I Still Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

I first posted “I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions” at the end of 2012, a post about all the books I hoped to read in 2013 (four of which are still on my current list). And aside from the title, I didn’t go into an explanation of why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. So here I am again, and this time I’ll try not to leave you hanging.

It seems that we can thank the Puritans for New Year’s resolutions. Abstaining from the revelry of the pagans, they instead reflected on the year past and the year to come. If you’re the introspective type, this could be a very constructive exercise. For instance, if you look over a year and see a lot of wasted spending, you could resolve to spend money more wisely, thus saving to buy a car or put a down payment on a house. And considering that Christmas is exactly one week before New Year’s Day, there are the ever-popular gym and diet resolutions. Many people take these seriously at first, only to fail when they realize that a month in the gym does not a truly fit person make or that getting up at 4:30 during the week is a tough commitment to keep.

So instead of using resolutions for their original, thoughtful purpose, we’ve turned them into a mockery. If you follow social media at all, you’ve likely read a number of resolutions from the snarky to the absurd:

Resolution 01

Resolution 02

 

Resolution 05

Resolution 07

And I just couldn’t resist this one (it’s for you, Thomas):

Resolution 08

And then there are just the sad ones. You know the ones: they’re the same resolutions that get made over and over again every year, as if this time they will actually happen – except they never do:

Resolution 03

So I’ve never made New Year’s resolutions. That isn’t to say that I don’t make resolutions at all. If you know me, I’m extremely goal-oriented, so it would seem that this kind of thing is right up my alley. Not so. I have enough of a hard time keeping up with the stuff that I want to do throughout the year.

For example, when my kids spent a weekend at their grandparents’ house over the summer, I stayed up past three A.M. cleaning up their messes (check out the before and after photos here). And after that, I resolved that the house would be clean (well, mess-free, not necessarily dusted and vacuumed) every night before I went to bed. It was something I stuck with until Christmas (read about that here). But one week later, I was on the wagon again (so to speak) and cleaned the house. The only clue that Christmas even happened is that our dining room table is now a Lego train station.

I’ve also made lifestyle resolutions before, although never at New Year’s. The original resolution: to lose weight by exercising. Hey, it worked, but I had to keep it up in order to stay in shape. I did this through two pregnancies. I continued when my elder son started school, even though it meant waking up at 4:30 in order to get a workout in.

For the longest time, I could blame any weight gain on terrible dietary choices. I would eat healthier and lose weight, but unlike my exercise-all-the-time resolution, the eating healthier thing was on-again, off-again until I decided to go wheat free.

But it wasn’t the antidote to my problem. Sure, I lost weight but gained it all back, plus 10 pounds. I gained weight on carrot sticks, for crying out loud, so why not just eat pizza? I allowed myself to get sucked into the resolution black hole that consumes so many well-meaning individuals early every year.

It wasn’t until my doctor told me that there was a very good reason (hypothyroidism) for gaining weight while eating carrots that I realized that I needed help to keep my resolution. After hearing two hours’ worth of dietary history, she put forth a plan to get my body back to equilibrium without living on a prescription, and the first step was to go gluten-free again. Now, however, I am accountable to someone other than myself, and although it may sound backwards, I finally feel the wonderful liberation of being able to share responsibility for my resolution.

The gluten-free thing was for December. But after Christmas, when there would be fewer tempting foods hanging around the house, I had to go totally grain free, as well as dairy free (or very limited dairy). Sounds kind of like a New Year’s resolution, doesn’t it? Except that it took three or four days after New Year’s to eat all the gluten-free pizza and drink my fill of Coolattas. I felt a bit like:

Resolution 06

I’ve never considered going fully Paleo before. After all, I love dairy. This isn’t even a resolution I would adopt, even if I did New Year’s resolutions. But because it’s what my doctor thinks will fix my problem, I’ve dropped grains and had almost no dairy to speak of for the past five days. This will be my lifestyle for at least three to six months, at which point my body may have healed itself enough to add a few of those prohibited foods back into my diet upon occasion.

Although it is certainly not always the case, many of the people whom I’ve seen keep their own resolutions (no matter when they’re made) are the ones who must make a change or face unpleasant physical consequences. Having hypothyroidism is no picnic, but in less than a week of living this resolution-like lifestyle, I have lost over two pounds that I could not shed before, and miraculously, I only crave food that I’m actually allowed to eat. If things keep progressing like this, it may not take much will power at all to keep myself on track.

I hope that whenever we seriously resolve to do something, we all make our best efforts and stay accountable. That way, if we do actually decide to take a step back in eleven-and-a-half months and see what we did with our year, we won’t say:

Resolution 04

Instead, we can pat ourselves on the back, say, “Job well done,” and not have any regrets so dire that they require nearly-impossible resolutions to fix.

Oh, and if you just want more beard, more power to you.

How My Desire to Lose Weight Led to a Complete Lifestyle Change

Sarah_Belly

The night before my younger son was born (as seen on the left above), I weighed more than I ever want to weigh again. And losing that weight was a lot harder than with baby number one. That came as a shock, accompanied with a good deal of worry over whether I would be able to keep the weight off – if it ever came off at all.

I have one of those lovely body types that gains weight if I so much as look at a cupcake. I’ve tried various exercise routines over the years, and finally found success with a combination of P90X and a couple interval routines, which have helped me achieve a level of fitness I never expected. The problem is, however, that exercise is only part of the solution. Living under the impression that I could work off the pizza and doughnuts and Saturday morning fast food breakfasts only lasted so long—just long enough for me to start regaining my baby weight (but this time without the baby).

When my clothes became uncomfortably tight, my options were to give in and buy larger ones or revolt against what I’d done to myself and take action. I took action.

Taking the First Step

Before actually doing something, the shift came from within. I know that sounds metaphysical and whatnot, but it’s absolutely true. There is a huge difference between thinking, Hmm, I really could lose a few pounds and realizing, Something has to change, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen—permanently. Follow-through is a must, but there has to be that driving decision first.

Going Wheat-Free

I heard about Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back To Health a year or so before I decided it might be worth looking into. I didn’t want to cut out wheat. It seems to be in everything, including many of my favorite foods, but I was desperate and hoped it would make a difference. My husband thought author William Davis, M.D. was a quack, but since I was the one buying groceries and cooking, he had little choice but to eat my wheat-free food, at least at home. He lost nine pounds.

I’ve been reluctant to discuss this decision because most people think I’m stupid, latching onto a fad. I mean, why deny myself “regular” food if I don’t have an allergy that prevents me from eating it? At the same time, however, I was pleased by a number of people who came out of the woodwork and told me how going wheat-free has changed their lives for the better. As a friend said, even if only one-quarter of the book is true, that tiny bit of information is worth heeding.

Today’s wheat has been genetically engineered to grow more plentifully, and in doing so, its gluten content has risen dramatically. Franken-wheat, some call it. What struck me most about Davis’s research was the number of conditions apart from celiac that are affected by wheat consumption. Many of Davis’s patients had problems that no other doctors could fix, yet the simple deletion of wheat from their diets solved them.

And then there’s the obesity issue. Although whole wheat is recommended as a fiber-rich staple that should be a part of everyone’s diet, whole wheat bread elevates blood sugars nearly as high as white bread (don’t believe me—believe Harvard Medical School). While this is particularly harmful to you if you’re diabetic, this even affects people like me. The two slices of whole wheat toast that I used to eat every morning caused a blood sugar crash that made me ravenous two hours later.

Experimenting with Paleo

The Paleo Diet has a lot in common with Wheat Belly, although there are places where the two diverge. If you follow the “primal” version, you can have dairy, while many Paleo followers shun milk products altogether. Either way, the main idea is that humans started as hunter-gatherers, and we survived just fine without processed foods.

Paleo depends on many natural foods, but carby foods like corn and legumes are a big no-no. There are a number of great Paleo recipes that I’ve tried, but I have not gone completely Paleo. Instead, I use a blend of the two diets I’ve discussed, as well as some gluten-free selections. Even so, the mere deletion and substitution of certain elements of my diet isn’t enough, which leads to the third and most drastic thing I’ve done.

Making My Own

Making my own what? Well, a lot of things. Pizza dough, protein bars, almond milk, almond meal, coconut milk, coconut flour, peanut butter, tomato sauce. When I cut out wheat, I knew we couldn’t eat out as much, so that meant cooking. By making a lot of things from scratch, I not only keep the cost down, but I also control what my family eats. The pre-made items that I do buy go through a lot of scrutiny first. If I don’t know some of the chemical-sounding ingredients, or if sugar is toward the top of the list, I make it on my own. I also avoid buying canned or frozen food as much as possible.

In short, I’ve become one of “those” moms.

Using Nature’s Supplements

I started to take an interest in natural remedies while doing research for a character in one of my novels. (It always comes back to writing for me, doesn’t it?)  Many people never think twice about popping a pill to fix their problems, but I would rather live in a way that keeps me from having problems to begin with. And if I need medical help, I would rather use nature’s treatments first.

I never even knew coconut oil existed before I read Wheat Belly. I assumed that I would have to buy it at a specialty store and was surprised to find it everywhere I normally shop. While I knew that hydrogenated oils are bad, I didn’t realize how bad. A friend gave me the book The Coconut Oil Miracle, by Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D. This truly is a miraculous oil. Not only is it a natural antibiotic, but it’s also antiviral and can even help fight the flu.

So what does coconut oil have to do with weight loss? It gives us energy and increases our metabolism. This is wonderful for people like me. I have to exercise two to three times more than people with fast metabolisms just to keep from gaining (and that’s only if I eat right, too).

To Make a Long Post a Little Longer. . .

What I discovered, even before I lost any weight, was that I was transformed, and not just physically. Although changing my eating habits certainly keeps me satisfied longer, the way I think about food (it’s not a social or even a comfort activity for me anymore) underwent an even more powerful transformation.

The weight loss is great, but the health benefits that I will reap from my change of lifestyle will last me, I hope, much longer than the clothes that I can fit into again.

Related articles

The Benefits of Cutting Out Gluten but Not Going Gluten-Free

Dr. Peter Attia on Ketosis

Mark’s Daily Apple (we don’t need grains)

Best Sugar Substitutes

All Sorts of Pretty (almond and coconut recipes)