New Year’s Resolution time is only a few weeks away, so I have just a short time to make a helpful suggestion, based on my many years of experience making New Year’s resolutions that failed:
Don’t make a health or fitness-related New Year’s Resolution this year.
I know you want to do it. But don’t do it.
Don’t tell yourself that after Jan. 1 you’re going to start doing some new/different exercise routine. Don’t make a pledge to start eating right after the holidays. Don’t make an ambitious plan to overhaul your entire life starting in a few weeks. Because you can start that stuff now. Today. If not sooner.
I mean, I guess you could wait. Do what you want. I don’t care. But listen: You make resolutions because you’re unhappy with something about yourself and you want to change or improve that thing. You don’t like your shape, let’s say, or you realize the way you eat is shit. This is a big step, admitting that you’re fed up and vowing to change. It happened to me and I can’t seem to shut the fuck up about the results. So when you’ve come to this realization, the thing to do is … take that feeling of motivation and urgency and passion and inspiration and sit on it for a few weeks?
No. Just go do it now.
The impulse to wait comes because you want to Build A Plan — one of epic importance and nobility. The plan will possibly have a quirky name. It may be somewhat complicated but hey that’s just part of its charm. You will start a new blog devoted to this plan. You’re going to document this new plan’s every step online and say it’s because of “accountability.” You sit around imagining how, a few weeks from now, every day you’re going to work hard at this plan and how it’s going to consume your life and be your new life. The scope of this plan has grown from “gee, I wish my gut were smaller” to “this is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.” And in the meantime you’re not fucking doing anything real.
Do something now.
Any health or fitness or weight loss or weight gain or dietary goal you have can be started right this second. Any. I don’t care about your particulars. Want to eat differently? Start with the next meal, or possibly with the one you’re eating right now. Eating crap? Spit it out and go eat something else. Want to track your calories? Get off Facebook for two minutes for chrissakes and go download an app to help you do that. The App Store is open 24 hours a day. Want to exercise more? Good. Everyone has immediate access to a floor. Lie on it face-down and do push-ups until failure. Rest for two minutes then do it again. Boom. You just exercised, look at that.
There’s never a point to waiting until tomorrow, even — never mind Jan. 1. New Year’s Day falls on a goddam Tuesday this year anyway, and you know good and goddam well since it’s a holiday you are not going to embark seriously on any health and fitness bullshit on that day, so you’re going to start Jan. 2, aren’t you. AREN’T YOU. Fuck that. Do it now.
When people say, “After the new year I’m definitely going to start exercising,” what I hear is, “Until then I’m going to spend my time not exercising.”
Likewise: If you miss Jan. 1, the month or the year isn’t totally fucked. I used to make that mistake too. It doesn’t matter when you start. Just start immediately. Don’t wait and make a big to-do. The day I started, it wasn’t some “even number.” It was Feb. 23. When I finally got the idea to get serious about fixing my fat fucking ass, I didn’t want to wait another seven days until March 1 so I could start my Glorious New Plan Possibly With Its Own Blog Documenting Its Every Step on March 1. I started immediately because I was so completely fed up of being a lifelong chub-monster and didn’t want to spend even one more minute ignoring the problem. Shit, I didn’t even wait until a new week to start– it was a Thursday.
I don’t want to sound like too much of a bastard, but I’m going to anyway. When people say, “After the new year I’m definitely going to start exercising,” what I hear is, “Until then I’m going to spend my time not exercising.” When people say, “I’ll start eating better after the holidays,” I hear, “I’m letting myself eat like crap for several weeks.” Because I used to say the same fucking things for years. Procrastination is fun. It’s like I got the feeling of accomplishment, but still gave myself a license to continue my usual behavior. The result being that I felt temporarily noble because I recognized a problem and resolved to fix or improve it, but later felt like shit because I changed nothing about myself and continued the cycle of disappointment and frustration. Again.
And another thing.
Resolutions are not wishes. I used to make a vague resolution and try half-assedly, and think somehow some New Year’s magic would make things happen. It doesn’t. Early January is exactly as non-magical as any other time of year. If you do decide to change something about yourself, you’ll be required to do some work toward that end. Don’t half-ass it. Use every part of the ass.
This means making a goal that’s painfully specific.
I used to make the perpetual New Year’s resolution of “eat better.” Nik used to prod me into what that meant. I’d get annoyed with her pressuring me to say something meaningful, and I’d sulk and dig the toe of my shoe into the ground and mumble, “I dunno, I’ll eat better food and less crap, jeez louise.” Nik gave up asking after a while, because it was frustrating for her and I never followed through with my promise of eating “better.” BECAUSE WHAT IN BLUE FUCKING HELL DOES “BETTER” MEAN? Jesus Hubert Christ. It annoys the crap out of me now to think about it. Specifically, what? More vegetables? How many more? Use cups or ounces or servings or whatever. What kind of vegetables? When will they be eaten? Does it mean smaller meal portions? How much smaller? How can you know what “smaller” even means unless you’re measuring, so you can have a frame of reference? Does “better” mean less processed food? How much less? What do you mean by “processed”? Because technically any butchered meat is “processed,” but it’s not the same kind of “processed” as a Pop Tart. Do you mean “unprocessed” to mean foods that are sold on the outer edges of the grocery store floorplan, meaning produce, meats, dairy? How about this: Make a list of those things you don’t want to eat. Don’t eat them. Make a list of things you’re going to eat instead. Eat those things. Make it a habit. Get support. Write this shit down so it’s tangible and not just a bunch of ideas floating around in your head.
Don’t half-ass it. Use every part of the ass.
I’m not saying you need to know all this in advance. Just work at it — starting right now — and figure things out as you go.
I used to also say stuff like “I’ll exercise more.” Fucking hell. What the hell does that even mean? How much more? One day a week? Three days? Six? What are you going to do? Specifically? How intensely? When are you going to do it? And why are you going to do it? Do you want to build endurance, get faster, get stronger, become leaner, become bulkier, be more efficient — what? This exercise you’re going to do: will doing this, however many times a week, get you where you want to be? Are you sure? If you don’t know, do some research and figure that out because it’s kind of important. Are you going to write it down — because, write it down.
If you’re not specific, you won’t know what to do. You’ll flounder around because you have no definition of “progress” or “success.” Trust me.
And another thing.
Don’t get all ambitious either.
I used to do this too. It goes hand-in-hand with being unspecific. “Starting in January, I’m going to eat better every single day, exercise a lot more, do burpees every day, learn to box, drop 30 pounds, get 6-pack abs, run 50 miles a week, break an 8 minute mile, cycle a century…” And so on.
I’ll tell you what happened to me. I’d have a mental list of Awesome Shit I’m Going To Do, and as I thought about it, and fantasized about my future life with all of those accomplishments under my belt, the list became too big, unwieldy, too ambitious. Dealing with all this stuff became burdensome and worrying. When life got in the way of an ambitious plan (not if), the precarious house of cards I designed would start to collapse, and soon the whole plan was a wreck and the entire process seemed pointless because I figured I was doomed to failure.1
Here’s what you do instead: Do, like, one thing. Maybe two. Maybe. Focus on that shit like a laser beam. Finish one thing before you move on to another. I don’t know where I got off thinking I could handle multiple resolutions when I was never successful at just one, for cripes sake. Ridiculous. You ever hear the old saying “You can’t ride two horses with one rear-end”? Yeah. That.
When I started, all I thought was, “Let’s see if I can get to 160 pounds.” And every day my goal was this: log all foods within a budget. That’s it. I didn’t get caught up in other things like macronutrient ratios until much later, when I had the logging thing down. By now, I’m at 160 (or less, depending on the day). It worked. My new goal is to keep it going for a while longer, lose until I hit maybe 150, get down to about 15% body fat or less, maintain for a while, then gain some more muscle. It’s going to take years. I’m sure as shit not waiting until Jan. 1 to start. Why wait?
And don’t make a big deal about it. Just do the big work already. Blather on and on about it later, like me.
If you do decide to embark on any new goals, by the way, you should check out this list of tips from Richard Wiseman, taken from his book “59 Seconds.” It’s ostensibly about New Year’s Resolutions, but it’s fantastic advice for any time of the year.*
- It’s the same reason why I’ve sworn off doing any more of those monthly “do such-and-such every day for a month” challenges. Forget it. I miss one day and it’s never the same after that. Not to mention, rest is equally as important as exercise, and those monthly challenges usually increase in difficulty every day, giving you no rest for 4 weeks. I’ve hurt myself twice doing those things. Not again. ↩