My Anti-Resolution Approach to Weight Loss in 2013

The new year is two weeks ahead of me. Somehow, between the kids being out of school for two weeks, a flu that hit all four of them (and the two cousins) and wiped us out for ten days, and the general desire to have just a couple days of doing nothing (except reading some good books of course) I managed to fall very behind. to make it worse, I spent most of this week working on a project that, in the end I had to terminate because the client was asking me to do work that I felt was unethical. She was one of my best paying clients and it was a very uncomfortable situation. That is a whole different blog post though, and I learned my first major lesson as a writer. More on that later though. This post is about my goals for this year.

First, I don't do resolutions. Something about setting my intention to make a major change starting on January 1st has never worked for me. When I was a smoker, there were so many years that I made the resolution to quit smoking, and 12 am January 1st would roll around and what would I do? Lighting one up, I always told myself that I would quit first thing in the morning after a good nights sleep. The morning would come and I would wake up and maybe I might make it half the day before deciding I had already screwed it up the night before, and go have a cigarette. It was a similar situation with diet and exercise and practically any other resolution I ever set. So I stopped.

I have found that, for me, a goal is not a set in stone type of thing, the way I imagine resolutions to be. I hear so many people say "I already broke my New Year's resolution!" within the first few days of the New Year, and then go on to use it as an excuse to continue the thing they were trying to change. I myself was guilty of this.

According to Merriam-Webster, the word resolution means "A firm decision to do or not to do something." While this is great, in my own life, it doesn't always work that way. Take parenting, for example. As a mother, one of the things I really want to change this year is the way I interact with my children. I want to stop yelling so much and start listening more. This is not something I can just change overnight though, it takes work and practice and there are going to be times when I don't do it the way I want because that is how life is sometimes. For me, making this a resolution only sets me up to fail. The first time I yell at my kids I have broken my resolution. It is that finality of the resolution that does not work for me. That idea that if I break my resolution, I have failed.

In a more perfect world, we might all be able to instantly change overnight. This is not that perfect world though. Quitting smoking took me three real attempts. The first time I went three months, the second time six months, this time it has been 18 months and I have no intention of ever taking one drag off a cigarette again, but I also realize that sometimes life doesn't work according to my plans.

If it happens that I ever pick up that nasty habit again, I take comfort in the knowledge that I don't have to condemn myself to a lifetime of miserable nasty smoking because I broke my promise or my resolution to not smoke. By setting a goal of living a smoke free life, I feel that I am being more reasonable with myself. I feel that I am allowing myself the chance to be human, to make mistakes, and I am also acting in the knowledge that those mistakes do not have to become my life. I do not have to live life as a smoker even if I have a relapse. I do not have to sentence my children to a childhood full of yelling because I am human and occasionally I lose patience.

So instead, I set goals for my year. My goals last year were mostly to continue on the actions I was already taking. I wanted to continue to work towards my degree, which I did. I wanted to continue to not smoke cigarettes, which I did. There were other continuing goals that I managed to maintain. The big goal that I had for myself last year was to lose weight. I planned to do this through making healthier choices with food and through regular exercise.

And I did lose weight. In fact I lost 20 lbs in the first six months of the year. Then my job changed and my shift changed. I couldn't make it to the gym regularly, and I was bombarded with fresh baked cookies, ice cream, candy and junk on a daily basis at my new job. Between my clients and co workers, I was being offered high fat, high sugar, processed foods every few hours. For me, this type of food is addictive. The more I eat it, the more I crave it, and the only way for me to control how much of it I eat is to avoid it completely. But once I get back into that trap, it is a hard habit to break. Giving up sugar, fast food, high fat foods, white breads and pasta is hard. Limiting it is not an option for me. I will go into this in more detail in another post (woohoo, that makes two other blog topics that I got from this one!). Anyway, bottom line, I gained back half of what I lost. Still, I am starting this year weighing less than I did at this time last year.

The good in it is that I did lose some weight, and this time I have a better idea of what to expect. I also learned a lot about my body and what works for me. I think we are all different, our bodies need different things in order to lose, gain, or maintain weight. We all have a different chemical and hormonal makeup that interacts differently with food. Some people cannot tolerate wheat, others cannot consume high amounts of protein or carbs. My husband is diabetic and has to be careful about his sugar intake, even from fruits and vegetables. For those of us who have no real medical problems, allergies or intolerances, it might be harder to find the diet that works.

I experimented with a number of diets last year, and what I found was that some worked for me, and others didn't. I learned that I have to approach my diet as a way of life. I cannot simply change the way I eat for a month or two, get some results and then go back to my former diet. I have to make changes that I can commit to for the rest of my life. In other words, I have to believe in it. I do not believe that a diet based on meat is a diet long term. As a vegetarian, this is not even an option for me. I also do not believe that carbs are the devil. I think we need good carbs in order to function and if we are not getting any carbs, we are not going to be healthy.

As I explored different diets and tried different things, I found things that work for me, and things that do not. I cannot replace meals with shakes. That does not work for me, no matter how nutritious you tell me that shake is. I can, however, have a green smoothie and a bowl of oatmeal or muesli. I cannot give up pizza, I love it. I can make my own pizza at home with whole wheat crust, vegan cheese, and all the veggies I want. I cannot give up bread. I can give up butter though, and I can eat only whole wheat bread. You see what I am getting at (hopefully).  

So I am back at my goal of losing weight. I am committing myself to getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, and I am going to develop my diet as I go, but it is going to be mostly vegan because that is my next goal, to eat mostly vegan. I say mostly because we have dinner with both my mother and my mother in law a few times a month and they already go out of their way to accommodate our half of the family that does not eat meat, I don't think it is fair of me to ask them to try to come up with a vegan dinner just for me. They both put a lot of time and effort into making us delicious meals and in no way do I want to make them feel as if I don't appreciate it. And really, just as with making "resolutions" I feel that the idea of trying to eat a strictly vegan diet is a bit too limiting.

I had an experience at a Thai food restaurant where I ordered a vegetarian dish. When I got the food I discovered that it came with a cream sauce. Trying to get out of the waitress, who's english was very limited, what was used to make the sauce creamy was a huge ordeal and it turned out to be coconut milk. As I was eating the thought struck me...”what if they used chicken broth?!” I decided that really, the point of our eating out was not to grill the kitchen over the ingredients of each dish. it was to enjoy a good meal and each other's company, and I was making it uncomfortable with all of my high maintenance demands. Some people might argue that at a restaurant they are there to serve you and they should accommodate your needs and blah, blah, blah. I don't go out to a restaurant to demand to have everything my way though. I go out when I want a break from cooking for my family of six, or to enjoy a special evening with people who are special to me. Getting hung up on every little detail makes it uncomfortable for them, and for me.

So mostly vegan works just as well for me, because I am not one of those people who has to do everythign strictly by the book. I am flexible, and for me it is the long term consistency that really matters, not a minute amount of milk in my chocolate chips. If this makes me not quite vegan, so be it. Anyway, back to my goals for this year... I am going to lose the 30 lbs I have left to lose. I am going to do it by eating the cleanest diet possible for me and exercising. As far as exercise goes, I did the gym a lot for the first few months and then sporadically, and then not at all. I discovered that I really like to walk, hike and even run, and I love yoga. Zumba is fun too, but I don't really care much for the rest of the gym and if I can get an elliptical machine at home when we move, I will be set. I prefer body weight training to any weights or machines a gym has to offer. Maybe if my goals for my body change and I feel that I need to tone more or whatever, then I will go back to the gym, but for now I don't feel it is necessary.

And I am going to include blogging about my journey this time. Last year I felt I was really on my own with my weight loss goals. I felt insecure about my weight and didn't want to talk about it with other people. This year I realize the the only shame is in keeping it all trapped inside. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I abused my body for many years and as a result it has packed on some extra pounds in an effort to protect itself. I am not that person anymore though and today I can commit to taking care of my body. As I practice this more, the weight will remove itself. I think that it is important for me to reach out to people who are going through similar things, to offer my advice and encouragement and to receive the same in return.

I have other goals as well, but maybe those are better in other posts, this one has gotten pretty long. So stay tuned, there is more to come. I will share my journey here and I hope that you will all share yours with me as well. Happy New Year everyone, lets make it awesome.  


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