Just a Thought for the New Year

What if . . . you started the New Year with a resolution to change something in your life to increase your happiness and sense of balance?

What if . . . you resolved NOT to make the resolution about food?

What if . . . this year you decided to have a broader, more far-reaching resolution, one that would bring you a better life overall?

And, what if that resolution affected your eating and created weight loss in the process?

If you are someone who sets a new weight loss goal every year at this time, you may wonder what I am talking about.  You may even wonder if you should care.  You may be so comfortable with the cyclical rhythm of on and off dieting, and gained and lost weight, that it may feel downright uncomfortable to even think about a New Year without a weight loss focus.

“But how can I lose weight without a weight loss focus,” you are wondering.  When we worry, about food or anything else, it can seem productive because we are putting attention on an issue.  It is tempting to feel as if we are actually working on a problem, when in fact we are just recycling old thoughts.  It is not creative at all.  I know it sounds contradictory, but a preoccupation with weight loss actually makes it harder to lose weight.  Let me explain.

I think it is helpful and productive to be aware while you are eating, and to use creative thought while you shop for food or cook.   Being present while you are doing anything is a challenge, but it is the foundation of a happy life.   So while you are eating, thoughts of food are a part of your eating experience.  While you are talking to your child or balancing your checkbook, they can get in the way and become a nuisance!

A preoccupation with how much weight you NEED to lose creates an urgency to lose it NOW (or yesterday, if only that were possible!).  It becomes a major focus and creates stress as it crowds out a focus on the actual life you are living in the moment.  You will not be as effective at anything you do under these conditions, and you will probably feel unhappy and out of balance.  That sets the stage for dwindling will power.

Where did that will power go?!   Guess what?  You gave it away by putting too much focus on an end point (weight loss) and too little focus on the process and the actual living of your life.  Brain chemistry deteriorated, which you experienced as a loss of will power, and the result is disappointment and unhappiness.

If you are following my logic, and if you are willing to try a new approach this year, just try setting a resolution that sets you up for weight loss success, but does not focus directly on it.  Anything that increases happiness will give you more will power for whatever food plan you choose to follow.

Three general ways of increasing happiness are 1) being productive – just getting things done that give you satisfaction, 2) learning something new – anything you have wanted to try (playing an instrument, learning a language, taking better pictures), and 3) being generous with your abilities (reading to children, cooking for a friend, shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor).  Improvement in any of these three areas can provide a boost to brain chemistry, creating a happy feeling and better balance all around.

If you can see the sense in what I say, go for it!  Set a radically different resolution this year, one that pays benefits even without a single pound of weight loss.  If you have weight to lose, you will lose it easier and it will not feel as stressful as past efforts.  January 1 is the usual day for a new start, but there is no good reason to put off your increased happiness another minute.  December 20th is as good a day as any!

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3 responses to “Just a Thought for the New Year

  1. I love this line:
    Where did that will power go?! Guess what? You gave it away by putting too much focus on an end point (weight loss) and too little focus on the process and the actual living of your life.

    So true!

    • Yes, it IS true, yet so many people fixate on the number (weight). The fixation often causes reactive eating: “I’m up a pound, so healthy changes didn’t work.” OR “I’m down a pound even though I had a brownie yesterday. It must not have mattered.” Keeping an eye on the process ensures the best predictable outcome!

  2. Hello Kim,
    I too liked the reminder to stay in the moment and focus on the process. It helps to have the reminder to start where we are and simply take one step from that very place. I know that healthy weight loss and a healthy diet are about “living” vs. “dieting” and yet I get sucked into all the before and after photos of all those diet ads that we are flooded with as the new year begins. Thank you for your blog that contain many words of wisdom and for being so “sane” in the midst of confusion and social pressure regarding food, body size, weight.

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