By the time the 4th of July nears, I’m usually in a state of denial. Has half the year already passed?! Yikes.
It’s a good time to review the goals I set for myself in January (after all, there’s still six months left in this year to get more done!), and to pat myself on the back for how much I’ve accomplished thus far. The latter point is key: If you find yourself looking at your to-dos and getting light-headed, as I frequently do, or you feel yourself shutting down on your progress because you don’t think you’ve done enough, noting your successes can help you stay positive. Take my list from earlier this year, and my ideas for modifications:
- Goal #1 Workouts: Three Boot Camp classes, one yoga and one dance class per week. I’ve been pretty consistent with Boot Camp — sometimes even going four times per week! — but have neglected my yoga and dance commitments. Instead, I started going to Pilates once a week beginning in March, and yoga only sporadically. Am I going to be hard on myself? Heck, no! Have you seen Boot Camp classes?!? They are intense, to say the least. And it wasn’t long ago that I spent my days in a desk chair only to go straight home to a reclining chair — every single day. The fact that I’m doing three classes a week of this strength-and-cardio circuit gives me a huge sense of pride.
- Instead of viewing my lack of attendance at yoga or dance as a point of disappointment, I started reevaluating the purpose of this goal. When I wrote out this resolution, I was still fairly fresh off my visit to Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Massachusetts, where I attended a five-day weight-loss retreat. There, I was going to yoga and YogaDance every day. I felt amazing after these classes, both equally relaxed and joyful, so I wanted to keep the commitment in my hometown. Yoga helped slow my racing mind, and seemed to translate to the kitchen, where I was more thoughtful in my food choices. Dancing allowed me to move my body freely and reclaim a sensuality I had lost while gaining weight over the years. Both of these goals serve a greater purpose than simply putting in the time at a class. Worthwhile indeed.
- On retreat, I wasn’t in the office or on deadline, keeping up with household chores, and balancing the family budget. So perhaps I need to scale back on this: How about two yoga and two dance classes per month instead of four each? Or one monthly class? Or what if I use a yoga DVD at home and dance in my living room? There’s room for adjustment here. And if I need to put this goal on hold for now in favor of keeping my Boot Camp commitment, I can. Do what works.
- Keeping track of my attendance or lack thereof would be helpful in understanding my barriers. After class, I’ve decided to write down how I feel in a journal so when I review my week on Sunday and plan for the next, I can remember what worked the best for me. Along with weekly self check-ins, I’m adding in monthly check-ins on the last day of each month to review what worked and what didn’t.
- Goal #2 Food: eat “clean” and avoid gluten, dairy, soda and processed foods. I’ve been very happy with how I eat now, and the subsequent energy I’ve been enjoying. Although I’m not 100 percent perfect, and that’s OK, I’ve generally kept focused. In April, for example, I attended a birthday party and stood next to the bar for nearly an hour, eschewing alcohol in favor of only drinking club soda; nearby, a large tray of cupcakes sat on a table and I didn’t even think twice about eating one. But then sometimes I’ll pass the bakery section at my co-op and spy the flourless chocolate cake, a treat often too tempting to resist.
- Create allowances. If I can do 80/20 or 85/15, I won’t feel deprived and compelled to splurge. See #20 of 101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy: “It’s what you do most of the time — day in, day out — that counts. The healthier you get, the easier and more automatic healthy choices will become.” Being 100 percent on point isn’t very realistic, especially if you’re breaking a pattern of past poor food choices. Do your best, and make rules that you feel you can follow. Instead of a slice of cake, I avoid that section of the grocery store and have a few squares of dark chocolate as my treat. And be picky! If I really want the flourless cake, but only fluffy marble is offered at the party, I don’t reach for it.
- Plan and Prep. This is a perennial goal for me, but one that has worked so well in the past. When I follow a meal plan, I lose weight. When I pack my lunches and chop my dinner ingredients the night before, I’m much more likely to eat healthy. It also helps me avoid those days when I open the refrigerator and think, There’s nothing to eat!, even though there are options (just my creativity is lacking). It a step I need to incorporate every night while making dinner.
- Shop more often. I’ve been in the habit of stopping at the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis after my weekly acupuncture sessions to grab free-range, hormone-free meats, fresh kale and other veggies, or any missing staples for my pantry. They also feature to-order juice and smoothies, a salad bar, and yummy, comforting hot foods to-go or dine in. (Each item at the hot-food counter includes a list of ingredients and allergens.) With my old way of eating, I used to hate going to the grocery store: filling a cart with packaged foods, digging through sub-par veggies, and — oh no! — the harsh lighting. Nothing really looked good to me. It was about checking off items on my list and stocking the cupboards. I’d go shopping every two to three weeks because most of my food was boxed or frozen. But I love the co-op. The people are friendly and helpful, the food super fresh and often local, and I get a general sense of goodness as soon as I enter. Maybe it’s the patchouli. (If I’m not scouting the hot-food bar, you may also find me in the beauty section smelling essential oils.) When I can’t make it to the farmers’ market, I’ll shop here or at Mississippi Market in St. Paul — and sometimes I’ll go to all three!
- Goal #3 Accountability. Communicate my goals with my life coach/trainer/friends. Earlier this year at a team dinner, I shared a big overarching goal with my co-workers: To be a success story in the magazine. Whether that’s in print or online through the blog, I want to continue sharing my story and reach my weight-loss and fitness goals. Through my regular check-ins with life coach Lauren and Boot Camp classes with trainer Shane, I feel an obligation not only to myself but to them. And that sense of responsibility has led me toward measurable changes.
- I really can’t say enough good things about working out with a group or partner. It’s made a world of difference for me. Try a few different classes if you aren’t finding one that sticks, or if you’d rather work out with someone you know, ask them to go on a walk or play basketball in the park. Prefer to stay solo? If you are keeping your commitments, great! But if you are struggling to stay on track, considering finding a group or meeting with a trainer.
- Even the solo workout warriors would agree that having an encouraging friend or colleague keeps them motivated. Those compliments go a long way! Sometimes simply sharing a salad recipe with a friend reminds me of my healthy goals. On the days I’m not working out with the Boot Campers, I might go to yoga with a co-worker or take a walk with my friend Jenny. I’ve created a group list in my phone of workout buddies and back-up buddies that I can call on when I need encouragement or a spotter when lift weights.
- Recently, I’ve been seeing more and more friends post their workouts on Facebook. Sometimes it’s an inspirational quote or the miles they’ve logged on a run. Other times it’s a Foursquare check-in at a gym. Maybe they’ve just completed a 5K. Personally, I love this! And not just because I’m one of those people. It’s social media, after all, and if you view it as a place to connect with other like-minded individuals and share a sense of your identity, then health and fitness updates fit the bill. When I was in an unhealthier place, I admit, I didn’t care to see these posts. I started hiding them in my news feed. It made me feel bad about my lifestyle, mostly because I wasn’t proud of my lifestyle. I wanted to be running 5Ks, too, but it felt easier to just hate on those that participated and shared it with the world. Now I see them as inspirational. If you aren’t ready for change yet, don’t be a hater: Let us be proud of success. And join in when you are ready. A simple “like” on my check-in somehow feels supportive.
Not all New Year’s resolutions stick. In fact, most don’t, as the media will report sometime in February or March. What’s more important is to review and adjust, and keep working toward your dream. Last month, editor in chief Pilar Gerasimo wrote a great editorial about a class she led on a retreat and recently online for en*theos Academy for Optimal Living. It’s called “Refine Your Life” (look for highlights from the class in our upcoming December issue). In her editorial, she shares how she came to discover the best tools, techniques and insights that help her reach for her best life. For me, I read it as a great reminder that we are all a work in progress and will make many adjustments to our goals along the way.
If you are in goal-setting mode or refining mode, here’s a list of Experience Life articles I’ve found particularly helpful:
- “How to Overcome Immunity to Change,” based on the principles in the book, Immunity to Change (Harvard Business Press, 2009), by Robert Kegan, PhD, and Lisa Laskow Lahey, EdD
- “The Stages of Change,” based on the Transtheoretical Model of Change by James O. Prochaska, PhD
- “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” audio podcast with Pilar and Stanford business school professor Chip Heath, author of the book Switch
- “Stuck in a Rut” — break free from the patterns that are holding you back
- “Healthy Progress” — celebrate your successes!
- And see our recent roundup, with these and other articles, here