A New Years weight loss resolution is even more popular than you think! A statistical outline published by Details Magazine shows that 66% of those making resolutions on New Years aspire for fitness goals in the coming year. Unfortunately, 73% of those people give up before reaching their goals.
When it comes to fitness, the punishment-approach is unfortunately accepted as the norm. We ban sugar, we vow to eat low carb. Like toys to a child, we take away things we like as a sort of punishment for our previous indiscretions (extra pounds). Eventually, the method fails, the resolution is dropped.
As someone who’s tried this approach time and time again, my theory is now this: deep down you know you don’t deserve to be punished, you don’t even enjoy punishment. Eventually you remember that life is short, too short to feel deprived and unhappy in. It’s not so simple as to say you gave up simply for lack of will power; I like to think that somewhere in the back of your mind, you know you deserve happiness over self-inflicted punishment. (I hope you’re seeing this cycle evident in other parts of your life too…)
So rather than make your new year’s resolution for weight loss about removing things from your diet or cruelly inflicting your body and mind with rigid rules your bound to break, why not pay more attention to what you’re doing rather than less? Why not put more on your metaphorical plate, while maybe still putting less on your physical plate, in order to make eating a more rich, rewarding experience.
In other words, rather than resolving to Eat Less…why not just Eat Better?
Trust me, you’ll like this much better than your sugarless oats and protein shake lunch routine. Here’s the fundamentals:
There is an age-old saying that is very close to being accurate, yet unforgivably disconnected from the truth of the matter:
You Are What You Eat.
In an extremely literal sense, one could stretch the meaning to barely tickle the edge of fact. If you eat a lot of fat, you will likely become fat. On the other hand, eating a lot of sugar does not make Pam in accounting very sweet…
In truth, it’s not just what you eat that makes up what you are, but how you eat it.
I’m always inspired by cooking shows, especially ones that are competitively based like Top Chef, because though the cooks are faced with major challenges in cooking, they always express their respect and love of individual ingredients. They honor each in color, in flavor, in capacity. They make unexpected combinations, showing the versatility of the ingredient like an actor on stage. They present it beautifully, like a work of art. It leaves me hungry and full of wonder for the capabilities of this most essential act: eating.
A full eating experience includes not just what you eat, but how you go about it. Consuming copious amounts of fruits and vegetables is a beautiful thing, but not if done so with too much discipline (IE punishment).
A plate full of vegetables can be just as guilt-inducing as a plate full of pasta; if we’re eating it with the belief that we are ‘bad’ and ‘need to be punished/disciplined for our actions’, then neither the vegetable nor the pasta will be rewarding. Conversely, in being aware of what we are eating, why we are eating it – which is also one of the Five Life Changing Questions I shared on Huffington Post recently – we can clue in to that food and our every action’s potential to either give us peace or give us unhappiness.
The woman who is constantly on the go, eating fast food behind the wheel on the way to her son’s soccer practice before picking up her daughter at piano before cooking dinner for a hungry family. Sleeping 4 hours a night and in a constant state of rush. Eating is done in motion, without much thought or care, as everything is simply a means to an end. Eating, and maybe even living, with presence and awareness is not a priority.
The executive who eats at his desk or over business meetings. He’s not much aware of how the food tastes or feels or how it’s prepared. He’s lives to work, and so eats to live to work. He is distracted when he’s not at work, half-present to the moment and those around him.
The girl who treats food like an emotional reward for the wrong-doings of the world. I’m guilty of at least fantasizing about this once a day. She rewards herself with fries and pizza; food is her best friend and she seeks it when things go wrong. She turns to food when the world lets her down. Comfort is taken in the warmth of the food for her emotional heart rather than her physical heart. Three boxes of cake batter later and, shockingly, I didn’t feel any better.
It’s not just what we eat, but how we eat it. Our relationship to food and the mindset we’re in when we consume it directly corresponds with how we treat all of life. Moreover, how we care for our physical lives is just as important as how we emotionally care for it, not just in reward (end) but in preparation (beginning). Not just in result, but in intention. Food can be a beautiful thing, a very spiritual practice of taking stock in what the universe has offered us. Of being excited and aware of the flavors, of the colors, of the textures. Of being surprised by the ways it can be prepared, paired together. And in gratitude of the earth for offering so many wonderful ingredients to play with every day.
Try these tips to accomplishing your New Years Weight Loss Resolution:
- Pre-plan not just what you eat, but where and when
Take time to get outside, meet a friend, sit in silence. Make eating a grand gesture.
- Choose Balance of Banishing
Don’t try to banish certain foods or vices altogether. Put them into perspective, and keep control of portions.
- Pay Attention
What colors are present? What smells come alive as you cook? What senses come into play when you prepare, eat, taste your food? If you’re not familiar with the practice of mindful eating, start by studying up: watching a cooking show (Top Chef is our favorite!) to prime you into the wonderful world of food.
Eventually, the practice of eating well to enjoy the food will translate into eating well to enjoy life, and be kind to your body. When food stops being only an emotional reward for when things go wrong, it can be an act of loving kindness to progress things toward going right. It can be a reward for good behavior – presence – instead of a discipline or punishment or gift for bad behavior of yourself or others.
Sometimes finding the way that works best for you means thinking outside the box. But as long as you remain true to enjoying what you eat and offering your body the gift of great food as well as the kindness of your heart, you’ll be on the right track.
Eat in peace, be at peace.
The book French Women Don’t Get Fat is an inspiring look at not only why French women are so svelte, but how the French view food and eating. It also offers great daily practices for health, and wonderful recipes to bring out your French Chic.
I draw a lot of inspiration from the Instagram of Way of Gray. She’s a fantastic advocate for healthy living and loving your body, and her daily Instagram shots always remind me to be kind to my body. Plus, she has tons of super quick HIIT workouts anyone can get through.
Take a cooking class. Stores like Sur la Table and Williams Sonoma often offer free classes, and you can buy tools right while your there. It makes a great best friend date night, and will show you that in cooking, there’s nothing to be intimated by. It’s all about fun, feeling it out, and making it your own. You don’t have to be an expert chef to eat well, you just have to want to learn and experiment!
One last tip: don’t be overly influenced by the opinion of others. A girl’s-night-out can be a great time, and indulgence in some junk food is totally fine. But don’t let others pressure you into eating something unhealthy just to make them feel better. I’m often guilted for the small meals I eat at night out with friends or colleagues (often just a salad, or even raw veggies and dip), but when friends try to pursued me into indulging when I don’t want to, I just say “Hey, no one is forcing you to order mac-and-cheese!”. Just like misery loves company, bad behavior loves accomplices. Don’t let the action of others decide yours. It will be hard at first to resist, be later your friends will expect it from you, and might even encourage you to keep with it or be inspired to do the same.
photo by LPK