Ah, it is that time again. That eternal Monday of the American mind. That glorious morning on which we pin all sorts of hopes and dreams. That morning, that well, usually finds us in a grumpy mood, possibly slightly hungover, and more than likely low on sleep, but this is it, this is the day you are going to change everything about yourself or atleast the things that trouble you the most about yourself. You guessed it, I’m speaking of New Year’s Day and the New Year’s Resolutions that go with it.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions, they are, to me atleast exactly as pop culture portrays them, simply a To-Do List for the first 7 days of January. Just as diets don’t need to start on a Monday, changes of state don’t have to start on Jan 1st. Sure, commerical gyms love the idea, hundreds of new members sign-up, pay in full and then never even return to pick up their membership card. Think I’m kidding, I’m not. Most traditional gyms have a box of PIF’s as they call them, the membership cards of people who paid in full and never showed back up again.
You however though are special, you have decided that you are going all the way this year with your resolution, and I support that. Now that you know the whole concept is basically bias towards failure, let’s look at some real strategies and tips for navigating the minefield that will be for atleast the next 21-30 days until your new changes become habit. I’m going to assume that most of your resolutions have something to do with health/exercise and food, simply because annually those make up about 80% of American’s resolutions. Now let’s get serious.
- Most important, make sure you have a goal and that goal is realistic but also a challenge, make no little plans in other words. You goal should be something that should take around 6 months to a year to complete. Now take that goal and break it into smaller chunks. Let’s say you want to lose 50 pounds in say 6 months, not outside of the range of possibility, but then break it down farther, that is a little over 8 pounds a month or 2 pounds a week. Fairly aggressive but doable, if coming from an unconditioned state.
- Do the prep work. If your resolution includes a change of eating patterns, get the food you don’t want to eat out of the house, the car and the office. It is that simple. Now get only the food you want to eat into those same places.
- Ignore the shortcuts. The way to get healthy is by movement and a quality diet. End of story. No amount of pills, potions, powders or snake oils is going to take the place of good old fashioned work.
- Don’t sprint out of the gate. This is the classic exercise mistake. Person hasn’t worked out since high school, they sign up for the gym, go the first day and do every fucking movement known to man, Men’s Fitness, and Cybex as well as some shit they made up on the spot ’cause they saw the squat monster in the corner doing something similar. DON’T BE THAT PERSON. Start small, ideally if you have no background find a good CrossFit box that can and will coach you through movement and capacity. Yeah it is gonna cost more than that $14.95 membership to the Purple gym but you are actually going to use it and it is going to work. You pay a Doctor, pay a damn coach, period end of story.
- One hiccup doesn’t mean you failed, accept it and move on. Maybe you miss a workout, maybe you have a momentary mindlapse and down a Coke. Take a second to think about it and what caused you to do it, and what your mental state was. Then move on. Don’t give up, don’t say “well, I might as well eat a whole cake since I’m off the wagon.” Just realize what happened, learn from it and continue on your journey.
- Along the lines of number 5, NO Cheat Days. This concept should not exist to you for ATLEAST 30 days. I personally don’t like the idea at all, but they are particularly dangerous if you use them before your new habits are set in stone. You are not a dog, you do not deserve a treat. Focus on how much better your body is feeling not feeding it crap.
- Change your mindset. Commercially available processed foods are designed and produced to make you form an addiction to them. This is scientifically proven. Studies have shown sugar to light up the same reward centers of the brain as Cocaine. That being said, your first few days without sugar are going to be like an addict coming off a street drug. Roll with it and realize this is your body cleaning itself, a new normal is coming and it is going to be one without the blood sugar rollercoaster of the modern Standard American Diet. This is not you punishing yourself, this you rewarding yourself by getting healthier
- Don’t get overwhelmed. When you first jump into paying attention to exercise and diet you will get slammed in the face with a thousand source of information all telling you somewhat conflicting things. Keep it simple, I have made it my job it to try and stay on top of the research and it is still nearly impossible. Especially if you are just starting your journey, all you need to think about is eating quality foods and doing movements with a high quality. It doesn’t matter if you eat 2 minutes before your workout or exactly 11 minutes 30 seconds after your last rep. As your journey progresses you can dive deeper.
- Listen to your body. If you need to take a day off training to recover, do it. If your body is telling you to eat more healthy food, do it.
- Don’t go it alone. Find someone to drag along with you. Studies have shown that having a partner makes changes more successful. Have a silent partner if you need to. What do I mean? Well, I have found announcing to the world that something is Paleo usually is greeted with cringes and expectations that the dish is going to taste like the south end of a north bound steer. However, if it is presented like any other dish, most times people will eat it up. (Side Note: I did this at Christmas to my family, among other things I made a Paleo Sweet Potato Salad, they ranted and raved about how good it was, cleaned the bowl infact, before I told them it was completely paleo.) So if your significant other or kids aren’t on the bandwagon with you, just hitch them to it without making a big deal out of it.
- My most important, Measure so you can manage. I think Peter Drucker is credited with the line, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” When you start take the time to record vital statistics like, weight, Body Fat %, circumference of various body parts and if at all possible get your Doctor to do a blood test so you can see markers for blood lipids, glucose, liver and kidney function and inflammation and take pictures of yourself. Put them in a password protected folder in your computer if need be, but take pictures to remind yourself where you came from. Repeat these tests and pictures on a regular basis, weekly or bi-weekly is best for all the ones you can do yourself and as often as you can figure out to shanghai your Doc into ordering blood draws the better. What you are doing is building up a data set of knowledge that will propel you into the future. One caveat about the blood tests, don’t take any one reading as written in stone. It is common for some blood test markers to get worse in the short term as you change you diet and add exercise. This is normal. What you want to see is the pattern. Taking one test by itself is a little like taking a picture of the instrument panel on your dashboard as you are running 80 mph uphill towing a trailer on a 110 degree day and then going to your mechanic and saying “I think my engine is running too hot,” without explaining the circumstances. If it is elevated a second or third time, then it is time to start taking it seriously. Measure early and measure often.
So there you go. Your starter kit for New Year’s Resolutions. Good Luck!!
Until next time, Keep it real and keep it rural.