I was listening to this episode of the Runner’s World podcast, and it got me thinking about the whole “new year, new me” nonsense that goes around.
Yep, I’m going straight to calling it nonsense.
It’s not that I’m some paragon of good life decisions. Yesterday, my grocery shopping brought me home with some fruits and vegetables, but I also bought a pizza and a couple of little bags of hot fries.
And I say don’t set resolutions, but I always set goals. In other words, the pot is calling the kettle black, but would you really want life advice from someone who hasn’t lived it? (Related advice, don’t trust someone who’s never failed. Eventually the sky will fall, and they’ll have no clue what to do).
New Year’s resolutions suck. They do. Most people fail. If you want to have fun, go to the exercise-related subreddits and see how they discuss the new year’s influx in the gyms. They know most won’t stick it out. And here’s the thing, those subreddits are some of the nicest people you can meet on the internet; they just don’t tolerate flakes very well.
I don’t want you to be a flake. I want you to succeed. Change is hard.
So how do we avoid the resolutions trap?
First, don’t set resolutions in the first place. Set measurable goals.
The Super Awesome Year of the 5K wasn’t a resolution. I wasn’t resolving to be a good runner. I was setting a goal that kept me active and over a long enough time period to help force a lifestyle change. I’ve fallen off the wagon here and there, but I’ve largely maintained running as a part of my life. I’m doing the Super Awesome Year of the 10K for the same reason. Setting a single goal last year was a trap that ended up hurting me in the second half of the year after I’d already completed my goal.
Second, don’t set goals that are inherently temporary. Aim for lifestyle changes.
I hate diets. I hate them with the fire of a thousand suns. There’s plenty of evidence to indicate they don’t work long-term (including some evidence that there’s a rebound that puts in you in a worse place than before). Your body’s not built for quick turnaround. If you lose weight quickly, you body basically says “what the hell was that?” and then adjusts your metabolism so you quit losing weight. Best part? Your metabolism won’t fully return to what it was even when you gain the weight back.
I accidentally put myself on diets a couple of times this past year with my daily goals, and I regret it immensely. I was doing things that weren’t sustainable at the time. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll be able to have better eating habits, but I was doing too much based on where I was at then. I think the best example I can give for food is my switch to brown rice. When I got a rice cooker a few years ago, I went through a bag of rice stupid fast, so I knew I needed to switch to brown rice. I hadn’t gained weight. I was just thinking about my long-term health. Now I only use white rice for sushi, otherwise I’m using brown rice (Uncle Ben’s whole grain is the best I’ve found) and more recently quinoa. I didn’t make the switch to get ready for taking my shirt off at the beach. I did it to avoid diabetes.
Third, find a new support system. Friends and family can get bitter when you make positive life changes.
This one kind of sucks, but it’s true. When you stop going out to restaurants, drinking, etc.., you’re affecting your social life. In some cases, you’re just operating in different environments. In others, the people in your life can start to feel like they’re being left behind and can be actively resentful. I’m not saying you should actively avoid those family and friends, but I am saying having negative people around isn’t going to help you. Obesity is, for all intents and purposes, a communicable disease. Person A being fat, means their friend Person B is more likely to be fat, and even Person B’s friend Person C is more likely to be fat. We’re all connected in our lifestyle choices.
If you’re looking for a support system, there are running groups and fitness cults you can find in your town in all likelihood. I like to poke fun at crossfit a little.
But crossfit is good about building a support system. Find a yoga class. Find a running group. Join an old-lady walking group. Just make sure you’ve got people who are on the same path you are so that when you slip, you’ve got someone who’s going to help you up, not just people who are going to lie down with you and hand you pizza.
Fourth, expect setbacks and failure. You need to know that something’s going to derail you plans at some point.
Starting a running plan? Shin splints are common injury. Yoga class? Your schedule could get to hectic and make you miss class. Trying to lose weight? CiCi’s pizza has a great buffet when you’re having a bad day.
Just know something’s going to happen eventually. I can’t find the source, but there’s something to the effect out there that says if you start to fall down the stairs, you wouldn’t just let yourself keep falling down the stairs, so why give up on a goal just because you slipped up? It’s a trap we all fall in eventually, but when you miss a workout or fall short of a goal, keep pushing. You don’t have to quit.
That’s all I have to say about that. If you take nothing away from this, just know I hate diets. I’m going to eat some hot fries now and chase them with carnitas tacos.