Let’s Chat About New Year’s Resolutions

Stella After a Holiday Binge

One of our dogs is a wanderer.  From what I hear, it must be the beagle in her.  I had to pull this picture out today as a reminder of how many of us felt at some point during the holidays.  This was taken after she disappeared last year for about 14 hours.  We thought she was a goner for sure, but she came back in the middle of the night from what turned out to be a bird seed bender.  (Apparently that was all she could find in the middle of winter.)  Her “waist” had disappeared and she was so full, she just kind of tilted over.  So . . . read on as I talk about the post-holiday period.  I have my own spin on New Year’s resolutions involving weight loss.

How many times have you resolved to take off that extra weight, starting (of course!) on January 1?  All health clubs love your resolutions, because it means a good first month of the year for income.  And a resolution to get things going is not a bad idea, but if you find yourself in a pattern of starting and stopping based on days on the calendar, it is time to rethink the logic of this kind of planning.  What is so magical about January 1?  A plan for a huge lifestyle overhaul starting New Year’s Day can be a set-up for packing it in before the big day of change arrives.  Just make the commitment whenever you are ready, even if it is an ordinary day, like January 12th or May 2!

Now let’s look at the kind of weight loss goals people make most often, ie. “I will lose 20 pounds by  . . . . ”  Judging your success or failure based on a number on the scale puts many people on an emotional roller coaster (see my video about the scale).  More importantly, though, a goal of weight loss alone takes the focus off the real goal.  What, you ask, is the real goal then?  I would argue that what all people really want is a bigger goal – health and happiness – and many see weight loss as a means to get there.

This may seem like just a detail, but let’s just switch the focus to a goal of a more balanced, “happier” life and see how that would work.  Would it really be best to start toward that goal by aiming for weight loss without considering life in general?  This is what I see too many people doing, over and over again – losing weight by following some kind of food plan, but not examining the reasons why overeating was happening in the first place.  Will power alone is not enough in this case, and it’s no wonder I see so many people afraid of gaining back weight when they lose it like this.  That kind of anxiety does not help to accomplish the real goal – a happy, healthy life.  There is no confidence, because there is no real change!

I think that many of the lifestyle patterns that cause extra weight to accumulate are a result of not taking good care of ourselves, in other words not making ourselves a priority.  A large part of this is not anything that takes any time.  It is a way of thinking.  It begins with how we deal with our emotional lives and the personal interactions we have.  Keeping our emotional baggage from getting too heavy is critical.  The new movie “Up in the Air” got me thinking about this.  George Clooney’s character talks about the heavy burden that personal relationships represent.  He goes a step further to say that we do not need them, and in fact we would be better off without all that baggage.  Of course, part of the point of the movie is that relationships ARE worth having (and I agree!), but I think we should manage that emotional baggage so it doesn’t become overwhelming.  Because . . . many people eat when emotional baggage feels too weighty.  When it’s not possible to resolve conflict, the only healthy thing to do is to come to some kind of resolution for ourselves.  In other words, a peaceful resolution can be a one-person exercise, within ourselves.  I am working on this!

Making time for ourselves is another life balancing goal.  This is not selfish in a bad way.  I call it “positive selfishness.”  It may not be possible to find any more time, but using what you have is important.  A 30-second break to close your eyes and breathe deeply can be helpful if that is all you can manage at a stressful moment.  Anyone can do that!

So, thinking of weight as the problem and a person’s emotional state as the result is a little backwards, don’t you think?  I believe unhappiness and lifestyle imbalance contribute to overweight, not the other way around.  Doesn’t it seem more productive to make a resolution that will directly affect the balance in your life and have a more direct effect on your happiness?  I think so.  It can be very hard for busy people to make themselves a priority and be “positively selfish,”  but my experience (both personal and professional) tells me that it is not optional for good health and happiness, or weight control for that matter.

Where am I going with all of this?  I would encourage you to choose a New Year’s (or any other day’s) resolution that will set you up for success with health and weight control.  If you often find yourself stress eating, think about how to address the stress management problem.  You will save calories automatically if you can successfully find a substitute, even some of the time.  A food plan can help with weight loss, but it is only a tool.  Aiming for a more balanced lifestyle will make a food plan seem like a welcome addition to your life if you choose to follow one that is realistic and is supported by a life with coping skills under construction.  Set yourself up for success and any plan you choose will work better!  And the more balanced life you create in the process is a reward in itself.  Happy New Year!!

p.s.  I would love to hear your resolutions.  Please comment.  Everyone needs some good ideas.

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6 responses to “Let’s Chat About New Year’s Resolutions

  1. You hit the nail on the head — set the weight loss goal when you’re READY, not because it’s January 1st. I love this! Weight loss is 100% about readiness to change. If you’re not there yet, nothing will change and so continues the viscious cycle.

    So sad your pup went missing last year. That would tear me up inside. 😦

    My resolutions:
    * fit in exercise AT LEAST 4 days a week, every week
    * continue trying new, healthy recipes (one recipe a week!)
    * run a half marathon
    * obtain a weight that I feel energized at
    * continue blogging about nutrition
    * earn 500 hours towards the CDE credential

    Happy 2010!

    • kimthedietitian

      Those are some lofty goals! I may try to do a 10K this year, but I don’t know if a half marathon will ever be in my future. Happy New Year!

  2. Kim, how does one become “Positively Selifsh” and still have relationships? I have a firend who is doing this now under the recomendation of her therepist and she has become a “B”! She thinks it’s all about her. There has to be a healthy balance about thinking about yourself all the time and having a healthy relationship with other people. Help I don’t understand how to do it. : )

    • kimthedietitian

      That is such a good question – really! And it is also an important one to ask, I think, because it has so much to do with healthy relationships. I don’t think there is an easy answer, or an exact answer. I can tell you what my struggles have been and how I continue to work on it, because I think it is a lifelong question with no final resolution. Life situations change and new answers are needed to “recalibrate” the balance. When I fall out of balance with this, it tends to be in the direction of not thinking about my needs enough. I have always been more comfortable with a little imbalance in that direction than toward getting too much from other people. That has worked fine in lots of situations, because I am comfortable that way, but I still know when it is out of whack. When I had young kids, I remember times when I found out too late that I had not thought of myself enough, and I was a “B”!! I was not the mom I wanted to be at those times, and it didn’t feel good. Of course, I did not figure that out until much later, even though older women would pass on their wisdom to me: “When the mommy’s not happy, nobody’s happy!” I just thought that my kids were temporarily “driving me nuts.” Really it was something I needed to adjust. Now that my kids don’t live with me anymore, I am finding that I am looking at the balance relative to my aging parents. They have lots of needs, and I am trying to meet many of them while keeping balance with my job, my marriage, my kids (Just because they don’t live with me doesn’t mean they don’t need me once in a while!), AND my personal needs. It is a work in progress, but I can feel when I am doing a good job of balancing – and when I’m not. For me, it is a feeling, not something concrete, but if I am open to feel it, I do. Yesterday I spent a full day with my parents – cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, helping my dad with a shower, running errands, and trying to add some fun to their day. By the time I got home, I didn’t have much time to do anything. But, that was fine. What I have learned is that when the balance is right, it should feel good to give of myself to people I care about who need me. That is all part of my happiness. I think it is difficult (impossible, for me) to feel good and balanced if I am feeling like I have crossed over from positive selfishness to what I consider negative selfishness. If we find that people are steering away from us because of our selfishness, then it is probably not the positive kind. Maybe this is your friend at the moment? Maybe she is doing what we often do when we try to change something: we swing too far in the opposite direction first, before hopefully we make a correction and land somewhere in the middle. Wow, that was a long response, but it is such a great topic! I would love to know how others out there handle this. Please comment.

  3. Kim,

    I’ve always made the wrong choices when it came to eating in my 20’s and 30’s. Although I was very active with a good metabolism. In my 40’s I’ve had to rethink my whole life style as well as my eating choices. Some days require 2 a day work-outs on my part to find resolution toward a healthier happier me. Other days require that I just work on the inner me and forget about exercise. I believe weight loss, muscle gain is a journey not a destination. I’ve had peaks of success more than most, and have had failure along the way down to a more normal me. I’ve always been happier with myself when I look fit no matter what I’m wearing. Everyone is individual and I don’t think comparing or following (exactly) what another person does is healthy. I like taking a little something from everyone regarding diet and exercise and find what works for me. Everyones body reacts differently. Above all I always look at the positive tiny things that I’m doing for me. (privately). I first take care of me. Then I can better take care of other peoples needs.

    • kimthedietitian

      Thanks for your comments! I could not agree more – this is such an individual journey, and we all are seeking a good healthy balance in everything. This includes lifestyle sacrifices vs. benefits, etc. Personally, I have been thinking a lot about the balance between self-care and care of others. In fact, I am going to post about my Sunday experience with that right now. I think this is a constant consideration if we are going to feel good about choices we make. Isn’t the real test of how well we do with balancing any area of life more intuitive than anything? But . . . we have to listen to pick up those subtle cues that mean the difference between balance and out-of whack.

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