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Tag Archives: New Year’s resolutions

Step Into The Sun, Step Into The Light

emerald city

It’s been four weeks since we; stubbed out our last cigarette, scarfed our last overgrown cupcake, corked the bottle, and put on sneakers. How are we doing? Have there been some slips? Have there been any results? Well there’s some bad news and some good news. Bad first? Well, three weeks is when a new activity really loses its aura of novelty. The excitement of starting something has ebbed. Now it’s just doing the activity. If you haven’t seen immediate or significant results you might just be thinking; “one donut never hurt anyone.” You may have started a convincing inner dialogue of “Ya know four weeks is a long time. I showed I could do it if I put my mind to it. This is just a bad time for me. I’ll pick it up again when…” And you’d be right. January is a dumb time to change physical behavior. So are you ready for the good news? A new behavior becomes habit at five weeks. That’s right, you are almost at the sweet spot. This doesn’t mean that in one week you will awaken to a svelte non-craving new self. It means that it will no longer feel like a virtual living hell on earth to engage in your resolution behavior.

Instead of simply enduring this last week of drudge, let’s use it to tweak ourselves.

If it’s tobacco that you are trying to excise from your life, do you have proper support? Have you seen a doctor (who might suggest nicotine patches/gums?) Do you have a (smoke-free) buddy you can talk to/hang with? Have you cleaned and made uncomfortable all your smoking spots? Have you eliminated or altered smoking triggers (that after dinner coffee, those work breaks, the commuting)? Are you putting your cigarette money somewhere visible? Have you earmarked your new wealth for something? In just one week you are going to feel incredibly proud of yourself! You’ve made real and considerable strides in prolonging and improving the quality of your life. And your skin is going to look so much better.

If comfort foods have made you much too comfortable you may be questioning your resolve right about now. It’s January! A long dark month quite simply designed for massive doses of carbohydrates. But we’re four weeks in, so dammit it’s full steam ahead. If you’re interested in losing more than 20% of your body weight, you’ve seen a doctor, yes? Have you banished all processed/sugar infused/empty calorie food and beverage from your home/bag/car/desk/pockets/nightstand/locker? Good. Do you write down any and everything that passes your lips? You must. Food amnesia is the single biggest weight loss sabotage. You may be eating/drinking at times and not considering the calories. That overpriced latte? It’s not coffee it’s a hot milkshake. The glass of wine (or two or three) after work/with dinner total real calories. The birthday/retirement/fertility office party cake? Eating with people you don’t particularly care for does not burn calories. There’s nothing wrong with overpriced coffee, wine or cake. There’s only something wrong with mindless eating. It will get you. Now have you found a nice substitution for the afternoon snack/wine? Perhaps some flavored teas? Maybe lighting a scented candle is all the sensory comfort you need. The only way permanent behavior change works is if it doesn’t feel punitive. Consider adopting one or two new (or forgotten) behaviors that would feel rewarding.

Have you noticed that your workout clothes aren’t being washed as much as they were a few weeks ago? Is all the treadmill/stair-master/soul cycling very dull? Does real life get in the way? You’re not a failure; you’re just not a hamster who is perfectly enthralled with walking to nowhere. It’s time to find what makes you happy. No really. There was probably once a time you enjoyed playing/moving. Did you love to dance? Was it double-dutch that made your heart sing? Figure it out! Find the adult 21st century equivalent and do it. No one is watching and no one cares. The only way this is going to work (and it will work) is if you enjoy what you’re doing. Maybe you love learning new things? Use that to your fitness advantage. Take on new and complicated activities on a regular basis. Fitness is not a chore it’s time for yourself and a wonderful way to feel (and stay) alive.

Changing behavior in any real and lasting way is not easy. (If it were the world would be a much nicer place.) We all want (in our heart of hearts) to be our best selves. Often our best intentions are stymied by the pesky existence of others. But we do have complete control over how we treat our bodies. Physical behavior change that will lead to a healthier (and perhaps happier) you is attainable and within reach.

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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Well-Being

 

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Exercising A Resolution

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January is not the time to try and lose weight. It is dark, most of the country is cold and television is just starting to get good again. Yet people will flock to gyms and weigh-in centers by the droves. Fitness clubs and gyms are crowded and annoying for the first 3-6 weeks of the year. Diet (processed) food companies have been rubbing their hands together in glee for weeks (January 1st is their Black Friday.) The diet industry is a gazillion dollar industry, and if it worked it wouldn’t exist. All that said, if you insist upon changing your physical ways in January, it’s nice to have an encouraging coach:

Input

Most people fall into one of two categories of food relationships: “all things in moderation” and “restrictive” eaters. The former orientation allows for tweaks or portion control when looking to adjust the bathroom scale (which is meant only euphemistically as a bathroom scale is nothing more than an evil monkey and/or a terrific place to stub your toe each and every morning.)

The “restrictive” eater habitually refers to food (or their own eating habits) as “good” or “bad.” Their relationship with food is based on what it represents emotionally rather than what it does for them physically. Eaters in this camp have a more challenging time changing food behavior. Booking a few visits with a registered dietician could be a life altering experience for these eaters. Developing a layer of consciousness about nutrition and one’s specific physical needs could permanently alter food relationships. Eating will always have an emotional component, but like all behaviors there should be intellectual underpinnings.

Output

If there is any doubt that physical movement is as necessary as oxygen, visit a retirement community. The quality of life is vastly different for those who have moved throughout their lives and those who spent more than a few hours on the couch. A lifetime habit of motion is a wise investment. The key to any lifetime habit is to discover what one enjoys. For those who are blessed with a true passion for athleticism, the options are endless. For the rest of us we must overcome boredom, awkwardness, or (sigh) a childhood trauma of being picked last.

The first step toward the “movement as habit” goal is to ignore the rules. It isn’t that “weight-bearing” is not a fabulous tool to promote bone density; it is simply that too many rules can discourage one from any attempts at movement whatsoever. Simply put aside all notions of “duration,” “intensity,” and “method” for the moment. The second step is finding something to do that’s actually enjoyable.

You probably know if you are energized by the presence of others or not. You also have a sense of whether you’re a free-range person or one who thrives in regiment. For the socially motivated, fitness classes may be just the ticket. For the truly adventurous, there are teams to join. Volleyball, baseball, and bowling offer varying degrees of activity and socializing. The social factor may also be addressed by organizing one or two friends once or twice a week. Walking and exercise dvds are a wonderful background for conversation. For those most inspired when alone, anything is possible. You are beholden to nobody’s schedule or preferences. Put on the headphones and dance like there’s no one watching, buy a jump rope, go for a walk/run, or take up bicycling. The most important factor in any activity is that the body is moving and the mind is enjoying it. This will ensure that the behavior does indeed become a habit.

An important note regarding one’s diet and movement regime; know your true body size and do not distort it. Trying to outsmart one’s nature is simply an oxymoronic endeavor. An inflated body is as unhealthy and as frightening as an emaciated body. One’s head should not tower over one’s frame. No doubt several examples of such oddities come to mind; it would simply be too cruel to mention them here.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Well-Being

 

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Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

santa

I’ve been thinking about Santa lately. That’s not really all that unusual given the time of year and all. But as I have not accepted Santa as my personal gift-giver, thinking of him at all is moderately novel. I’ve always had deep affection for him in all his fictional forms. Edmund Gwenn (as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street), Mickey Rooney’s voice (in two classic animated tales) even the Norelco (shaver) cartoon Santa have swept me off my feet. But the real Santa? I hadn’t given him much thought.

This all started with the (not nearly as distressing as it might first seem) thought of sitting on his lap as an adult. I wondered what would I, as a grown woman capable of filling my own stocking, ask from the bearded stranger. This led me to thinking of his raison d’etre. Santa, it would seem, exists as a repository of dreams. Children visit the jolly fellow and (if they’re not crying uncontrollably or rendered speechless by his Oz-like presence) tell him what the really want. This dynamic works well as children will rarely filter with Santa. They will not tell Santa what they think he wants to hear, but instead what they in fact want. Many is the Santa (post 1970) who has heard “I want my mommy & daddy to get undivorced.” Children know what they want and rarely have shame in asking for it.

How does this scenario play out for an adult who has been (somewhat) socialized and mostly expresses herself with a (somewhat flawed) filter? What it seems to entail is doing a little hard work and digging deep to uncover what one really wants. Santa (to my understanding) cannot cure disease or enforce cease fires. Santa seems to deal on an individual basis, addressing only the personal. So then what, if given the chance, would I ask Santa to bring on Christmas morning? An idea sprang to mind, and then one more, and before you know it I had a score. They all seemed to be of a similar ilk and to the untrained eye would appear to be New Year”s resolutions.

And that’s when it dawned on me for the first time ever; New Year is Christmas for grown-ups! The eve of the New Year is spent in sparkly clothes sipping sparkling wine, waiting for something to happen. Instead of listening for hoof sounds on the roof, or jingling of sleigh bells, our ears are primed for noisemakers and countdowns. When the moment arrives we whoop and holler and when it’s all over there’s a big mess to clean. And the next day is when we receive the gift of fresh starts and begin to play with the resolutions we’ve made.

There is still plenty of time to write your letter to Santa. When you’re standing in line (at the bank, the post office, the store, the wrapping desk) let your mind wander. Ask yourself; ‘what do I want?’ Let your imagination run wild. There is no wrong answer. “I want to be more patient with my teenager” is just as valid (and perhaps as daunting) as “I want to become a doctor.” Discovering what you really truly want is not complicated but it isn’t easy either. You might just need to jump start the process with a little visit to Santa. Sure you might feel a little self-conscious, but trust me, Santa’s seen it all. You needn’t sit on his lap, maybe just a “hello” and a hearty handshake will do the trick. The thing is, once you’ve stage whispered, “I’m working on my list” to Santa, you’re going to finish the list. Santa never loses his power to motivate. This is a man who knows when you’ve been bad or good.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Holiday, Well-Being

 

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Not A Creature Was Stirring

If you are lucky enough to live somewhere that has experienced the first snowfall of the season, you have heard the hush.  In towns and cities small and large, a snowfall of any measure muffles sound through physics and through awe.  Stepping outside to the sight of a freshly painted world, we are reverent, quiet, stirred.  During the next few weeks, a season filled with candlelight, greenery, and religion, I am in pursuit of such silence.

I like sound.  I make sound.  But there are moments when the most beautiful sound is silence.  My day has a soundtrack, similar to yours no doubt.  Where NPR leaves off, my iPod picks up.  I’ve been told I sing rather audibly in the park, but I deny it.  I talk enough to be considered an ambient noise machine, and even have been known to take a call in public.  I can’t bring myself to carry-on a phone conversation on the street however as it seems to conjure my pushcart peddling ancestors (and I think it would break their hearts.)  But I do my best to contribute to the cacophony of the city street.

However, there are times when silence is its own stirring background noise.

There was a time when just stepping into a religious sanctuary rendered one silent.  I suppose there are still places of worship that generate such reverie.  A recent holiday service I attended inspired the women seated behind me to discuss the merits of DSW, the best subway route to DSW, the return policy of DSW, and each shoe in DSW.  Their crass incessant shopping chatter took a brief hiatus during the silent prayer.  During that portion they discussed an “obnoxious” mutual friend.  I shudder to consider what these women deem “obnoxious.”

Clearly “place” is not sufficient enough a prompt for silence.

Theaters are filled with shopping bag crinkly, slurping, chomping, talking, ringing audiences.  Ticket purchasers talk through the overture.  The overture!  (No wonder no one writes those anymore.)  At a recent Joan Crawford estate auction, people spoke loudly, as the lovely auctioneer toiled.  She kept track of live bids, internet bids and phone bids, all over a deafening din.  Once the Golden Globe went on the block though, well that was a horse of a different color.  As the bids climbed well north of $20,000, you could have heard a pin drop.  I suppose we are all entitled to worship any deity we choose.

I would suggest that we consider each other and the world we live in to be ample reason to hush.  Not permanently, not even for long stretches of time.  But for the next few weeks, let us be mindful of the noise we make.  Pausing the soundtrack of our lives for a moment, will allow us to make discoveries.  A sight, a sound or a thought will prompt a moment of awe.  This time of year, as we prepare to look forward and make grandiose plans for our new and improved selves, let us take a moment to quietly consider the world around us and our place in it.

Happy Holidays!

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Holiday

 

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