It's the first week of a new year and the "New Year, New Me" statements have started. As someone who believes in the completely unsexy approach of better food and a little more activity to achieve your goals, it always makes me feel a little bah-humbug about the whole thing. Now, I am all for people setting goals about improving their health, losing fat or getting fitter, but I can't help notice the correlation between the dramatic "New Year, New Me" statement and the empty gym at the beginning of February.
The thing that doesn't sit right with me is the concept of a "New Me". Now I fully understand that nobody literally means "New Me", but the phrasing of it suggests that a completely new body and lifestyle is required. That the bodies we have called home for as many years as we've been alive are to be cast aside and replaced by a bigger better model. Your body is not a car on finance. There isn't an option to swap it out for a better model after years of not caring for it properly. We cannot simply replace the body we have by wishing it so. Even if you're simply looking for inspiration, is that really the kind of message we want to be sending ourselves: That our bodies are not valuable enough to care for and repair?
New is not an option.
Exchange is not an option.
Repair and servicing is.
At the end of the day, it's your decision, your responsibility. Sure, you can eat junk, rarely exercise and run your body into the ground prematurely, that is your prerogative. Be warned though, it is very likely that your shortened life will also include more illness (minor and serious), more long term injuries and more depression. When just a little more care, more whole-foods, more activity and self love results in a longer life with less illness and injury and so much more opportunity for happiness, why wouldn't you try a kinder approach? What is there to lose?
So how do you 'start'? It doesn't mean hitting the gym or swearing off carbs, nor does it mean taping pictures of Victoria's Secret Models to your fridge. Remember your body isn't a car to exchange, you've got to work with what you've got. All you need to do is start making some small, good decisions - start looking after and repairing your body. There's no end to the list of what these changes might be, but some that I see being effective for my clients are:
Increasing water intake to 2L per day
Walking for at least 30 minutes every day
Planning healthy dinners for the week in advance
Swapping evening snacks for fruit or veg
Filling half of their plates with vegetables or salad at lunch and dinner
Not buying fashion/celebrity gossip magazines (the ones filled with unrealistic images of women)
Picking an exercise they enjoy and doing it twice a week
Having a portion of protein with every meal
Some of these changes may seem huge, others may seem too small to you. The point is, none of them require a completely "New You" to sustain. Yes, changing a behaviour will require some effort to start with, but within a month, this kind of change becomes a habit. Each time you realise that your change has become a habit, it's time to choose a new one. Before you know it, you will have replaced your least healthy habits with new ones that serve your health and bring you closer to your goals.
So, if you started the year with a "New Year, New Me" statement and are beginning to struggle keeping it up, don't beat yourself up. It doesn't mean you've failed, it means you're a human not a car. Take some time to think about your New Year's resolution, consider whether it serves you and your health or if it is unrealistic and demotivating. If it's the latter, it might be time to think about a new, healthier and happier goal.