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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:

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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.

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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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May Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

The eye of the holiday hurricane has almost passed and the residual New Year storm is right behind. New Year’s Eve, a holiday only second to Valentine’s Day for its ability to make people feel badly. Even if you choose to eschew the societal pressure to have the best night ever!, you may very well still succumb to the resolutions.

I am all for self-improvement and living with intention, but I am baffled by the resolutions. The fact that that may be made while drunk doesn’t disturb me. Some of my best moments of resolve have come when having gone just a bit too far. No, what bothers me is the time of year of this universal resolving. Come January 1st, we enter into the longest, darkest, bleakest stretch of the calendar. Not counting Valentine’s Day (see above) we get no break in the mundanity until spring (birthdays of political leaders notwithstanding.) An informal survey indicates that the majority of resolutions involve physical improvement. Yet our bodies and minds cry out for carbohydrates and alcohol this time of year. Layering of clothes offer no incentive to tone, and darkness does not invite activity. Our relationships with our screens becomes borderline obsessive (there is a reason television programming peaks during the colder months.)

Come mid-January, the bills and regrets start to appear. A fiscal resolution would be appropriate this time of year. And fear not, six weeks along, when resolve tends to lag; it’s tax season! Your accountant can take on the cheering role of a personal trainer. But short of resolving to not spend more than I have or to increase savings, I shy from New Year’s resolutions.

I tried it once. In my twenties I resolved to not have any regrets. Ah, youth. How charming, how utterly near-sighted and self-involved. Sweet. With the determination of a four-star general, I went forth and conquered.  Regrets? No. Creating a version of my best self? Not exactly. But what a great learning opportunity. I discovered that New Year’s resolutions were not entirely for me. I also discovered that behavior change works best (for me) when aimed outward. Resolving to; experience more generosity of spirit, seek out those who need a kind word or smile, offer help to strangers, all help to create a personal world in which I’d like to live. The very fact that I engage in this resolution year after year after year, does nothing to support the efficacy of resolutions. But just like physical fitness, spiritual fitness does have muscle memory.

As I struggle to stay awake on my couch, nursing a glass of bubbly, I will wish to you kindness. May you experience kindness towards yourself (eat the chocolate!) and kindness towards others this new year.

Happy New Year

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Holiday

 

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