Nourish your mind, body and wallet this new year

Tips for becoming your healthiest and wealthiest self in 2024


As each new year begins, it’s customary to set resolutions for the year ahead. Now, as the first month of the year comes to a close, it’s a good time to check in and make sure we’re sticking to those goals, or perhaps even adjusting them to be more attainable. Of course, we all want to be as healthy as we can be, both physically and financially, but it can be hard to determine practical steps to take toward achieving goals that may seem difficult or far off.

For those who may be feeling overwhelmed, or who may have set goals that aren’t as realistic as they initially seemed, City Pulse reached out to local health professionals and fitness-minded financial advisers, who offer some tips for building healthy habits and sticking to them. Their advice includes ways in which they’ve found balance in their professional and personal lives, how they stay motivated when setbacks occur and the symbiotic relationship between physical health, mental well-being and financial responsibility.


Grace  Braatz-Opper financial planner

‘It’s never too early or too late to start investing in your future’

Roxanne Frith for City Pulse
Roxanne Frith for City Pulse


Last year, Top of the Town voters selected Grace Braatz-Opper as the top financial planner in Greater Lansing.

It’s easy to see why. Sitting at a booth at Pablo’s Mexican Restaurant in Old Town, the Lansing native was all smiles as she discussed her work as a financial representative for Modern Woodmen of America, a position she’s held since 2015.

“My youngest client is about 4 days old right now, and my eldest client is about 98,” she said. “It’s never too early or too late to start investing in your future.”

Recently, she’s noticed a growing number of people booking appointments based on educational reels or videos they saw on social media apps like TikTok.

“In general, the internet seems to have brought a lot more knowledge out to the forefront. In a weird way, TikTok, especially, has been one of the most helpful tools for educating people and gaining a broader audience for all the things that we do,” she said.

One recent example came from within Braatz-Opper’s own family. After relatives watched a reel about the benefits of setting up a Roth IRA, they asked her to help them get started.

“Statistically, people will spend more time planning for a two-week vacation than for retirement. That’s staggering, because retirement is essentially a maybe 20-to-30-year vacation,” she said. “So, when I get people who come in and want to learn more about the options they have to invest in their future selves, I see it as a step in the right direction.”

New clients often don’t have a clear idea of what their financial goals are. As they start to work through the process of defining them, it can sometimes lead to difficult, but necessary, conversations.

 “A lot of the time, I’ll be sitting down with people in a relationship who have never even talked to each other about things like retirement planning or life insurance. If one of them were to pass away tomorrow, what does that look like? That’s a hard conversation to have,” she said.

That’s a shame, she noted, as life insurance “is an expense that, on the surface level, might seem frivolous, but it’s one that could have one of the biggest impacts on someone’s family and goes way further than just the initial spending price.”

When she’s not balancing her clients’ budgets, Braatz-Opper strives to maintain balance in her own life. For her, this includes getting out and being active. As a child, she earned her black belt in karate and participated in volleyball, swimming, kickboxing and barre, a ballet-inspired group fitness regimen. More recently, she’s gotten into a habit of playing pickleball several days a week.

“Physical, financial and even emotional or mental health all work in a symbiotic relationship with each other. When you’re taking care of yourself in those areas, you feel good, and when you feel good, you do good,” she said.

“Wherever you’re at with finance, fitness or anything else, it’s easy to think that it just is what it is. But the mental thought process behind it is more important than what’s actually going on with the money,” she added. “Because if you’re not thinking about it, or if you maybe didn’t grow up in an environment with the right thought processes, then it can affect your life, your relationship — your entire lifestyle.”


Annie Giupponi therapist

‘When we establish a habit of being kind to ourselves, we are much more able to cope with whatever might happen or not happen in the future’

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Many tend to think of investing in the form of financial instruments like stocks and bonds, but working to build a well-cultivated mind can be equally life changing.

That’s where professional therapists like Annie Giupponi, who launched her Lansing-area practice Rooted Counseling in 2017, come in.

Giupponi works with a variety of clients, but her specialty lies in eating disorders and body-image issues. Through her work, she’s seen how negative social comparison, often fueled by what we see online, can take a toll on mental health.

“We’re now seeing snapshots and highlights of other people’s lives at an unbelievable rate. It’s not just one or two people we’re comparing ourselves to, either. It could be thousands across the world,” she said. “That level and range of inputs can be overwhelming because our brains aren’t really equipped to handle or understand that much information at once.”

The key, she said, is to actively monitor one’s own limits — whether that’s when scrolling online, working out or planning a big purchase — and find a personal equilibrium.

“I encourage people to notice when they start to feel bad about themselves, or when their body starts to feel really tense or overwhelmed. That’s a sign that, ‘Hey, it’s probably good for me to step back for a minute, and I can check back in again tomorrow,’” she said.

When one does take a moment to reflect on their needs, Giupponi added that it’s best to avoid “getting too black and white with everything.”

“The second we say things like, ‘I’m only going to do social media for 15 minutes a day,’ ‘I’m not going to compare myself to that person’ or ‘I’m going to do this diet,’ we’re setting ourselves up to not do that thing perfectly, which can add to those feelings of failure and shame,” she said. “What I encourage folks to do instead is to think about what would serve them well. I think checking in with our bodies and giving ourselves some gentle attention is helpful.”

The same idea applies to the task of finding a consistent fitness routine, which Giupponi cited as an important outlet for dealing with cognitive overload.

“When we picture exercise, we tend to picture running on a treadmill or burning a certain number of calories. Instead, we should be focusing on what movements are good for our specific bodies, because that could not be running on a treadmill. It could be playing basketball with the kids, dancing with your friends or going for a walk,” she said.

The point is to get moving, period. 

“Movement is important for helping us stay balanced. It doesn’t have to be focused on looking a certain way or changing your body size,” she said.

Above all, she said, putting in effort to “focus on self-compassion” is the first step toward realizing one’s goals in every aspect of their life.

“When we establish a habit of being kind to ourselves — rather than feeling good when things go well and bad when they don’t — we are much more able to cope with whatever might happen or not happen in the future,” she said.


Nick Nauta financial planner

‘Whatever your goal is, make it routine and start building a habit’

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo


When Nick Nauta moved to the Lansing area in 2006 to start his career as a financial planner, it took him a few years to find his footing. To him, the profession appeared to be all about making money, which, in his mind, wasn’t the most important aspect of planning one’s finances. Most people don’t have a whole lot of money to spare, after all, and they’re often the ones who need a guiding hand the most.

Nauta, a financial planner with Lansing’s Shotwell Rutter Baer since 2019, has since found his bearings, both professionally and personally. Along the way, he’s had a couple of children. As the years go on, he strives to maintain a balance between these priorities, but he also takes the time to maintain his own health.

Whether one’s goal is to start saving more money, building fitness or developing new skills, Nauta said it takes about three months to develop a consistent habit. In any case, he said it’s best to start small.

“Whatever your goal is, make it routine and start building a habit,” he said.

In terms of finance, he said, “Even if it’s a small amount of money, if you automatically take some and put it into a savings account outside of your regular accounts, you’re much more likely to consistently build that up and continue to do so until it’s something you no longer think about much.”

Another important factor in promoting both financial and physical well-being is to avoid shortcuts. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, Nauta said.

Take cryptocurrency, a recent trend that has hooked people of all income levels, many of whom are looking for a shortcut to the good life.

“Finance isn’t really a trendy place, and the trends are usually the things that you should stay away from,” he said. “Living below your means is always more important. Don’t try to time the market, don’t try to be smarter, just play the long game and invest and you’ll usually end up better off.”

Nauta, a vegan who stays in shape through CrossFit, a popular branded workout regimen established in 2000, wakes up at about 6 every morning to work out for about an hour. He also competes recreationally in the Mid-Michigan Men’s Soccer League, which he described as “old man soccer.”

“It’s so routine now that even when I don’t want to get up, I’m just getting up anyway because I’m so used to it,” he said. “What I tell people is to find what they enjoy doing because it’s a whole heck of a lot easier to get up at 6 a.m. if you’re actually going to enjoy it versus dreading it.

In trying to stay as healthy as possible, Nauta said factors beyond exercise regimens, like consistency of diet and sleep patterns, are also important considerations.

“Another habit I try to live by that’s super important is I drink a crap-ton of water, usually about a gallon a day,” he said. “When you get the basics right, the rest starts to get a lot easier.”


Anne Thompson  dietician

‘Food is a need, and that need has to be supported each day, just like getting adequate sleep’

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo


Starting off a new year with a new diet is an admirable pursuit, but is it the best method for adopting habits that can be sustained for a lifetime?

According to Anne Thompson, lead dietician for Michigan State University’s Campus Health Services, the answer is no.

“While change can be positive, it’s important to be aware of diet culture and health misinformation that can lead to harmful or dangerous diet trends, which can negatively impact our attitudes and behaviors related to food, eating, weight and physical activity,” she said.

She cited that up to 95% of people who lose weight through a diet will regain that weight within five years. Roughly half will end up at a higher weight than they were before the diet.

“Diets that promise rapid weight loss by restricting calories or eliminating entire categories of foods are not sustainable long term and can lead to weight cycling,” she said. “That means if you decide to diet this year, you have a better chance of experiencing weight regain than long-term weight loss.”

When someone deprives themselves of food, it often comes at the cost of their own cognitive functions, “creating difficulty concentrating and a strong preoccupation with food, which can lead to intense food cravings and binge-eating behaviors,” Thompson said.

“You don’t fail the diet, the diet fails you. That’s because dieting behaviors can damage our metabolic, physical, emotional and psychological health,” she said. “If it requires ignoring your hunger signals and applying strict food rules, you’re not eating for well-being.”

Measures like weight and body mass index are also “not good predictors of overall health,” she said. Instead, she suggested an alternative approach known as eating competence, which she described as an “evidence-based, non-diet approach that focuses on developing a more positive relationship with food.”

She emphasized three important strategies for those looking to become competent eaters. First, she said, “Prioritize reliable meals and snacks at regular times throughout the day.” Next, start paying greater attention to your own hunger patterns and appetite. Finally, “Trust your body to stabilize at a weight that’s most natural for you.”

“When you’re eating competent, you’re likely to choose a variety of foods without having to put pressure on yourself to ‘eat healthy’ because you know you’ll have another opportunity to eat again at the next meal or snack later in the day,” she said.

She doubled down on the importance of consistent meals, rather than focusing on what foods are “good” or “bad.”

“Placing value judgments on food in this way can take the joy out of eating and lead to feelings of guilt and shame. Eating for well-being is flexible. It can look like planning three meals with snacks, or choosing to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day,” she said. “Food is a need, and that need has to be supported each day, just like getting adequate sleep.”


Jose YANEZ financial planner

‘Slow and steady wins the race’

Roxanne Frith for City Pulse
Roxanne Frith for City Pulse


For Jose Yanez, owner of south Lansing’s Full Circle Financial Planning, the key to building a healthy exercise regimen is being aware of one’s limits.

“I used to be the type of person that went hard on the basketball court and in every workout that I did,” he said. “But what I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older and started working with a trainer is that slow and steady wins the race. We must let our bodies recover; if we don’t, we’re prone to injury and burnout.”

Yanez works hard to stay healthy, playing basketball and working out with a personal trainer twice per week, but he’s learned to not let unreachable fitness goals dictate his mindset. As he put it, fitness is about “progress, not perfection.”

“Just like personal finance, health and fitness is about creating habits and sticking with them. It’s hard, and there are weeks that I knock it out of the park and some weeks I struggle, but I try to prioritize movement. So, on the days that I’m struggling and don’t make it to basketball, I’ll go for a walk or ride the bike at home just to get some movement, because it always makes me feel better.”

Yanez has always been passionate about basketball, but he recognizes that not everyone has a lifelong connection with a particular sport or activity. For those who are looking to establish a new fitness routine, he recommends taking the time to try new things in order to find something enjoyable.

“Just like saving money, it’s easy to put other things before exercise, especially when you don’t love it. So, I try to do things that I enjoy, like playing basketball,” he said. “Move in any way that makes you feel good. That could be stretching and yoga or just going for a walk. Over time, you’ll build those healthy habits.”

He emphasized that there’s no better time than the present to establish healthy routines, whether physical or financial.

“You need to start somewhere,” he said. “It’s important to understand that the younger you start, the better off you will potentially be.”

In terms of financial planning, he recommends identifying long-term priorities and adjusting saving habits in order to meet them.

“Any time you get any extra money, like a tax refund, a raise at work or an inheritance, you’ll already know where and how to invest it for saving,” he said. “Many times, we spend frivolously and don’t consider our long-term needs, and that affects our ability to save.”

With that said, he recognizes that unexpected expenses are often a fact of life.

“While retirement and long-term goals are the pillar of financial planning, it also takes into consideration short-term needs, like buying a new car or saving for a down payment on a home,” he said. “If goals and priorities are laid out and planned, you have a higher likelihood of developing the saving-early-and-often habit and a higher likelihood of financial success, however that may look for you.”


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