Sometimes it’s the simple things. Baby steps. At a time when many feel overwhelmed by New Year resolutions requiring us to do something, here is a list of very simple (relatively) changes that could reap major health benefits. Rather than adding things to do, avoid things on the list and 2011 will be a better year. Things to avoid, Number 10: The Sofa Wii game consoles notwithstanding, the sofa (and all things you plant your backside on) makes the list of things to avoid in 2011. Inactivity kills mind and body. A small increase in movement will reward you with health benefits. Something as mundane as fidgeting can burn calories and mean the difference between fit or fat, according to a study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic. So stay off the sofa for just one 30-minute TV show a day and do something active; you’ll do a body good. 9. Personal care products One of the most unregulated industries in civilization, mystery chemicals comprise these unguents of society. Deodorants, shaving creams, makeup, shampoos, skin creams and the like deliver untold ingredients into your body. Remember, skin absorbs nearly everything you put on it. As one doctor said to me, “Don’t put anything on your body you wouldn’t eat, because it will end up on the inside anyway.” 8. Avoid trusting “them” You know who “they” are: the USDA, the FDA, the CDC, the “research;” any and all institutions that appear to be protecting the public interest and health. They aren’t. They are protecting investments. Quote Ronald Reagan: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” 7. Eating Out Some of my best friends are restaurateurs. One told me, “If you are dining out, you’re not eating healthy.” True. A commercial venture chooses ingredients for commercial reasons, read: profit. Who knows the quality or healthfulness of everything from cooking oils to spices? Any idea the grams of salt in that exquisite blackened trout? 6. Cell Phones Remember the 2005 movie Thank You for Smoking , about a lobbyist for the tobacco industry? He battled the reality that smoking is bad for you by doing his best media spin. By the end of the film, the tobacco industry collapses under the weight of truth and he is forced to find other work. The final scene shows him in an office pitching his skills to executives in the cell phone industry. It’s coming. There is no way that the massive doses of electromagnetic radiation from all our communication devices is completely benign. And like tobacco, we’re addicted to them. Avoid the radiation. Avoid your cell phone. Avoid electro-pollution in 2011. 5. Water You can’t avoid water and stay alive. But you can avoid much of the poison in water by getting a simple reverse osmosis filter system for drinking water (cheap as $18/month.) Just last week, the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged we are being poisoned by what was supposed to be a health benefit: fluoride. If you want it out of your water (along with scads of other poisons,) avoid plain water. Bottled is not the solution. Get a tap and shower filter and avoid polluted water. 4. Processed food Especially avoid processed meat (nearly all the kind in the store). The World Cancer Research Fund says there is no safe level of human consumption of processed meat containing sodium nitrate. All processed food is dead, concocted and simply an assemblage of industrial ingredients. Good chance if we saw how industrial potato chips, bread, cereals, and so on were made, we’d never buy them. Pretty good rule of thumb is that if it’s not sold or packaged in its own skin, (e.g. veggies, fruit,) use with caution. Cardboard or cellophane? Move to the back, please. 3. Hospitals Even Obama acknowledges being in hospital is hazardous to your health. Data confirms over 100,000 people a year die needlessly in hospitals. Going to hospital should be avoided like, well, the plague. Many doctor visits are good to avoid, too. Studies estimate up to 80 percent of doctor visits are unnecessary and are for mild, self-limiting, non-urgent conditions that require no medical intervention. Seems that avoiding hospitals and doctors for non-emergencies can lower the risk of infection and death. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1.7 million contract infections in hospital. Organizations familiar with the problem (like HospitalInfection.org) claim the number is far greater, perhaps three or four times that. 2. Drugs Drugs kill, but not so much the illegal ones. Prescription drugs are the most abused category of drugs causing death. A Florida study found that prescription drugs kill 300 percent more people than heroin, methamphetamine or cocaine combined. Competent doctors suggest drugs should be a stopgap measure. But when you read about 8-year-olds on blood pressure meds, you gotta ask a few questions. Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson, Brittany Murphy and other hundreds of thousands who aren’t as famous died from prescription drugs. When it comes to drugs and avoiding them, if you’re on drugs already, rely on the person who got you hooked on them to get you off them. That means the doc. Don’t rely on anyone else for that. Drugs are serious business. The answer would seem to be to avoid them and their unhealthful consequences for 2011. 1. Chemicals There are over 83,000 chemicals on the EPA’s master list and an estimated 60,000 more that are unaccounted for. Up to 100,000 new chemicals have been introduced since 1950. Few are tested for safety before use in everything from incense, candles, room deodorizers, plastics, clothing, food, furniture and nearly everything you can imagine. Even a natural product like wood is treated with chemicals. Learn to avoid these powerful agents in every way possible. Be well.