Although you shouldn't try to give up all your vices overnight, New Year's can be a good time to start to change. To make sure you're setting realistic goals, try following these principles:
*Start with a sense of humor and perspective. One indulgence is not the end of the world. Don't use it as a reason to go hog wild.
*Identify the wheres and whens of the behavior you want to modify. Keep a record: "I eat every time I go into the kitchen." Once aware of the circumstances in which you go overboard, begin to limit or change them. Make new behavioral rules: "I will only eat sitting down at the table."
*Find other ways to cope with boredom, anxiety or the blues. If you smoke, drink, eat or take drugs excessively in reaction to stress, consider alternatives that will calm you down (from relaxation techniques to dancing). But if the stress results from a chronically difficult situation, you may need to solve those problems, not just distract yourself.
*Establish new social rituals to guide you. Bulimics binge in solitude, as do many alcoholics. But the path to moderation is to learn how to eat, drink or exercise in a social context.
*Determine your course of moderation and stick to it -- moderately. Most researchers agree that the healthiest average level of drinking is about one or two drinks daily. Above that, you have a higher risk of cirrhosis of the liver; and, curiously, below that amount the risk of heart attack rises slightly (nondrinkers are 30 percent more likely than moderate drinkers to have heart attacks). But people differ in their reactions to alcohol. Standards of moderation are also different for pregnant women, partygoers who have to drive home or anyone on medication that doesn't mesh with liquor.