For many of us, as soon as we wake up in the late morning/afternoon on New Year’s day with terrible morning breath from the vast assortment of sugary cocktails we indulged in last night, mascara smudges on our eyeballs, fingers that smell like french fries from the 3 a.m. fast food run, and general self-hatred, we start to question our life choices that have led us to this ill-fated moment.
Aren’t I supposed to be an adult? Shouldn’t I be more in control of my life? And where in the mother-effing world did I leave my wallet as well as my dignity?
The moment seems perfect for making those New Year’s resolutions we have been mulling over in our brains this holiday season. Those promises to ourselves that will surely change our lives for the better. 2018, baby, here we go.
I definitely have a few of my own:
- Wake up at 6:30am every morning (I have a very bad habit of snuggling with my pup for too long).
- Journal more (a resolution I have failed at for the last eight years in a row).
- Be more “intentional” (whatever that means, definitely not quantifiable).
- Etc, the list is not yet complete.
I am actually a big fan of New Year’s resolutions and goal setting in general. To me the new year feels like a breath of fresh air, a new start. The first day of the year seems like the perfect catalyst for making those changes we have been putting off for too long. This year is the year I will feel like a competent human.
There is also something that bothers me about New Year’s resolutions and that is that they can promote sweeping character changes that are not attainable, realistic, or healthy. Those times when we feel weak and ineffective after stumbling around looking for that damn wallet are the times we tend to make huge and general resolutions, ones that are extremely easy to fail at, which can ultimately make us feel like an even worse human. It is goals like these that can feed on our insecurities, focusing more on the negatives than the positives, and can make it nearly impossible to grow.
New year, new you=crap.
So, back to our initial question, can you guess the numero uno New Year’s resolution?
Yep, that’s right, the top resolution of 2018 is to “lose weight“.
This is unsurprising due to the negative culture we have in the U.S. in terms of weight and body image. We are told that we should have a “flat stomach” and a “thigh gap”, both of which are biologically and physically impossible for most of us. We are also indirectly told that losing weight will allow us to be the person we were always meant to be; that it will ultimately make us happy.
Weight loss is certainly beneficial for many of us and can greatly reduce the risk factors for major disease states like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and more, so I do not want to give the wrong impression that weight loss is bad. But I do not think it is what we should be focused on. Weight loss alone will not bring us happiness. It is my belief that we need to switch our focus from the number on the scale to our overall health. The number on the scale means nothing. It is not indicative of who we are as people, what we are capable of, or if we can be loved or not. For a lot of us, that number can start to take control of our lives, which is a waste of time and energy and does not typically lead to positive lifestyle changes. Allowing our weight to control our every move can cause us to miss out on our lives completely.
So, as opposed to “losing weight”, I’d like to offer a slightly different New Year’s resolution. Let’s make it positive and add to our lives as opposed to taking away from them. Let’s gain health instead of lose weight.
For many of us, losing weight means taking away. Restrictions and dieting are the main way people lose weight. Which, as I have discussed in a previous post, are not sustainable and fail most of the time. When we add healthy practices to our lives, those can often take the place of unhealthy practices. Therefore, we are contributing to our health as opposed to simply taking away what we consider “unhealthy”. I have listed some examples of the differences between taking away versus gaining health below.
- Instead of cutting out carbs, try eating more whole fruits and vegetables.
- Instead of decreasing the amount of calories you are eating, walk around the block for 30 minutes after lunch.
- Instead of getting rid of sugar, eat more fiber throughout the day (most Americans do not get enough; we all need around 25-35 grams a day!).
- Instead of going on a detox, eat a delicious salad with lots of fresh berries, nuts, and seeds for all of the antioxidants in the world.
Striving to be healthy and make positive lifestyle choices in favor of our physical health is a solid goal, one that has the potential make us feel better, function better, and live our fullest lives. But when we restrict ourselves from the things we enjoy, we are paving the way for anxiety, self-doubt, and probably failure. When we add in healthful choices throughout the day, we are not only contributing to our health, but also not leaving as much room for the not-so-healthy choices.
When you make those gain health goals, make them specific and attainable. Do not say you will eat a salad every day for lunch if this is something you are not used to. Perhaps try a salad for lunch every Monday. If you hate beets, don’t all of a sudden try adding them to your breakfast smoothie every morning; add something you like instead, like spinach or avocado.
Make sure whatever you decide to do is something you want to do. You can force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy for a couple of weeks (say, running 2 miles a day, drinking tea instead of coffee, or something else you don’t enjoy) but chances of those changes lasting in the long run aren’t probable. If you love to hike, make it a goal to hike a certain (remember, attainable!) number of miles a week. If you enjoy fish, making a goal of two servings of a fatty fish (for the Omega 3’s of course!) a week may work for you.
And finally, go easy on yourself. Perfection is not realistic and you will often have days that do not go as planned. Stave off the temptation to instantly dive head-first into self-deprecating mode when you make a mistake. You are human, and part of the fun of being alive is being flexible and living in the moment. Remember that the number on the scale says nothing other than the amount of cells that you are made of, it does not tell the world what you actually consist of.