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Jan 21, 2014
03:42 PM
Health Kick

Minding My Resolutions

Minding My Resolutions

PHOTO COURTESY FLICKR USER URBANEWOMENMAG

Many New Year's resolutions include losing weight.

It is the month of resolutions and fitness revolutions. It’s the time of new diets and gym memberships, of both denial and motivation. I’ve been quiet because I’ve had little to add to the abundance of health-related content exploding everywhere you look. I don’t have fifteen great bodyweight exercises to share. I don’t have ten diet hacks that will help you lose ten pounds. I don’t have any magical advice that makes it easy to give up carbs, candy, sugar, snacking, gluten, grains, Internet memes or staring at your cellphone instead of watching your child’s basketball game.

If my experience is any indicator, losing weight is just a numbers game. I have found that what I eat is less important than how much I eat. Giving up sugar doesn’t do me any good if I still eat a ton of cheese. I can eat pizza and maintain my weight as long as I stop at one piece. A beer on its own isn’t evil. Three together? Criminal.

Still, that’s just my experience. I know people who have had great success by eliminating carbs or going paleo or forgoing gluten. Different things work for different people. Heck, people have lost weight eating nothing but "food" from McDonalds. The bottom line is just to expend more calories than you consume.

And that's not news. I heard an ad on the radio for a diet program that would allow you to eat all of your favorite foods. The hitch? You just eat less.

Well, I didn’t feel the earth shudder on its axis, did you? In fact, I’d venture a guess that most of us know that the key to losing weight is, more or less, eating less. The Gen-X teenager in me has this response: Duh.

Knowing what we need to do is the easy part. Doing it is the hard part. For me it’s hard because I eat for a lot of reasons. Hunger is just one of them. It’s not even always the most compelling—or most common—one. I eat cake to celebrate birthdays. I eat fried fish as part of a wintery Wisconsin Friday ritual. I eat candy when I’m stressed. Sometimes I eat when I’m bored. At those times I'll eat just about anything in the fridge or pantry that requires no preparation. A slice of cheddar. Nuts. Crackers. 

I’m not saying I’m a glutton. I’m just saying that awareness is a small piece of the puzzle for me.

Another thing I read on the Internet (so it must be true) is that 2014 is going to be the year of mindfulness. I don’t think there is a real authority on that, so 2014 might very well be the year of exploitation or perspiration. It probably depends on whom you ask. But I liked the idea of mindfulness. It’s the driving idea behind food journaling (made popular thanks to apps like MyFitnessPal), which science seems to suggest is an effective weight-loss tool.

In essence, mindfulness is about paying attention. With respect to food it means to pay attention to what you are eating, how much you are eating, what you are craving, how you are feeling when you crave it, etc. More generally, mindfulness is about being in the moment (and not staring at a cellphone instead of watching your daughter play basketball, which I did this weekend and for which I was rightfully reprimanded by an angry and disappointed six-year-old).

I don’t know if it’s going to help me manage my weight. I don’t know if it’s going to make me a happier, more successful or otherwise better parent, wife, friend, daughter, employee, writer, person. But I think the chances that it will make me worse in any way are rather slim. In my estimation, it’s a low-risk and potentially high-reward endeavor.

It’s not really a resolution. I hesitate to use that word because it sets me up for failure. But I like the idea of mindfulness a heck of a lot better than giving up bread or Nutella altogether, so I think I’ll go with it for now. 

I'll check back in to let you know if the conversation hearts and Cadbury eggs hit my shopping cart or if I manage to mindfulness-away the urges that are certain to strike in upcoming months.

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About This Blog

Contrary to the title of this blog, I'm not always on a health kick. I try (for the most part) to eat well and exercise regularly, but I'm far, far from perfect. I do, though, enjoy learning about health trends and scientific discoveries, and I hope to share information and pose questions that you might find interesting or useful. Hey, if you get a little inspired while you're reading, all the better. Just don't expect it on a regular basis. I'm a writer, not a celebrity trainer.

Why health? Well, I've been around the block enough times that I don't take it for granted anymore. I also recognize that our health is the result of myriad factors ranging from genetics to diet to habits to socioeconomic status to prejudices and beyond. It's a complicated puzzle with different pieces for each of us. That means there are few guarantees or absolutes and still a ton to discover. I never liked the rigidity of science in practice, but I love the insights it produces.

So let's start 2013 on a Health Kick. With any luck, we'll all be better for it.

– Jennifer Garrett 

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