I’ve noticed lots of chatter online about “Dry January” which is a public health movement encouraging 31 days sans booze. According to researchers, drinking less alcohol in January makes up for all the seasonal gluttony you may have succumb to over the holidays. This annual practice can have a lasting impact on your overall health resulting in less alcohol consumption throughout the rest of the year, better quality sleep, increased energy levels and lower risk of obesity. This sounds like a lazy man’s approach to weight loss that doesn’t really address the lifestyle changes necessary for sustained weight loss. You can be as “dry” as you want to be, but if you’re eating fast food everyday, skipping workouts and getting by with an average 3 or 4 hours of sleep every night, are you really making progress? Probably not in time for bikini season… or speedos, if that’s your thing.
New year, new you, new body!
If December is typically a time for reflection of the year hath passed, then January is certainly a popular month for re-committing to one’s goals. In fact, losing weight (alongside exercising) is probably one of the most popular new year’s resolution people make every year no matter how many times they’ve fallen short in previous years. Are they making this new year’s resolution because they actually care about their health or because it’s the thing to do? And every year, we all have the same excuses — work, school, family, LIFE… Ah, life. It happens. Sometimes to us. Most of the times for us. And when life happens, all the new year’s motivation hype that came about in January quickly fades by the time Valentine’s Day rolls by. We start strong, but finish weak (if at all).
New year’s resolutions on repeat
Every year, I come across some study that reports the same data more or less — gym memberships peak in January and gradually decline throughout the rest of the year. What stopped making sense to me was making the same new year’s resolution year in and year out without a strategic game plan. Because here’s the deal: if last year’s new year’s resolution was an epic fail, why am I going to repeat an old strategy that clearly doesn’t work under the guise of “I’ll try harder this year”? Something has to change. The question most people have to answer for themselves is: what?
Healthy living essentials
It’s pretty much common knowledge that sleep, nutrition and exercise are all integral components that support one’s overall health and well-being. In recent years, even mindfulness has become as essential as exercise thanks to ongoing research on the benefits of the practice. Now, if we know the secret to losing weight is getting a full-night’s sleep, exercising for 2.5 hours per week, and making sure we’re getting all the nutrition our body needs through the foods we eat, then why is it so hard to put into practice what we already know?
An alternative approach to losing weight
At a recent committee meeting I attended, each of us volunteers were invited to introduce ourselves and share one of our new year’s resolutions. And there is always at least one or two of us who make a resolution to focus on our health. This year, I happened to be one of them. The results I am creating for myself this year include: releasing 30 pounds of excess body fat and achieving a 30-inch waistline with 40-inch hips for an ideal waist-to-hips ratio that meets my personal standard of attractiveness that’s based on a combination of research, science, lifestyle and preferred clothing choices to be quite honest. But these results I want for me are not what I shared as my new year’s resolution because there is a stark difference between a result (an outcome) and a resolution (an intention). Having clearly defined the results I want, I then asked myself one question: what can I do differently this year? And for me, the answer involved rethinking weight loss altogether in terms of gaining a new, more empowering and sustainable lifestyle rather than losing something that is in essence keeping me emotionally safe through my physical body on a deep, psychological level.
Setting yourself up for success
So what was my new year’s resolution? Well, most people resolve to exercise so many times per week, and that approach doesn’t quite work for me. And here’s why: If I commit to going to the gym at least once a week, and I end up missing a week or two — because, well, ya know, life — then what ends up happening is that I lose momentum, I get discouraged and eventually, I stop trying because I think what’s the point. So this year, I’m doing something different. I’m setting myself up for success by turning my daily and weekly exercise goals into a monthly goal. For me, I’d love to get to a place where I’m exercising for 30 to 60 minutes for five days per week. But that is too granular for me and I end up hating myself when I skip workouts more than two days a week. This year, my intention is to live a more active lifestyle (I’m typing this from a make-shift standing desk!) by committing to exercise for 10 to 20 hours per month, which will allow me more freedom and creativity in terms of how I get my workouts in, whether it be a pick up game of softball for a couple hours here and there, joining a recreational volleyball team that plays every week or going on more hikes with friends.
Your wow action guide
What is one thing you’d be willing to do within one week from today in order to set yourself up for success in the achievement of your personal health goals?