It's a new year and that always makes me think about the idea of new year resolutions. I like to spend the weeks around Christmas and New Year cleaning-up things, like my email inbox, finances, and work schedule and planning for the new year. But I do this not because it's a new year. I do it because my work-life is slower around the holidays and it makes me feel better knowing everything remains in order while my personal life gets busier for a few weeks.
I don't make new year resolutions because they're bullshit. It's six years ago this week that I resolved to get into shape and lose a lot of weight. A few weeks before Christmas, I declared a new year resolution: lose 80 pounds in 2008. But what I did leading up to January 1st revealed what a sham this was. I devoured all of the cookies, fudge, and pie. I snacked on Christmas themed chocolates. I ate a lot of cheese and wings on New Year's Eve while throwing back drinks. I told myself I deserved this because, come January 1st, I would have to swear-off it all for a good long time.
The problem with that was I could have started adjusting my food intake and planning the changes in my life as soon as I decided to lose the weight. I put it off because it was the end of the year. What a great, if cliché, resolution for 2008 I had here. And wouldn't it be cool to track the weight loss starting with month #1? How even and clean! I told myself a lot of lies to explain why I was having second slice of pie at Thanksgiving when I wanted to lose almost 1/3 of my body weight.
Then came 2008 and I was unprepared. I didn't know where to start. I didn't know how much I should eat or was currently eating on a daily basis. I didn't even know how to begin an exercise routine for my fitness level. And so I decided I would spend a week learning the basics, which included eating regularly for a few days so I could track what I was eating to maintain my 260 pounds. I felt my self-esteem plummet. After the first day this seemed like another excuse to put-off changing my ways. That was until I actually looked at my data and realized I had had a solid idea.
It wasn't the most scientific study, but averaged out over three days, I found I was eating almost 4,000 calories each day. That was just over the caloric intake necessary to maintain my weight, so that explained how I had raced towards 260 and then kept on steadily gaining weight each month. Then I did some push-ups. I managed three. I was never able to bang-out dozens of push-ups, but three was heartbreaking. I realized I had ruined myself and that was what I truly needed.
My new year resolution was a failure from conception. When I found my motivation, that was when things changed. I threw myself into learning all I could about what my body needed from me. I learned I could do a lot of simple things to improve my health if I could just muster the self-discipline to stick with the decisions. I gave myself easy goals: lose 50 pounds by June 22nd (my birthday, and I could enjoy some cake as a reward) and lose 80 pounds by Thanksgiving. I lose 100 pounds by the end of May.
So I don't believe in new year resolutions. I believe in making resolutions at any time. If you want to change something, prepare yourself with whatever you need (knowledge, gear, money--whatever) and make the change. A new year sucks for health-related resolutions anyway. It's cold and dark outside. You can't enjoy a nice walk or a job. You have to join a gym or wear layers and go outside. It's all inconvenient, expensive, and not fun. Spend the winter tweaking your diet, shoveling snow for some cardio and exercise, and learning. Then apply your new knowledge in the spring. Whatever you want to do, don't wait for a new year to do it. Who knows if it'll be possible in a month, three months, or six. Start on your goals right away.
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