“Dear January. We’re sorry. We’ve made you all diets and cleanses. The thing is food isn’t a resolution. It’s fuel for our resolutions. Fuel to power us – made for us. January, you deserve better. You’re not a bad month. You’re our beginning.” – Special K Commercial
About a decade ago, I graced the doors of our local Weight Watchers building for a few months. I joined with a friend and, for a while, I did okay. I lost a little weight (emphasis on little). The problem was not with Weight Watchers, but with the fact that I only half-followed the plan.
After a few months of quiet, intimate Weight Watchers meetings, the New Year rolled around and the joint was suddenly hopping! The heightened activity caught me off guard at first, and then I thought, “Of course! It is the first week of January.” For some reason, I remember a particular woman vividly. She was significantly overweight and probably feeling incredibly self-conscious. She walked into the meeting room and found a seat while holding tightly to her newly purchased Weight Watchers water bottle. My heart went out to her because I knew she had probably been on this ride several times already.
This time I am going to do it! This time, I am going to lose the weight.
Sadly, as I saw her sitting there, I thought, “she probably will not reach her goal.” From the bottom of my heart, I wanted her to be a success story. I wanted her to emerge victorious and help other women overcome their struggles. I believed she could reach her goal. However, my faith was weak because so many people start and so few finish – myself included. In January, many of us jump into a diet or exercise routine with both feet, ready to conquer the world; but, by January 21st, we are back to our old normal.
We overcomplicate health and wellness, expect too much too soon, and become easily discouraged. This year can be different. No races and no unrealistic expectations allowed – are we agreed? This year, we can take a simpler approach to better health and we can do it with our sweethearts.
- Start slowly. Refrain from just jumping in head first. Take the time to research and think. Do this for three to seven days. Seven years ago, Eric declared January cleanse month! We went on a thirty-day Candida cleanse and it was loads of “fun…” let me tell you. The list of foods we could not eat was miles longer than the foods we could eat. And, any form of sugar – even in fruit – was not an option. At my worst, I had a vivid dream about a warehouse filled with bright, colorful candies. There were sacks the size of feed bags and all the candy was free! Just fill your sack! With great fervor, I piled the candy in my sack, made a beeline for the door, and when I got to the exit… there was Eric. And, you guessed it… I had to give all the candy back. (Perhaps, I was feeling some repressed anger towards my husband at the time of that dream. ~smile~) When those thirty days were over, I went hog wild! Whatever good the cleanse did was gone in a week. Since then, I have done a ten-day juice cleanse, another harsh ten-day diet, and other quick “fixes.” It took years to drive this point into my head: quick and health do not go hand in hand. Our relationship with health and wellness simply has to change for any eating or fitness plan to work long-term.
- Begin with small goals. Start with something simple. “I am going to drink 80 oz. of water each day for a week.” After completing that goal, add another small goal. “I am going to incorporate vegetables into each of my meals.” Complete the first and second goal for a week… and then add a third goal. There is no rush. If you start small and make incremental steps, you will not crash big (like I have so many times)! It is important to remember there is no deadline. You do not have to lose fifty pounds in six months.
- If possible, work on the same goals at the same time. Having a buddy system makes the transition to better health more doable and more pleasant. When I make plans to walk with a friend, I actually walk (instead of just telling myself I am going to walk). Even if your significant other needs to make changes more than you do, making the same changes is a supportive, encouraging, and selfless gesture.
- Plan together and prep together. If you have tough schedules, take turns prepping foods. Knowing Eric is here to help me with my goals helps me breathe a little easier. When my mother-in-law was visiting, she prepped tons of vegetables for someone in our family who was trying to eat more healthfully and it was such a blessing. Sharing tasks with your sweetie relieves some of the burden from both of your shoulders. Also, planning your next course of action together gives you the benefit of two points of view. You may have ideas your boyfriend or girlfriend would not think of and vice versa. Plus, you can be on alert if you think he or she is overdoing it. With both of you involved, hopefully, you will have more balance in your plan!
- Be each other’s cheerleaders and partners. Reaching goals together is a bonding experience. It is easier to complete a goal when someone is in your corner, but it is even simpler when someone is in the ring fighting with you. Cheering is awesome, but partnering, when possible, is even more effective.
- Tell yourself, “One day at a time.” Repeating from above (because it’s important!), you do not need to hit your goals by the end of the week (or other arbitrary short period of time). It is a journey and it does not have to be miserable. At the first of the year, it is tempting to push too hard. We ate with reckless abandon over Thanksgiving and Christmas and, now, we want to whip ourselves into shape. But, slow and steady, just like in Aesop’s Tortoise and the Hare, does indeed win the race. Focus on what you want to accomplish today. What are you committed to today? You are not going to be a perfect specimen by 9pm, but you can make decisions which will help you go to bed with a sense of accomplishment.
- Offer support and avoid criticism. Since support has different meanings to different people, it is important first to understand what showing support means to your lady or gentleman. One evening, Eric was in our basement running on our elliptical trainer when I exuberantly ran down the stairs and started cheering, “Go, Eric, go!” He immediately stopped me in my tracks with a disapproving glance and a “No!” Not only does he not appreciate such cheering, but he finds it demotivating. He prefers a simple, “I’m proud of you for exercising,” or, “I think it is great that you are exercising.” And, if he is not exercising, asking, “Why are you not exercising?” feels like criticism to him. But, if I were to suggest we both go for a walk, he would not consider that a criticism. In relationships, we often mean something as encouragement but it comes across as a criticism. Time, paying attention, dialoguing, and trial and error will help you discern the difference between support and criticism.
- Celebrate victories together at least once a month, but preferably twice a month. Go to a movie. Go to dinner. Plan a hike. Do something you both enjoy when you reach your goals. Your goal may simply be to stay on your plan all week. Some people need to celebrate victories more than others. For some, the victory is enough of a reward. For the rest of us, we benefit from having something to look forward to after the hard work.
- Keep moving forward. If today was a flop, tomorrow is a brand new day. When I was a teenager, my friend and I decided to lose weight and exercise. One afternoon, I called see if she wanted to go for a walk, but she declined. “I have eaten so poorly today. There is no point in exercising.” What?! Sure there is! One “failure” does not negate every other good choice. You will have off days, but tomorrow is always a fresh slate (or, even making a good choice in the same day!).
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)
We hope you and your love are working towards a more health-filled lifestyle if you are not already living one. Eric and I have a long way to go, but we have the tools, the desire, and each other. We are not perfect and we are not going to stop eating foods we love in moderation; but, we are excited to make positive changes.
What do you want to change this year? Which area of your health and wellness needs the most attention? What is your plan to improve your health? Whatever your goals, plan first, execute slowly, avoid burnout, and celebrate! You can do this. You absolutely can. No, seriously, you can do it. Happy health to you and your honey!
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 2, ESV)
How will you simplify your health goals in 2018?