Or perhaps you resolve to not make resolutions. You've failed in the past and you aren't about that useless nonsense of flipping a calendar and waving a magic wand, hoping that you will magically change into someone new. You know yourself well enough to know that change comes slowly, and not because it is tradition when the Gregorian calendar tells us so.
Whatever camp you find yourself in on this day, perhaps you are like many of my clients and friends who find themselves not quite exactly where they'd like to be physically after the head-on collision they've had with the holidays. It all starts so subtly. An extra bag of candy from the grocery store at Halloween because they've got a 2 for 1 sale slides quickly into the eating frenzy and near bake-off of Thanksgiving, which careens us smack into Christmas and Hanukkah, at which point we have given up on the voice of moderation because "it's the holidays" and we'll deal with that later, but now is the time for enjoyment!
Ah yes. Enjoyment. January 1 comes and that luster of "enjoyment" looks like you staring at yourself in your mismatched plaid pajama pants, gazing disgustedly at your puffy face, your unshaven bits (PSA: Hey guys! It's time to shave those beards! No, seriously - the homeless look is now officially out of vogue - unless you're a millennial, then whatever, man, go back to your microbrewery in the basement. We won't bother you while you so creatively express yourself.), and a pile of glorious lumps you have somehow managed to acquire over the last few months. You look aghast, wondering if it is the lighting or if, please God no, let me not really and actually be this hideously ugly.
Okay, that's it. I'm not going to say it to my friends or on facebook, but bruuuh, I have got to do something. And so it begins. You start to reel it in just a little because you know you cannot go on like this.
But what will work? What will bring the success that you crave? (Hint: It's not taking my locker at the gym.)
Will it be to swear off cookies for the rest of your life? Will it be to sweat it out on the ellipitical for three hours a day everyday for the unforeseeable future (a.k.a. until Valentine's Day when they have candy hearts and boxed chocolates for sale)? Will it be to make chard sandwiches for breakfast to punish (I mean, reward) yourself?
If you even have an inkling about the nature of our complicated brains, you will know that these things can only work for a short time. They are not sustainable (especially the chard sandwiches - right, Court?). We are desperate little creatures sometimes and we will resort to absurdities to climb out of our panicked states.
I am not all about that cray cray thang. I believe in making sustainable change slowly, and making it a lifestyle (want more? Hint: YES, YOU DO. Check out my book on Amazon: Just One Thing: Simplifying the Mystery of a Healthy Lifestyle. You can snuggle it on your pillow or frame the cover and hang it on the wall. Blow it up to poster size and put it next to your mirror with a speaking bubble that says, "YOU CAN DO EEET!" Or just read it. Any is fine.). I want you to be able to actually enjoy your life with a cookie, but not be a slave to the sugar god. I want you to be able to look at something (even though it looks completely delicious) and shrug and be able to say, you know, right now I'm just not feeling it. Contrast this with the feeling of you holding that third cookie in your hand, biting down, chewing, and thinking, I don't even really want this. What am I doing right now?!
What works? In my health coaching practice, there is one thing that brings a glowing highlight of attention to what is going on in your life, and where you can study yourself to make good and lasting change. It isn't exercise (although you ought to exercise). It isn't swearing off foods exactly.
It's a food journal.
What?! Yes. A food journal. Let me propose something to you. I know it may seem wild, but just hear me out. I believe that there is a potential that you may have slight cognitive dissonance between what you think you are eating and what you are actually eating, and you won't be able to bridge that gap until you put it in black and white and see for yourself.
My awesome clients have come back to me with amazing revelations. They see that they are desperately in love with tortilla chips. (This is actually a recurring theme among many of them. Read: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.) They see that they are eating about a micro-ounce of protein all day and it suddenly dawns on them why they feel like they got hit by a truck and have energy swings like a cross between a Nanny 911 toddler and your 16 year-old self raging through a tornado of severe PMS. They see that they are surviving on McDonald's and coffee during the day, cheese and crackers for dinner, and three bowls of ice cream before bed. They realize that they are drinking a lot more junk than they thought they were (whether that is the poisonous Coke Zero or Tito's vodka or vanilla caramel lattes from Starbucks).
You can do this old school - pen and paper. You can get an app. (And if you do, for the love of all that is good, do not bother tracking your calories. Counting calories is so Jane Fonda era. What counts is that you're eating real food.) You can do it throughout the day. You can do it at the end of the day. You know what will work for you. I also recommend that you write down a few other things in your food journal: how much sleep you got the night before, your overall mood (on a scale of 1-10), if you took any vitamins that day, and your stress level. Those things will give you a broader picture of what is going on in your life and how your body is responding to things.
Exercise is great and has many benefits for mental health, brain plasticity (by creating BDNF), preventing Alzheimer's, dementia, and increasing overall good mood, but it will not erase and repair your five donut a day habit. Food is first. In my personal guesstimate, I'd say that weight loss is 85% your food and beverage choices and 15% exercise. Exercise comes to tone up the flabby. Exercise is how you get that solid six-pack, but you won't even find that six-pack if you buried it under six layers of bagels and Pop Tarts. Hear me: I do want you to exercise, but I want your exercise to be effective. It is a lot easier to keep something up when you are actually hitting goals and making change than when you shovel ice cream down your pie hole and put yourself back ten steps. You're fighting yourself and that is a losing battle, no matter how you look at it.
I want you to win for 2018. I want you to smash goals. If you're still breathing, you life isn't over. Your race isn't finished. It is not time to give up. You've got stuff to give. You were put on this planet to do something, to help others, to give your talents to change the world. That is a lot easier to do when you have energy, a clear brain, and a body that works optimally. No, it's not everything. Your eternal soul will long outlive your shell, but what you do here and now makes a difference for eternity. Embrace it and go get it.
Peace, love, and let's do this!
p.s. If you'd like to work with me and have someone come along side of you and cheer you on and guide you toward your goals, get in touch with me. It is an honor to watch people grow and change and become who they have wanted to be. I'd love to help. (Send me an email and connect with me: firstname.lastname@example.org) I do Skype as well as in person programs.
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