I get the premise. New year, new start, make some changes. The overall premise is good, but it rarely seems to work from those that I see make resolutions. “I’m going on a diet – no more pizza!” – lasts for a few weeks, and then it’s over. “I’m going to the gym!” – usually lasts for the first 2-3 weeks, and then the gym is empty again. So why is it that these resolutions fail? Here’s my take…
To make a big change in your life, you have to want to do it. Usually, if you try to do anything because someone else says so, it’s generally not going to work out. So making a resolution because it’s New Year’s and that’s what people do on New Year’s…it’s not necessarily because you want to do it. And then, when you fail at your resolution, you’re sometimes left feeling like you lost which takes the additional motivation away. And then you’re left back where you started.
So instead, I choose to make lifestyle changes throughout my year, not just once a year. And I make more tangible decisions with more reachable goals. Here is a list of some of the changes I make often throughout the year.
Resolution #1: Strive to continuously eat better
I try to eat well most of the time, I do. I make my food more than I eat out, I try to eat high in fiber and protein and low in grains…but I don’t prohibit myself from eating things like pizza and burritos. For me, if I try telling myself I can’t have something, it just makes me want it more…unless it’s on a realistic timetable. For instance – sometimes I allow myself to have pizza, and I indulge in 4 slices…and it’s delicious. Then, I find myself the next day craving a California burrito, so I say okay…I’ll let this slide too. Then I get a craving for In&Out…and I give in. Before I know it, I’m indulging left and right and I feel a little out of control. I’m craving junk, and I feel like crap. So, what I do is create a short timeline to get it back under control. No pizza for a month. Three days of eating only salads and eggs. No potato chips – only veggie snacks. This allows my body time to reset – to stop craving the junk and start craving the greens again. And, the incentive that if I eat better for the next 30 days I can have pizza is a great motivator. I’m not depriving myself; I’m just prolonging my indulgence. And you know what I find often? At that 30 days, I don’t always want the pizza anymore. This is a much more tangible process that I’ve found works for me, but the main premise is that you have to find what works for you, and be realistic about it. Don’t set completely unattainable goals, because if you do that you will likely fail and then you’ll feel like you can’t make the change, when really, you just need to make smaller changes to get towards the larger change.
Also, I recently sent my mom a food and exercise journal for Christmas, and she loves it! She said it’s been helping her to keep track of things and get a better understanding of how to eat better. So if the first part doesn’t work, maybe try that!
Resolution #2: Stop being so negative and judgmental
It’s easy really to judge people. You see someone in some ridiculous shoes and you think “What the heck are you thinking!” You see a mother yelling at her kids and you assume she’s a terrible mother. Someone cuts you off in traffic and you yell and swear at them for being an incompetent ahole. These reactions are easy and natural. But the harder thing to do is to take a moment to reflect on what’s actually happening. Maybe that person just really like those shoes – leave them alone to enjoy them! There’s a lot more ridiculous things in this world than shoes. Maybe that mother just found out some bad news and she’s more on edge than normal – maybe she’s a wonderful mother having a bad day. Maybe that person who cut you off in traffic is running late for a meeting and if they don’t make it in time, they’re going to get fired (okay, extreme, but you get the point). The point is, everyone is fighting their own battles. Everyone is going through things that we don’t see every single day. Rather than be angry at them, try to step back for a moment and consider what might be going on. And even if that’s not the case, even if they really are an incompetent ahole, isn’t it better to rise above than stoop down to where they are?
If you haven’t read this story yet, I highly recommend reading it. It’s the story of two parents of two adopted children with disabilities trying to shop in Trader Joe’s. The mother feels completely insecure as she’s trying to make it through the store, but it luckily ends with a wonderful, warm gesture from a Trader Joe’s employee. It allows you to get inside the head of what another person is dealing with. You may have been in that store thinking “oh my gosh, shut those kids up! You’re a terrible parent!” when really, she and her husband were doing the best that they could in that instance.
So in general, this is an easy one, and it’s not an all or nothing thing. Instead, it’s something that you can actively try to do every day. And once you start doing it, you’ll notice that you’re more often able to do it easily. So when that person cuts you off, instead of yelling at them, you’ll just slow down and back off so they can get over. When you see that mom with the screaming kids, you’ll help her pick up the frozen spinach she doesn’t realize she dropped on the floor. And, know that hopefully these small actions will help those people to pay it forward. Everyone needs a little more nice!
Resolution #3: Fitness should be a priority – get to the gym more
So this is a rather tough one, especially if you’re not used to working out. I have been fairly consistent with my workouts over the last few years, so it’s probably a little bit easier for me than some, but I still struggle at times. It’s always easier when you’re used to going than when you’re not, but once you stop going…making it to the gym can be one of the biggest struggles, even for me. I’ll take a week of while on vacation, and then get back and it takes a good 2 weeks for me to get back into the groove. But the one thing that always gets me in the end is how good I feel once I’ve gone.
Now, there are a few steps to getting started that make this easier. First, find something you enjoy doing. I took up running a few years ago…and I hated it. I was doing it because I wanted to see, after never running in my life, if I could get myself to run a mile without stopping…then 3, then 6. And I did, and it was an amazing accomplishment…but it wasn’t sustainable. I joined running groups which helped with accountability, but once I reached the 6 mile mark, I had less motivation to keep going. Especially when I realized that I wasn’t running any faster, people were still passing me…and I felt defeated even with my accomplishment. So, one day, I stopped. But I didn’t stop working out. I had just realized that I really enjoyed going to the gym and lifting weights, I just didn’t want to run beforehand. So, I started going and only lifting. I do a lot of circuit training, so I keep my heart rate up for a good 30-45 minute workout, and this works well for me. I don’t sit there anymore and say “ughhhh I don’t want to do this!” – It’s more “ughhh I feel so lazy, but I know I’ll feel so much better afterwards…okay, I’ll go”. So find something you like – whether it’s yoga, or cycling, or kickboxing – try them out, find what you hate the least, and go for that. Don’t run because you feel like that’s what you should be doing.
The next thing that helps me is again about making deals with myself. Today, maybe I don’t feel so motivated to go, but I should because I had 2 slices of pizza yesterday. Okay, I’ll go today and tomorrow, but then I’m DEFINITELY taking the next day off. And I’m going to have pasta for dinner tonight because I’m going to the gym – otherwise I’d have to have a salad. These kinds of things are okay! You don’t have to jump all in to a life of no food, no fun, all work. Allow yourself a small extra indulgence if you go to the gym (I’m not saying eat a whole cake, but maybe a few small bites). Allow yourself a day or two off. Make small, attainable goals…and go from there.
Resolution #4: Stop spending money on things you don’t need, and start saving and investing more
This one’s tough. I am not one to go and necessarily spend $300 on a purse, but I am one to go buy a purse and 2 pairs of boots for $100. My spending is, in general, reasonable, compared to some people, but it’s still higher than I would like. The toughest part is probably eating out. It’s a social thing, right? Let’s all go grab some dinner and a few drinks…$50 later. Next day, let’s go grab lunch and mimosas…$50 later. It adds up quickly, and it’s sometimes hard to say no. Here are a few things that help me.
Mint.com – have you ever used this? It’s wonderful. You basically tie in all of your credit/savings/checking accounts, and it tracks your spending. It takes a little time to get everything setup properly (i.e. – it may categorize “Ralphs” as shopping, when really it should go under groceries), but once you do this helps to give you a very clear idea of where you’re spending your money each month. You can also set up budgets so that you can see when you’re about to go over. That’s usually when I start turning down invitations to lunch and dinner!
Have your friends over, or go to someone else’s house
– I love hosting, I think it’s in my blood. A few years ago I was unemployed and surviving on very little, and therefore I had no shame in saying “rather than going out, why don’t you all come over here and I’ll make some food and everyone can bring some wine?”…and I still do it to this day. Most of my friends are in their late 20’s or 30’s and don’t have that urge anymore to go to the bar every night, so it usually works out…unless it’s a special event like a birthday. But, maybe you’re not big on hosting – you can still have it at your house and have everyone bring a dish, or maybe one of your friends likes hosting and you can bring the wine. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to NOT go out. This way, instead of spending $10 on an okay glass of wine, you can get a whole bottle of decent wine for $15.
Shop for things on sale
– I love gear. Jackets, tents, backpacks…I love it all. And buying gear can get very expensive. So instead of going to REI for everything (which I also do less now that they don’t have their lifetime warranty), I go to sites like backcountry.com and theclymb.com. Activejunky.com is also pretty awesome because if you go to another retailer site through their site, they’ll give you cash % since they get money from the retailers for the referrals. So on that $100 jacket from backcountry.com, you’ll get $13 back from active junky. Pretty sweet! So, if you’re going to spend…it’s really okay to spend on last season’s sale stuff…it’s really all the same. And then you can get more – AH! Kidding, no…stop spending so much…seriously. Save, and then use it to travel.
So that’s the gist of it. These are some of the things I focus on, but you may have other things that you find important, and that’s great! Just be sure to do things because you want to, not because you feel you should or have to. Make them attainable, and allow your goals to be progressive, not an all or nothing deal. Make it more about a lifestyle adjustment than a diet.
I hope this is helpful!! Oh, and get out there and enjoy the outdoors – the view is much better out there than it is inside!!
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”- Abraham Lincoln