Chances are marijuana can help you achieve your health and fitness goals for the New Year due to its unique effects that balance human health. Even if you think your marijuana use is solely recreational, if you are ingesting cannabinoids, then you’re receiving health benefits and preventative protection against diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. That’s what cannabis does, regardless of whether you have a doctor’s recommendation or not.

Resolve to try these suggestions, take advantage of health-positive benefits and use cannabis strategically to thrive in a more productive and vital life.

1. Smoking Pot Can Help Weight Loss

It might seem counterintuitive, since marijuana is famous for inducing the munchies, but pot can actually help you maintain a lower weight. Despite consuming more calories overall than their abstaining counterparts, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine confirmed that marijuana users have smaller waist circumferences (1 1/2 inches smaller on average than non-cannabis users), higher levels of HDL cholesterol that lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and are less likely to develop Type II diabetes. So toke up!

2. Getting Baked Makes Healthy Foods More Satisfying

Since marijuana heightens sensory perception, being high can help you savor the clean, natural taste of healthy, low fat foods. If you set your intentions, moderate cannabis use can assist in mindful eating. Slow down, relax and use your buzz to enhance and appreciate the unique aroma, taste and texture of your food. Chew slowly, visualizing how the food will transform into energy, making your body strong and vibrant. Smoke or vape a few hits of good strong weed, and even crunchy raw celery and perfectly steamed broccoli will transform into tantalizing treats! 

3. Being High Makes Workouts Less Boring

Long touted by athletes, the benefits of smoking marijuana before workouts include making the routine more exciting, the time pass more quickly and allowing exercisers to get into the zone more easily. Search the net and you’ll even find an old pic of Arnold Schwarzenegger toking up during a weight lifting session. Smoking marijuana didn’t seem to hurt Arnold’s athletic prowess, nor that of Michael Phelps, Shaun White, Nick Diaz and countless others. Try it to transform workouts from an annoying chore to a fun outing you can actually look forward to. 

Here’s an added bonus: not only can weed make your workout better, your workout can make your weed better! A 2013 University of Sydney study found that marijuana user’s THC levels increased by 15 percent after cardiovascular exercise.

4. Use Pot as a Reward

Incentivize yourself to achieve fitness goals by using cannabis as a reward. Set a workout benchmark for that day, be it a certain number of laps or reps, completing an aerobics class, a designated distance to hike, walk or run—whatever achievement challenges you. Whatever it is, hold off on indulging in ganja until AFTER you have completed the goal. That’s some powerful motivation to get you up and moving!

5. Soothe Sore Muscles with Cannabis Topicals

Not only can Mary Jane inspire you to do more productive workouts, she can help afterwards by soothing sore muscles. The market is exploding with all types of cannabis topicals which help ease aches and pains. You can find rubs, balms, creams, salves, lotions and even bath salts, all infused with marijuana’s healing properties. Science has shown us that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD can be absorbed through the skin, so while marijuana-infused topicals won’t get you high, they can help ease the pain portion of the “no pain, no gain” equation.

6. Raw Cannabis Juice as a Dietary Supplement

One of the most cutting-edge health trends, juicing raw cannabis provides benefits without psychoactivity. Since there is no THC in the raw plant, only THC-A (or acid), you won’t get high, but consuming raw cannabis will deliver mega-doses of powerful antioxidants, along with healthy chlorophyll and most of the plant’s aromatic terpenes, which also have therapeutic benefits. Mendocino County physician, Dr. William Courtney, is one of the biggest proponents of raw juicing, recommending using only organic cannabis leaves, which can be mixed into salads or blended into smoothies. In order to juice fibrous cannabis fan leaves, the sticky plants will require a masticating, wheat-grass type juicer for extraction. Combine cannabis leaves with carrots, apples, cucumber, ginger and other raw fruits and vegetables for a tasty way to start your day!

Raw cannabis is not for everyone, including patients with kidney or gallbladder problems, patients suffering from hypercalciuria, patients on prescribed medications contraindicated by grapefruit or pomegranate juice or patients using blood-thinning drugs, such as Coumadin. When in doubt, check with a knowledgeable, pot-friendly doctor first.

7. Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Pharmaceutical Drugs

Without a doubt, alcohol wreaks tons of damage on society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year alone saw more than 30,700 American deaths as a result of alcohol-induced causes, excluding deaths from drunk driving and other accidents, and homicides committed under the influence. One of the best defenses against over indulging in alcohol is marijuana! In fact, it can even help alcoholics stay off the sauce all together.

A 2010 study published in the Harm Reduction Journal found cannabis use doesn’t interfere with successful completion of drug treatment programs and may actually serve as an aid. "Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs" by Amanda Reiman, published in the December 2009 issue of Harm Reduction, investigated the use of marijuana by patients of a San Francisco-based medical marijuana collective. Unsurprisingly, Reiman concluded that many cannabis patients engage in substitution by using cannabis as an alternative to alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs. Beyond substitution, new research shows that cannabis fights addiction at a biological level by blocking receptors in the brain responsible for cravings.  

8. Start Vaping and Smoke Less

As healthy as ingesting cannabis may be, many people still have concerns about inhaling smoke. While there is zero link between smoking marijuana and lung cancer, smokers do report higher incidences of other breathing disorders such as bronchitis, throat irritation and increased phlegm. Vaporizing, which allows you to inhale cannabis vapor without actually combusting it, provides a healthier alternative. You can find a vape for every occasion and budget, from disposable portable vape pens that come preloaded with cannabis oil, to bag style vaporizers that are perfect for passing around at a party.

9. Swap BHO for Solventless Concentrates

Sure, doing dabs can be fun, but according to Dr. Jeffrey Raber of The Werc Shop, one of the cannabis world’s leading testing labs, over 25 percent of random samples contained contaminants. Do you know how pure your extractions are? One way to get rid of chemical residue from the extraction process is to switch to solventless concentrates like kief, bubble or water hash, or rosin. True, this won’t eliminate pesticides that might have been on the plant, but it will avoid the possibility of ingesting residual extraction chemicals like butane.

10. Make Healthier Edibles

Too many commercial edibles come laden with sugar and fat, hardly intended to be healthy fare for everyday consumption. But it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you make edibles at home. Look to savory dishes instead of desserts to lighten your edibles regime. You’ll be rewarded with better tasting edibles as well, since the herbaceous flavor of cannabis more readily compliments spicy and savory dishes. 

Instead of infusing butter with cannabis, use a healthier alternative like coconut oil, which has tremendous health benefits and can be successfully substituted for butter in most baking recipes. Olive oil is another good cannabis infusion carrier. Use it to make a vinaigrette dressing to pour over salad, steamed veggies and fish. 

You can also add decarboxylated kief or hash to recipes and forego making cannabutter or canna-oil entirely. Just bake the kief or hash at 250º F for about 20 minutes, then stir into almost any recipe. So simple!

Cheri Sicard is the author of “Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women” (2015, Seal Press). Her blog is www.CannabisCheri.com