in the why.

Does this work always have to be so deep? Can’t you just have a frickin’ cookie and chill the frick out? Of course! But if you sense an addiction or a compulsion to drown your pain in confections (or cocktails), then you clearly have a spiritual assignment. Will you blow off your homework? Hint: It won’t go away. The universal teacher has a looong memory. Suck it up and get it over with. 2013 is the purrrfect time to free yourself.

4. Cut Animal Product Consumption in Half

If you’re eating dairy (ice cream, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc.) or meat (lamb, chicken, steak, fish, etc.) cut your consumption in half. Do you eat animal products twice a day? Try once a day. You may want to keep a food journal to keep track. Sometimes we think we know what we’re eating, but we really have no idea. You don’t have to go all the way. Cutting back is victory enough. If you stick with this tip throughout 2013, I bet your cholesterol, heart, and hips will thank you.

When you cut down on animal products, you can look forward to less mucus, better poops, glowing skin, less inflammation, less gas, and more freedom (a.k.a. less addiction to certain foods. Ahem…cheese!). In Breaking the Food Seduction, Neal Barnard, MD discusses the addictive nature of dairy. Ready for some science? During digestion, casein breaks down into opiates known as casomorphins, giving you warm fuzzy feelings (there are high levels of casein present in cow’s milk for their nursing calves). Cheese has the highest levels of these casomorphins, making it the most difficult habit to break—it’s not in your head, you really are addicted to dairy! But don’t worry. As you add more plant-based foods into your diet, your cravings for dairy and other animal products will lessen. And if you’re concerned about calcium intake, have no fear. Dark leafy greens, beans, almonds, and non-dairy fortified milks are fabulous sources.

You’re also probably wondering about where you’ll be getting adequate protein in your diet. Don’t sweat it. It’s easy to meet your daily protein needs with a varied plant-based diet (even the American Dietetic Association agrees!). In case you’ve picked up on the “complete protein” myth that’s been floating around for years, there’s no need to worry about eating certain combinations of foods in order to consume complete proteins. As long as you’re eating a variety of veggies, beans, and grains, you’re supplying your body with the amino acids that it cannot produce on its own. Amino acids are the building blocks of our cells, and there are nine essential amino acids that your body needs to absorb through food—easily found in a plant-passionate diet. Ready for the bonus round? One of the many benefits of plant-based foods is that in their natural, organic state (a.k.a. not deep-fried), they’re free of the saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones, chemicals, and antibiotics that come along with a hamburger. Score!

But what will I eat in place of animal products, you ask? Let’s get real. You’re probably not going to find the vegan equivalent of Brie or beef tenderloin, but you will find plant-based recipes and whole foods that provide the creaminess, saltiness, and tastiness needed to fulfill your dairy and meat-inspired cravings. When I wrote Crazy Sexy Kitchen with Chad Sarno, I didn’t know how the meat and potatoes crew would react. I’m still overjoyed every time I hear from a skeptic who has embraced plant-based foods because they can’t believe how delicious Crazy Sexy Kitchen’s veggie-inspired recipes are! In addition to vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and fresh herbs, you also have an abundance of vegan convenience foods available when you’re in a pinch. It gets easier each day to let go of animal products and embrace whole, plant-empowered, nutrient-dense foods!

5. Worship the Daily Ten

Full disclosure: I have a gym membership, but I haven’t gone since I started to write Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Total waste. But it’s no shock. I’ve written five books now, and I always fall into the same patterns. So this year, I joined, an online mecca of yoga class videos by some of my favorite instructors. I also started working out with my friend Erin Stutland. She’d send me ten-minute videos to keep me moving while I was writing for you. Working out in ten-minute bursts has made a huge difference in my life. Now that I have more time, I do longer sessions after work, but I still love my ten-minute bursts during the day. They energize my body and stimulate my creativity. If you’re having a hard time jump starting a workout program, can you move your body for just ten minutes per day…consistently? Walk your dog (2013 is a great time to adopt a doggie!), dance, jump rope, do ten glorious sun salutes. Just do it.

Baby deer rescue mission after mama deer was hit by a car.

6. Cultivate What Nourishes You BEYOND Food

Your plate doesn’t contain all the answers. Your job won’t always fill your well. What would light your spark in 2013? What’s one thing you could do that would be all yours and would bring you lots of happy memories and smiles?

I’ll go first: Directly working with animals. If you’re on my newsletter, you know that we post different animal adoptions each week. I love that section. My heart doubles in size when someone writes me to say that they saw a little furry being in my email, and they scooped him/her up. Folks have actually flown across country to rescue their new family member. All based on a picture! This year, I want to take my virtual passion into the real world. I’m currently marinating on how and when, but the decision to just do it is made, and I can’t wait to dive in!

Healing Special Credit:

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, break the trance of negative self-talk and the behavior that follows it.

First: Bear witness to the negative self-talk. Notice the chaotic noise, the ever-changing stories. Now, pause and remember that the voice in your noggin isn’t you. You are love; you are holy. And get this: The real you isn’t even you. You are beyond all knowing and attachment. You. Just. Are. Pretty trippy, right? But we forget this golden pearl when the mad, wild voice holds us hostage. Notice the voice but don’t adhere to it. Give it a shape and a nickname if you need. Anything to show you how separate that voice is from you.

Second: Have compassion for yourself. A few weeks ago I wrote that I used to buy into the notion that suffering was optional. That was before I had a deep and layered experience with suffering. Let’s be real: Suffering is a natural part of life. We can’t avoid it. We’re not robots. The trick is to acknowledge your suffering and then bear-hug it with compassion. Compassion is the medicine. Once you apply compassion, you will be able to take the lessons and move through the discomfort. Residual ouchies may remain, but they won’t petrify you. We all have scars. They give us character. I have old scaly wounds on my knees from bike crashes and canoe flips. They’re just a part of me now. Neither pretty nor ugly, just there. Make sense?

Breathe. Smile. I love you. You love you.

P.S.: Dinner with Kris is right around the corner! We’re switching things up for the last installment of our Dinner with Kris series by holding a LIVE telejam with my dear friends and phenomenal wellness educators, Alex Jamieson and Gena Hamshaw. And to top it off, it’s open to ALL of my Crazy Sexy Kitchen readers (online and in-store purchases). On Wednesday, January 23, we’ll be talking about how to create a kinder, happier, healthier you in 2013. You don’t want to miss our tips, insight, and the chance to ask us your burning questions! RSVP for the event now.

Kris Carr is a multi-week New York Times best-selling author, speaker, and health advocate. Kris is the subject and director of the documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer, which aired on TLC and The Oprah Winfrey Network, and the author of the award-winning Crazy Sexy Cancer book series. Her latest books, Crazy Sexy Diet and Crazy Sexy Kitchen, will change the way you live, love, and eat! Kris inspires countless people to take charge of their health and happiness by adopting a plant-passionate diet, improving lifestyle practices, and learning to live and love like you really mean it. Her motto: Make juice not war! To learn more and join the Crazy Sexy Wellness Revolution, check out Kris’ website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

*Photo Credit for top image: Mark Blevis via Compfight cc