Last December, I was thinking about the New Year, 2020. Usually, this time of year I make several grandiose resolutions and almost always they involve some half-baked plan for weight loss. But last year was different. I was at my wit’s end. Stressed out. In poor health. Carrying around a significant amount of extra weight. I decided to commit myself to a year-long journey to improve my health.
The excess pounds had accumulated little by little over the decades as a result of some bad habits and were then exacerbated by the joy of four pregnancies in six years. But I resolved this time would be different. I set off on a mission to improve myself and nothing was going to get in my way.
Well, fast forward a year. In hindsight, 2020 may not have been the best year to dedicate myself to not eating any added sugar or flour, and to stop eating my emotions. (Uh, global pandemic anyone?) But, I think the lessons I learned in spite of the challenges of this year deserve to be shared.
Five Lessons from this Year
1. Do your research!
I started my health journey with an idea: My issues are the result of bad habits. I decided I had the nutritional knowledge and the “dieting” experience to know what doesn’t work for me. If I could just change my habits, I could change my life. I started my journey by researching habit formation, not “diets.” I listened to several books about habits, like “Atomic Habits” by James Clear and “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg on Audible. Then Audible “suggested” I might like to listen to “Bright Line Eating, The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free” by Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson. This plan looked promising and I thought would speak to forming good food habits so I set to changing things up, one small habit at a time.
2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew!
No pun intended, but the truth is, I didn’t get this way overnight. I was not going to fix it overnight. In the past, when I have tried to “overhaul” all areas of my life all at the same time, I ended up taking on more than I could handle and a couple months in, things always fell apart. This time, after I did the research, I decided I would get an idea of all the things I wanted to change and I would change just one thing at a time. When I had that one thing handled, I added another and so on.
3. Get a little obsessed.
I don’t care what “plan” or “program” you decide to do, once you make the choice, throw your whole self at it. Eat, sleep and breath that plan until you own it so fiercely it becomes a part of your identity. Today, I don’t eat sugar and flour — that is just who I am, just like a non-smoker doesn’t smoke and a recovering alcoholic doesn’t drink. Others might think you are a bit crazy, but sometimes, that is what it takes to push past the desire to quit and to reach your goals.
4. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Once you have your goals and habits set, get used to the idea that it is the act of doing these things over and over and over again that solidifies these individual acts as habits. Keep things simple and just do it over and over and over. The health journey is long and can sometimes feel like it doesn’t lead anywhere. The strength to keep going comes from the automaticity of things you repeatedly do. Wash, rinse, repeat.
5. It’s a health journey, not a destination!
I have always approached big goals by “beginning with the end in mind.” But eating healthy is not a destination, it is a LIFESTYLE. I have been doing my plan for a year now, but the timeline is arbitrary. There is no magic finish line I get to cross at a year, it’s just another day. Another day I choose to live like this, to eat like this. I still have a ways to go until I reach my goal, but I know I will get there, the time will pass either way. And even though I don’t feel “done,” I am a whole lot closer to my goal now than I was last December. “A year from now, you’ll be glad you started today.”