Happy New Year. Right about now, if you’re anything like me, you’re pondering the efficacy and desirability of new years’ resolutions. And if you’re anything like me, and you’ve dabbled in such things in the past, you’ve got a spotty history of success.
There’s nothing magical about the 1-Jan flipping of the calendar, just as there’re no wrong times to turn over a new leaf. But then again there’s some strange comfort in numbers, in knowing that a few million others are resolving right alongside you. And maybe there is something magical about choosing that first day of the year to fix something or lose something or try something new. There are no wrong days for that, true enough, but there probably aren’t any better ones. Symbolically or otherwise.
Still, as I said, the record’s been spotty. That’s my history with resolutions, and I suspect I’m not alone in that.
I’m not entirely sure what my 2013 resolutions amounted to, so it’s difficult to give a progress report. I think I might have resolved to finish a new book sometime throughout the year; if so I’ll take a partial win on that—I completed a novella, at any rate. A pretty short one, actually, so maybe I should just claim a sliver of a win.
To the best of my recollection I didn’t resolve, a year ago, to make that one change so many people resolve to make—the one I’ve resolved to make plenty, on earlier January Firsts, then suffered that spotty follow-through. The phrasing of that resolution varies: get fit, shed pounds, take better care of myself. It’s all the same, though, and the people who pledge to give it a shot, sadly but statistically, have that same spotty likelihood of getting it done and keeping it done.
Statistics be damned, though. It can be done.
It wasn’t a resolution a year ago, but rather a conversation with my doctor in July, that changed things for me. It wasn’t the first time he’d raised the subject, and he’s got my eternal thanks for circling back to it. Family doctors, GPs, have a pretty thankless task in that regard. The majority of their patients need to lose weight. A goodly number of those don’t want to hear about it. At best, it’s an uncomfortable conversation for everyone involved.
The previous time he’d raised the subject I elicited his advice, nodded seriously, then went back to my bad, bad habits. The second time we talked, the problem was more acute. “So what do I need to do?” I asked.
“Carbs,” he said. “Show me someone with a weight problem and I’ll show you someone who has a problem with carbs.”
The other thing about GPs and family doctors is their rush for time. My doctor, lifesaver that he is, didn’t have time to life-coach me much beyond that single sentence. Which made it incumbent upon me to take the next steps—read, learn, then put into practice. I learned pretty quickly that no one should ever shun all carbohydrates. That would mean no fruits, no veggies. As it happened, those two things were to take starring roles in my new-and-improved menu. No, what had to go (or at least be reduced drastically) was refined carbs: anything made from refined flour or refined sugar. A lot of folks will ratchet that up to a “no white foods” rule, to include white potatoes and white rice.
So, in a nutshell: no bread, no pastries, no pasta. No fast food and no sugar-crap-cola. Replace all that with good, fresh, unmeddled-with food, and drink mostly water. Commit to that 90% of the time (assuming you’re not a robot), allow a cheat day here and there, and don’t go ballistic on yourself if you backslide every once in a while.
Of course, my carb-centric formula isn’t the only way to go. We all know there are dozens of ways to do this. All of them can probably be reduced to: Eat better, eat less, exercise more.
Worst thing you can do, however you choose to do it, is to think short-term. To think “diet.” Sorry, but diet doesn’t cut it, because diets end. Only lifestyle changes pay the long-term dividends. You’ve got to commit to changing nothing less than your behavioral make-up. And to keeping it changed.
So. Six months gone, I’m down about forty pounds, and most of my old clothes kind of slide off me. I run roughly a 10K per week, and fiddle about with all sorts of other weight- and cardio-training. I like the spinach salad I have for lunch every day, and the baked fish or what have you for dinner. I miss bread so much I want to weep, so I occasionally cheat and have some. I’m my own coach, and my coach isn’t one of the mean ones. Rather lenient, actually, but the job still gets done.
My point is, it can be done. It’s not easy, and there truly are no shortcuts. There’s also no one who can do it for you. But it can be done.
I imagine the same can be said for anything else you might be resolving to do, or not do, in 2014.No matter what that might be, give it your best shot, and go easy on yourself if you fall a bit short. In fact, if you’re taking suggestions, maybe that’s the best all-purpose New Year’s resolution right there: “I resolve to try my best, as many times as it takes.”