Well, here we are, ladies and gentlemen. The final day of the year 2015. I can't believe how fast this year has flown by. It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in the year.

I've seen a lot of changes happen this year - both in my life and in the lives of family and friends. Some of it has been for the worse, but most of it has been positive. 2015 was a year of growth and I think I'd rate it as a good year overall. But it's always my goal to make the new year better than the last.

Since we're celebrating the New Year, it's only fitting that I bring you all another themed overnight oats recipe. These deliciously sweet Fortune Cookie overnight oats will make a great meal for starting off 2016 on a healthy foot.

Speaking of starting off on a healthy foot, I'm dreading next week at the gym. No, not because it's my New Year's resolution to lose weight. On the contrary, I'm a regular gym nut. And as such, I must say that the gym right after the New Year really sucks. SOOOOOO many New Year's resolution people. It's too crowded and I can't get a machine to save my life. Generally, I tend to avoid the gym and do at-home workouts for the first few weeks of the New Year.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad those people are choosing to better themselves. The issue I have is that no one really sticks to New Year's resolutions. And that's because they're doing them for the wrong reasons.

Why do most people make New Year's resolutions? I'd argue it's because it's the start of a new year - all that "new year, new me" nonsense. Can I be honest with you? I hate New Year's resolutions. Making a commitment just because a holiday rolls around is almost a guaranteed way to ensure you don't stick with it. Why? Because after a few weeks the feeling of the new and shiny year wears off. And we all go back to our lives as usual. Then, before you know it, months have gone by and you haven't been back to the gym. But the next new year is coming soon, so you'll just wait for that.

You see what I'm saying? There's always a reason to put something off or not stick with it if you're not doing it for the right reasons. That being said, making a commitment to better yourself in the new year can be an awesome thing! You just have to know how to keep up with it.

About 6 years ago I was overweight and feeling pretty down on myself around this time of year. So I made the commitment to lose weight and build more self-confidence in the new year. And I Actually stuck with it! I lost the weight, got healthy, and have been so ever since. What was the secret to sticking with this New Year's resolution, you may ask? Well...it wasn't really a New Year's resolution. I just happened to make a decision to change my life around this time of year. Truth is, I could have had the same realizations in the summertime and I would have acted on them then. Because I was that serious. And that, folks, is the secret. Don't make a New Year's resolution. Make a New YOU resolution. Why wait until New Year to better yourself? If you want to make a change, you should do it. And you should stick with it. Sometimes it sucks, but push through and force yourself. Eventually, you build good habits

I'll talk for a little bit about weight loss specifically now. I know many people have other resolutions outside of getting skinnier. But that seems to be the most popular one. So I wanted to give you some tips on what worked for me. Hint: you don't need a diet program and you don't need gimmicky weight loss pills. What you need is commitment and determination. That's it. If you're reading this post and it's not New Year, don't wait! Do this now!

Note this is a recipe for an overall lifestyle change. It's one thing to lose weight. You can be skinny and still be incredibly unhealthy. Changing to a healthy lifestyle ensures you will not only keep the weight off long-term, but also means you will improve your overall well-being.

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~ The Nifty Nerdarella's Tips for a Healthy Life ~

1. Start experimenting with clean eating.

This is a tough one if you're used to eating junk. And it's especially difficult when coming off the holidays which are generally filled with a lot of rich and unhealthy meals. But your eating habits are half the battle when you're trying to get healthy. So start experimenting and find what you like. Clean eating doesn't mean bland eating. The traditional food you think of when dieting comes to mind have no place here. Actually, clean eating means using natural ingredients. You'll be making more things from scratch. But you know what? Food is actually better! And when you eat clean for a while, eventually your body stops craving the junk and sugar as much, and you'll actually crave healthy food. Yes, I'm serious!

There are some recipes on this blog that can get you started. Other blogs I love that offer clean eating recipes: Skinnytaste, Simply Taralynn, The Gracious Pantry, POPSUGAR Fitness, Get Healthy U, Gimme Some Oven. And these are just a few! A quick search on Pinterest will turn up a TON of delicious recipes.

2. But don't be afraid to cheat occasionally.

For those of you who have an insane sweet tooth like me, I swear by the cheat day during the initial phases of weight loss. Cutting off all junk food cold turkey is just not realistic. We all have cravings. If you deprive yourself, eventually you will binge.

When I was hard-core in weight loss mode I gave myself one cheat day a week. Usually, it was Saturday. And I looked forward to it every week. I treated it kinda like a reward. If I slipped up during the week I didn't get my cheat day. But if I met my clean eating goals throughout the week I could eat what I wanted on Saturday.

This will look different for everyone. Maybe your cheat is a dessert every night when you've eaten clean the rest of the day. Maybe something different entirely. Find what works for you. But don't deprive yourself completely.

Now that I've gotten to the weight I want, I subscribe to the 80/20 rule. Eat clean 80 percent of the time and allow yourself a treat 20 percent of the time. And I no longer use food as a reward mechanism. This is key for a long-term healthy life. You should not look at food as a reward for anything. Likewise, you shouldn't be afraid of food. This journey is all about changing your relationship with food and with yourself.

3. Set realistic goals, and ways to track those goals.

This will look different for everyone. But the most important this to remember is to be realistic. Set goals that challenge you, but not ones that are impossible. For example, you should not set a goal to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks. This is unrealistic. You will likely not meet that goal. And when you don't, you will be more likely to get discouraged and give up. Dropping that much weight that fast is also incredibly unhealthy and leads to yo-yo weight gain/loss.

Instead, make a pledge to lose a few pounds a week, and have a way to track that to ensure you're meeting those goals. Some people use a scale to do this. For me, it was a trip to the mall each Saturday to try on dresses. Because, for a while, you won't actually look in the mirror and see yourself as having lost weight. But clothing doesn't lie. And you will know if you're dropping sizes.

4. Find an exercise routine that you enjoy, and stick with it!

Again, this will look different for everyone. Take some time to try any and every exercise regimen you can think of until you land on one you really enjoy. Major key. You won't stick with your fitness if you're bored or hating life. And the possibilities are endless. I promise you there is something out there you'll like doing. For me, it's solo gym time and running. Time spent at the gym is not only my time to get fit, it's also my stress-reliever. As-is running. There is nothing better to me than a nice long run through the park on a cool day.

Also, experiment with working out solo and with a partner to see which works best for you. Some people find they need the motivation of a friend with them. I prefer to be alone and retreat into my thoughts when I work out. Everyone is different.

Another awesome thing about working out: you'll not only get healthier, you'll have more energy and you'll feel better all-around. Happier. Because exercise released endorphins.

Exercise is similar to the clean eating point, in that it is essential to building a healthy lifestyle, but it is also difficult to stick with. The best advice I can give you on this one if to literally force yourself. After a few weeks, this will become routine and it will be much easier to get up the motivation. And eventually, your body will crave the exercise. Once you hit that point it is much easier to stick with it. But you have to force yourself to get over that hump.

Some blogs to inspire your exercise regime: BodyRock, Fitness Blender, Get Healthy UPOPSUGAR Fitness

5. Reshape how you see yourself.

Because you are beautiful. You may not see it, but others do. So stop with any negativity. During this initial period, in particular, you should really take to heart any compliments people give you. "You've lost weight." "You look great." etc. Think about that as you look at yourself in the mirror. In the beginning, even as you are losing weight, you won't see yourself as doing so. Some people call it ghost weight, but basically, you will still see yourself at your old weight. Don't allow this to push you into any unhealthy habits. This is why trying on clothes while you are shrinking is a great way to track. You are beautiful. Learn to love yourself for who you are and you will be so much happier.

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Any questions? Feel free to ask away. I'm happy to offer more tips and support based on my own experience. And check out the overnight oats recipe below to start off 2016 on a deliciously clean note.

Here's wishing you a fun and safe New Year filled with family, friends, and love. Be safe tonight, folks. 2016, here we come!

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~ Ingredients ~

½ c. rolled oats
½ c. unsweetened almond milk (or your milk of choice)
1 tsp. chia seed (optional)
1 tsp. flax seed (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. butter extract
1 pinch ground cinnamon
½ tsp. stevia
1 Tbsp. chopped pecans (optional)

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~ Directions ~

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar or other sealable container and let set in the refrigerator overnight, or at least for a few hours.