6 Ways to Be and Feel Better in 2017

Expert advice on looking great, feeling great and doing great things this year.

This is going to be the year that you lose 20 pounds, run a marathon and take up watercolor painting, right? Probably not. Making small changes is the best way to enhance our minds, bodies and spirits. Looking for a few ideas about where to start? Read on. 

Be good to your body

Johnny Gillespie of Empowered Yoga and Balanced Athlete suggests you consider increasing flexibility, improving form and enhancing overall strength. // Photo by Brandon Aufiero 

Getting into better physical shape is one of the most popular new year resolutions—and its one of the most frequently abandoned because people set themselves up for failure.

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“People start the new year saying, ‘I won’t drink, I’ll quit smoking, I’ll become enlightened—and go gluten-free,” says Johnny Gillespie, owner of Empowered Yoga and Balanced Athlete in Newark. “Be realistic with your goals.” 

Injuries also doom fitness goals, says Mary Beth Evans, owner of Rehoboth Beach Running Co. “Pace yourself, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while,” she advises. “A lot of people jump into it, running seven days a week, 3 to 4 miles each run. Then their muscles ache or they get shin splints, and they go back to doing nothing.”

Forestall injuries by mixing walking with running, doing each for a few blocks, then gradually expand the running time, Evans says. Also invest in the right gear, especially proper shoes. Evans breaks sneakers into three categories: neutral cushion, stability and motion control. Head to a sporting goods store to find an expert who can evaluate gait and the degree of foot pronation (how your foot contacts the ground). 

January is a time when regular exercisers set new fitness goals. Instead of focusing on going faster, lifting more weight or adding more reps, Gillespie suggests you consider increasing flexibility, improving form and enhancing overall strength. That’s the focus of Balanced Athlete, Gillespie’s cross training program.

“Dichotomies between the right and left sides of the body are very common and lead to injury,” he explains. Yoga, kettle bells and dumb bells are just a few of the things Gillespie uses to address asymmetry and increase spinal stability. But don’t jump into a new activity. “Definitely exercise caution so you don’t get injured,” Gillespie says. “Get evaluated by a fitness professional who can give you 10 things to work on—safely.”

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Peer support makes it easier to stick with almost every exercise routine. Start with a friend, or go to a place where you are comfortable and feel a sense of community, Gillespie says. Evans is a member of Girls Park Running Group. On her low-motivation days, running with other people provides a much-needed boost. 

Eat right

Be specific and flexible. That’s Alyssa Atanacio’s best weight loss advice. 

A registered dietitian with Christiana Care Health System, Atanacio says that people succeed when they create attainable goals.

“Saying that you’ll lose 10 pounds is too general,” she says. “Break it into specifics, like cutting out soda and replacing it with water.” On the other hand, don’t let one Big Gulp throw the plan into disarray. “Be flexible enough to have that soda, then get right back into your routine and drink water for the rest of the day,” she says. And stay away from fad diets. “They offer quick weight loss fixes, but are so low in calories that you can’t maintain them,” Atanacio says. “A 30-day this-or-that or a 10-day cleanse won’t be effective. You’re looking to make long-lasting lifestyle changes.”

Do that by eating healthier foods. Harvest Market in Hockessin, Newark Natural Foods and Good News Natural Foods in Dover, Milford and Rehoboth are great places to find locally grown, organic fruits, vegetables and meats, as well as prepared foods, which makes healthy eating even easier. 

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Cooking better (or more often) is a great goal. Classes are fun and delicious at Chefs’ Haven or Everything but the Kitchen Sink, both in Hockessin. In Rehoboth, Fork + Flask and Big Fish Grill have regular rosters of cooking classes.  

Be good to your brain

You can teach an old dog new tricks—as well as guitar, ceramics and art history. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) is a great place to start. At its three Delaware locations (Wilmington, Dover and Lewes/Ocean View), Osher offers a wide range of classes to people age 50 and older. Options include languages, history, science, finances and the arts. OLLI also sponsors local, national and international trips.

No matter the trip or topic, making new friends is one of the best benefits of OLLI. “People come for the courses but stay for the socialization,” says Carol Bernard, manager of OLLI Wilmington. A member relations committee facilitates introductions, including putting stars on the name badges of new students. There’s even a new member table at lunch. “I can’t count how many new friends I’ve made,” says Thom Remington, program director at OLLI Wilmington. “I bet you’ll meet people you already know.” 

History and current events classes are the most popular, Bernard says, as are classes in the arts. Remington, his wife and his sister take music classes and play in OLLI ensembles. “If you’ve never picked up an instrument or paintbrush—or haven’t since high school—we have all levels of music to encourage people to learn or refresh,” he says. “People discover late in life that they have talent that they never had time to pursue.”


Rehoboth Art League offers introductory classes in all mediums, including a weekly sketch group. // Photo by Maria DeForrest

The Music School of Delaware is another option for the musically minded.

“Music making is a beautiful experience, and there is great joy in sharing your craft,” says Cheri Astolfi, dean of school. “I can’t tell you how rewarding music lessons are for our adult students.”

At its hubs in Wilmington and Milford and at satellites across the state, The Music School offers a wide variety of opportunities for musicians of all levels. New students can take sample lessons with different teachers. “It’s the best way to find someone who is a great match for you,” Astolfi says.

Weekly lessons last 30-45 minutes, but you’ll need to carve out time to practice at home. “Be prepared to invest the time to get the most out of it,” Astolfi says. “If you can find a way, do it. It’s a different experience than you get from other art forms.”

Those other art forms are championed by Sara Ganter, chief operating officer of the Rehoboth Art League (RAL). “Some of the people most heavily involved are retirees who became full-time artists,” Ganter says.

RAL offers introductory classes in all mediums. Unstructured classes like a weekly sketch group appeal to some people. Jewelry and pottery classes are often skill oriented, so they are offered as workshops. RAL’s writers’ groups include poetry and free writing, using artwork as a creative prompt. Young kids and older folks frequent RAL during the day. Tweens and teens populate weekends. “That’s a good way for them to explore an interest or develop a portfolio if they are more advanced,” Ganter says. 


Band birds or monitor water quality in streams with Delaware Nature Society. Join the Leave No Trace Crew at First State National Historical Park. Become a mentor through Connecting Generations or Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware. Volunteer opportunities are as varied as they are rewarding. 

To find the right fit, ask yourself some in-depth questions, advises Cheryl Christiansen, president of the Delaware Association of Volunteer Administrators. What are your passions? Animals? Kids? The arts? Is your goal to better the community, meet new people or take your hobby to a new level? Do you want to be part of a team or work alone? Are you looking to use your job skills or do something different? “CEOs may do well serving on the board of directors of a nonprofit,” Christiansen says. “Or they may want to pound nails and not think about anything work related.”

Volunteering often works on set schedules, so make sure your availability syncs with the organization’s needs. Also make sure that you have the kinds of skills organizations need. “It’s not always the case that you sign up and are accepted,” Christiansen says. “There are people who aren’t a good fit for what they want to do.”

Think of it like applying for a job, she says. Research organizations, contact them, then go through the application process. There will also likely be orientation or training periods. While that sounds like a lot of work, Christiansen says that adding that structure has made a big impact. “Volunteering in Delaware has increased in the past few years because people have those pathways into organizations,” she says. “Preparation improves the organization, the work and volunteers’ experience. That’s a win-win.”

Splurge on your look

Tonia Patterson of Ooh La La! The Makeup Studio in Centreville works with a client. // Photo by Brandon Aufiero

Want a new look for the new year? Balayage is a hot hair trend that looks great on women of all ages and hair colors. The technique involves painting highlights in such a way to create a graduated, natural-looking effect. “It’s more natural looking and lower maintenance than foils,” says Emma Isaacs, executive stylist at Gloss in Newark. “Rooted looks are also becoming popular. We paint the natural hair color at its roots and feather it throughout.” 

Pastel tones are a fun trend. Isaacs says that lavender and ash blue will remain popular in 2017, especially because they fade out in a few weeks. Men are going in the opposite direction: gray. Isaacs says silver foxes are all the rage at Gloss’s salons in Newark and Wilmington. “Some men are even asking us to bleach their hair then dye it silver,” she says. 

Brow shaping is another way to update a face. Isaacs says that big, bold, Brooke Shields-ish brows are popular. It’s the same with faux eyelashes. Though Isaacs and her colleagues encourage clients to get natural-looking lashes, most women opt for the more-is-more look. “The classic style is to apply individual lashes, but the volume version means applying three to four lashes to each one lash,” Isaacs says. 

Tonia Patterson, owner of Ooh La La! The Makeup Studio in Centreville, stresses that spending a few extra minutes on key areas can transform your look. For lips, she recommends a gentle exfoliation with sugar lip scrub followed by a vitamin C treatment. “The sugar lip scrub will restore moisture and collagen so your lips will appear full and lush,” Patterson says. Follow with a bold or matte lip shade.

If you struggle with dark circles or your eyes are deep-set, a great concealer is a must-have, says Patterson. “Make your eyes appear larger and brighter, line the lower rim with a creamy nude waterproof pencil,” she says.

Healthy skin is the basis of all great looks, so Patterson suggests a new year pledge to upgrade skin care. She says drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are a start, but she suggests adding a boost to your everyday routine with a microderm scrub cleanser used once a week and a peptide wrinkle-relaxing créme. “Apply to your face and neck in an upward motion every night or twice daily if your skin is especially dry” she says.

Some people need extra help in fighting the signs of aging. Thinning hair is rough for everyone, but it can be excruciating for women. Dr. Larry Chang is using a new technique at his offices in Newark and Rehoboth. He draws patients’ blood then puts it through a machine to isolate its platelet rich plasma, which he injects into the scalp under the hair follicles. “PRP is your own body’s platelets and growth factors,” Chang says. “Injecting it under the hair follicles increases blood flow and growth in that area.”

Chang also has a new fat-fighting tool: UltraShape Power. The device uses ultrasound energy to destroy fat cells, and is especially effective on the abdomen, Chang says. It isn’t right for everyone, but cosmetic surgeons have many options for non-invasive enhancements. Chang’s biggest piece of advice is to find a qualified cosmetic surgeon to consult.

It’s a long year. There’s plenty of time.

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