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