EDGE Magazine Fitness Column Dec 2015
My assignment for this month was five surefire Resolutions. My editor told me it was an easy edit; I didn’t know exactly how easy until I saw how MUCH of the article got the ax.
This is the story, as originally written, with a screen grab of the story online.
In only a few days people will begin making their resolutions for 2016. A year ends, a year begins and we examine our lives. We look at what we have done, what we should have done, what we didn’t do, what we don’t seem to be able to do; and we ask ourselves what we can do better. Then we set ourselves lofty and difficult to attain goals, only to fall off the Resolution Wagon in only a matter of weeks. What if we didn’t, though? What if we set ourselves goals that weren’t so impossible that, every day, we felt stress to stay on target? What if we were able to make resolutions and stick to them, simply by not demanding the most of ourselves? Lowering the bar to a more human standard, rather than attempting Herculean feats, may just be the answer to the droning hamster wheel that is the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions.
Resolution Number 1: EAT YOUR HEART OUT. The number one New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. It should be to live a healthier lifestyle but most people choose the verbiage “to lose weight”. There is a psychology behind changing your body composition. It is about more than “going on a diet” or “going to the gym”. You have to recognize a couple things, psychologically, first. 1) You do not want to lose weight. When you lose something, you usually want to find it…your keys, your hat, your gloves. Lost and found. When you lose weight, you hope to not find it again. Put yourself in the position of control and acknowledge that YOU are getting rid of weight. YOU are taking off inches. You are in the position of power. 2) You do not want to deprive yourself of food. Starvation will serve only one purpose: to make you unhappy and send you on a food binge in a matter of days or weeks. You must eat – only eat properly. Having admitted these two things to yourself, you can embark on a quest to change your eating habits. Eat food. Don’t starve. Only don’t set yourself up to fail by deciding to cut out all sugar, remove all dairy, eat no wheat or cut out carbs. It’s too big a task to start with on January first. Instead, try this: change ONE thing in your dietary intake per month; do it for a year. In January, decide to remove the soda pop from your pantry. In February, switch all the potatoes in your diet for sweet potatoes (or yams – these are complex carbohydrates, rather than simple carbs, which is what white potatoes are). In March, agree to eat no fast food. In April, remove the processed foods from your food plan, foods like chips, snack cakes, box pasta dishes, store bought rice dishes and the like. You can do anything for one month—and at the end of each month, you will notice two things: 1) you are feeling better and 2) you don’t crave those foods anymore. .You can take this plan throughout the entire year and, twelve months later, you will find you are eating healthier than you ever have before.
Resolution Number 2: GIVE IT A REST. We are all underslept and that’s no lie. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all that we need to do. We get up early, we go to bed late and we are exhausted. Have you heard the expression ‘running on empty’? How about “running on fumes’? That’s us, the human race. The thing is: most of us treat our cars better than we treat ourselves. We would never drive our nice automobile long distances without putting fuel in the tank, changing the oil, checking the water. Why do we run our bodies into the ground? We burn the wick at two ends and then we find ourselves sick, distracted, exhausted and unhappy. Own that you must do something for yourself; be a little self-centric and tell yourself and the world that you are unavailable. Nobody needs to know why you are unavailable – only that you are. Then, during that time you are unavailable, you sleep. Go to bed earlier. Sleep in. Take a nap. Every single bit of good health begins with sleep. The most effective way to make use of sleep is by going to bed earlier and sleeping for a greater number of consecutive hours. Perhaps going to bed early makes you feel like a child or maybe it makes you feel old. Really, though, who cares? As long as the sleep itself makes you feel refreshed, what else matters? There is a popular book called You Can Heal Your Life. It’s true that you can. It all begins with sleep. The body is capable of anything, with enough rest.
Resolution Number 3: WALK IT OUT. It may be difficult to find time in the day to get to the gym for an hour of cardio and an hour of weight training. Maybe your work is going to run over and you will miss your yoga or latin dance class. What if a number of surprises pop up in your day and that time you had set aside to go hiking disappears. You might have lost that opportunity to use your body and keep the conditioning going but you don’t have to lose the chance altogether. Use your body, during the day, every time you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If it’s three or five flights up, you will get some really good exercise taking that proposal from your office to your colleague’s. Walk to the corner store instead of driving. You’ve been sitting at the computer all day, you need the activity. Take a walk, get some air in your lungs, some sun on your face and bear some weight, use some muscle, save money on gas. Instead of walking the dog, put on some sneakers and run around the block. Both of you can use the exercise. If you actually use your body to do everyday tasks, those missed workouts won’t hurt so much.
Resolution Number 4: TURN IT OFF. There is a growing trend in this country to being Unplugged. We have become so umbilically attached to our devices that we have lost the ability to function in social settings. We don’t know how to pay attention to our loved ones when they are talking. We don’t notice how little activity our bodies are getting because all we do is sit or stand, looking at our phones, tablets, laptops, PCs and whatever other devices have been invented since I sat down to write this article. Unplugging is about more than not being rude to the people around us: it’s about being good to yourself. The stress put on our hearts and brains from all the information being fed into us is detrimental. The stress being put on our eyes is epic. It is a fact of life that we must look at these screens of varying sizes and take in this information of varying import more hours of the day than not. So why not limit the amount of stress by simply knowing when to take some time off? It doesn’t have to be an hour. Maybe you could leave your phone on your desk just for the duration of meals. Perhaps you could decide to not look at your device for the last half hour before bed or the first half hour that you are awake. What if you powered down for the duration of the play or the movie you are seeing? It will give your eyes, your brain and your stress filled heart a rest, however brief. Hey, it might even strengthen your relationships a little more, too.
Resolution Number 5: CHOOSE YOURSELF. Don’t make a resolution for the wrong reason. Don’t make any resolution for how others might perceive you or judge you. Make your resolutions to make your life better. Make your resolutions in a way that will be easy for you to succeed. Change one small thing at a time: one food change a month, one extra hour of sleep a night, one walk upstairs or around the block a day, one meal without a phone a day – all these small changes will add up to a changed feeling and attitude after awhile; and when you start to feel those changes, you will get greedy for them and it will be easier to take the change to the next level. Know, with each change, that you did this for yourself. We’re not in high school anymore. We don’t need to impress one another. The changes we make to better our lives are us telling ourselves that we are worthy of living happier, healthier lives and longer lives, too. Of course, the longer lives thing is something we do for ourselves and our loved ones. After all, we can’t see to them until we have, first, seen to ourselves. Choose yourself, every day in the New Year. Then check in with me in twelve months and let me know how your feel.