New Year’s Solution?

by | Jan 2, 2009

To be honest, I don’t really believe in the New Year’s Resolution. By nature I am a person of action and do not need an excuse to make my own life better.

If there is something important in my daily routine that I feel needs improvement I don’t wait for January to make the change. Instead I live by the Nike slogan and Just Do It.

Thus the first question I pose to readers today is:

Does a new digit at the end of the calendar really make it easier to go to the gym or eat a salad?

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Next there is the issue of sticking to your Resolution. From what I understand, most people abandon their New Year’s ambitions after a couple months (or even weeks) of half-hearted effort.

To me this proves that resolving to do something is relatively meaningless. In my opinion, if there is any point to this year-end exercise at all, things must actually get done.

Maybe we should change the name to New Year’s Solution?

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But perhaps I am too harsh.

Rather than hoping for change, for many people the New Year may simply be a time for reflection and evaluation:

What has and hasn’t worked in 2008? Should I approach anything differently in 2009?

This kind of personal reflection I applaud, but what still troubles me is that so many people make the same Resolutions year after year without ever achieving their goals.

This year I will lose weight! This year I will get in shape! This year I will use my gym membership!

If you don’t believe me take a stroll through your local Borders or Barnes & Noble bookstore and check out the number of diet books on display at the front. Notice their bright pinks and yellows designed to get your attention.

Never is the promotion of weight loss books as shameless as it is in January.

We are all supposed to try our failed resolutions again this year, keeping the hope alive that one of those neon programs will become our salvation and finally we will achieve our lifelong dream of being thin and happy.

*yawn*

I am not interested in this phony brand of Resolution.

Over and over diets have been shown not to work and even promote weight gain, so they are not your answer.

Health problems and body fat do not appear in a single splurge, but rather accumulate bit at a time as a result of poor lifestyle decisions. So it is not logical to believe that a quick, short-term weight loss will correct them.

This year (as in every year) I recommend moderation as the best solution for health. And I propose that the most effective way to build good habits and reduce bad ones is to make small, gradual changes to your daily routine.

Moderate changes that you can easily manage are the ones that can be maintained and built upon.

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If you do intend to make changes to your habits this year, I wish you the best of luck. I designed this blog to provide tips, advice and information to help cultivate a practical, healthy lifestyle.

My approach begins with establishing the mentality that diets don’t work and health is achieved through habits, not single actions. With a handful of tools and simple tricks, even the busiest among us can streamline health to be an automatic part of our lives.

To get the most out of Thought for Food, subscribe via email or RSS feed.

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On a final note, the road to health begins with inspiration.

This year I would love to learn your personal New Year’s Resolution success stories. Were you ever able to quit smoking? Maintain your workout routine? Lose weight? Adopt a new hobby?

I invite you to share with us your New Year’s Solution and tell us what obstacles you overcame and why you think you were able to achieve your goal.

Your success could inspire the rest of us to find New Year’s Solutions of our own!

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Discuss Thought for Food:

  1. Does the New Year help you make improvements in your life?
  2. Do you think there is a difference between a Resolution and a Solution?
  3. Is moderation a reasonable alternative to dieting?
  4. Do you have a New Year’s Solution to share?
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15 Responses to “New Year’s Solution?”

  1. Steve Parker, M.D. says:

    Diets often lead to weight loss. The problem is REGAIN of the lost weight. It’s such a difficult issue that Roizen and Oz, in “YOU – on a diet” didn’t even bother to address it.I look forward to the April issue of American Psychologist. I want to see the details of the “diets don’t work” study.Adverse effects of “yo-yo dieteing” were a popular topic 10 years ago. You don’t read too much about it now. Probably nothing new to report.If you are a 40-year-old woman weighing 210 pounds and suffer from type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, what do you do when your doctor convinces you all three conditions will improve with loss of 50 pounds?The implication of the UCLA study is: Don’t even try.I’m not ready to stipulate that.I’m not aware of any strong evidence showing “moderation” works any better than dieting. There’s anecdotal evidence, for sure. But we both want more than that.I agree that lifestyle modification will be necessary for longterm weight control success. One of the big commercial diet plans has dropped “diet” in favor of “lifestyle.” The program hasn’t changed, mind you.The National Weight Control Registry provides clues as to a good way to approach the weight regain mystery. It is not as rigorously scientific as I would like. Here’s the link: http://www.nwcr.ws/I blogged about a 30-month long study regarding weight regain. Results are not great by any means, but the situation is not hopeless:http://advancedmediterraneandiet.com/blog/?p=20I'm not sure moderate changes work for most people. Think about a cigarette habit. How many people quit by cutting down by one cigarette weekly until they are smoking zero? “Cold turkey” is a more common successful method. Most smokers try six or seven times before they quit. It’s often that way for dieters.Is going from couch potato status to brisk walking 30 minutes daily a moderate change? Probably not, for 40-year-old lifelong sedentary 210-pounders.Very interesting stuff, huh?-Steve

  2. NB says:

    Interesting comments, steve. About the tobacco though- I’ve always heard that cold turkey is actually very unsuccessful: that smokers are twice as successful with gradual nicotine replacement therapy, and four times as successful with psychotherapy(behavior modification therapy, etc.) in addition to replacement therapy. I’m curious what studies you’ve read that advocate cold turkey.Moreover weight loss is so much more complicated that tobacco because of the multifactorial nature of weight- not only caloric intake, but metabolism, activity/exersize, food composition, social factors, etc. That is why moderation is even more important in weight loss- it is too much to expect cold turkey changes in so many aspects of life to have real, true, and permanant weight loss.I’m curious what people think, though- which would have a more dramatic effect on personal health- quitting smoking, or losing weight such that BMI changes from 32 to 27? My guess is that quitting smoking is still the single most important thing a person can to do improve their health.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My theory is this: I’m likely to fail on like 75% of my resolutions. If I only make a few, then I’m probably only gonna stick to 1-2 resolutions. But if I make a list of 20 changes I want to make in my life, then I’d probably stick to 5. I like the long lists.

  4. Matt Shook says:

    Wow, this post is very timely and essential…great questions!1) No. Why let external time-frames dictate an internal (personal) decision? I think routines can be useful in getting someone to take actions she/he may be adverse to (exercising, commuting to work, working at work, etc.)…but to wait for the New Year to finally take steps towards a new plan blatant procrastination.2) No, you’re not too harsh. A New Year Solution is a step up from a Resolution. However, a think a New Year Revelation or Revolution may be even more effective. I believe the problem lies, as you pointed out, in “hope”. The best definition I’ve heard of hope is:a longing for a future condition over which you have no agencyI don’t hope I have a healthy breakfast…I don’t hope I finish this posting…I just do it. However, tomorrow…when I’m on a plane flying down south I *hope* it doesn’t crash…but that is out of my control.In order to stop hoping and start doing it is essential to change ones mindset. Or maybe, a revelation which leads to a revolution of ones mindset. How is a revelation achieved? Self-reflection and reconsidering the priorities in ones life. I once wrote up a blog that explained my profound confusion and dismay in regards to family/friends and health. I pained me to use this nasty little word “investment”…but that is exactly what it came down to. I questioned why they would invest in a new laptop, a new TV, a new car, a new house…but not invest in themselves. Our physical health is the foundation of everything…mental, social, spiritual, sexual, and financial health. Financial? The cost of health care is not going down anytime soon…being healthy is a very sound financial investment…as callous as that statement may seem.The catchy-title hipster diet books are horrifically shameless. I can’t even stand the sight of them. I believe if they really wanted to help people with their health they would sell the books at cost or give them away free. Blogs like this one are the perfect alternative…excellent sources of free information (except for the occasional donation) and is updated almost daily…so there you go.I agree with your statement that moderation is the best solution for health…once you’re already on the right track (and have a healthy mindset). I still think a catalyst is needed to make that transition…a person has to come to the conclusion that making these changes, whether immediate or gradual, is what *they* want to do. If the mind is convinced, then the body will follow…3) I don’t really do New Years Solutions/Revolutions…it was always small things like “learn four new vegan recipes this year” or “travel to two new countries”…I didn’t make any this year…but I can share a brief story of making changes. As I explained in an earlier post, I cut out soda cold-turky, and I even cut out meat cold-turkey (ironic statement)…however, a few months ago I made a goal to transition my diet to 65-75% raw vegan. I have been closet vegan for a long while now but there are situations where I have to stray (if I’m at a good Mexican restaurant, I’ll probably go for those tasty cheese enchiladas). The first problem I encountered was that I needed to find/develop more raw recipes that I enjoy. The super salads with the veggies, nuts, and avocado/olive/flax oil dressings were great at first, but I needed greater diversity of flavor and texture. So I checked out 8 raw food books from the library over a few weeks, and added several great new “live” recipes (like live tacos from ground up walnuts and spices) to complement my hummus, nut milk, medjool date candy, salad, mixed fruit/vegetable, and smoothie concoctions. My day (sorry, I don’t think I’d be a very effective twEater) basically consisted of a raw breakfast (smoothie bowl w/granola), a lunch salad, mixed fruit snacks(grapes, pears, apples, clementines, etc.), a warm dinner (quinoa burrito, indian curry, or even some pasta)… some dark (73-81% cacao) chocolate at some point during the day. Another obstacle I came upon was the weather…simply, it snowed up here for two weeks straight and temps got down into the teens. Suddenly, something warm sounded a hell of a lot better…so I amendend my plan and starting having warm lunches more often…like soups (I made a homemade 17 bean soup…phenomenal), rice dishes, roasted vegetables (potatoes, onion, garlic, broccoli, carrots leek, and brussel sprouts)…I believe that giving myself a wide variety of recipe options, and cooking/preparing/baking my meals myself has heavily contributed towards maintaining my dietary goals. When you prepare a healthy meal yourself (or even sometimes an unhealthy one) you feel proud of what you’ve concocted and seem to enjoy it more than an easy fix. Plus, I tend to save some for later…and therefore eat in smaller portions.

  5. Steve Parker, M.D. says:

    Hi, NB and all others.The following comments are pertinent since they address moderation (gradualism or incrementalism) vs drastic change. I spent 20 minutes searching for success rates of various smoking cessation methods, at http://www.pubmed.gov and Google. I ended up at good ol’ Wikipedia, under “Smoking Cessation.” Here’s a quote from the Wikipedia entry:”Techniques which can increase smokers’ chances of successfully quitting are: * Quitting “cold turkey”: abrupt cessation of all nicotine use as opposed to tapering or gradual stepped-down nicotine weaning. It is the quitting method used by 80 to 90% of all long-term successful quitters.”-Steve

  6. Manifestation says:

    Thank for the long list of resolutions.Well My resolution list includeNot to complain,Compare,Contend,Cynicism,Criticism,Compete besides not to be swayed away by prosperity,Honor,Praise,Disgrace,Decline,Censure,suffering and Pleasure.To report victories over victories this year.Thank you.Cheers!!Gifts to India|Gifts to chennai|Gifts to Bangalore

  7. Katie says:

    Great post, thanks! I’m working on my NY resolution list right now…..

  8. Andrus says:

    A great post, thanks.I make resolutions, small or big, all the time. So much so that myself and a few friends created Pledgehammer on our free time. It makes it easy to share your resolutions with others – and ‘peer pressure’ can really work for you. It also has a charitable ‘flipside’ to it – if you can’t stick to your resolution Pledgehammer asks you to donate money to charity. So whether you stick to your resolution or not, either way the world will be a little bit better. Perhaps this idea is slightly too idealistic but since launching two weeks ago we’re starting to see more and more pledges of people wanting to live healthier, be more organized, develop faster. See http://www.pledgehammer.com/pledges/Would love to hear your thoughts on whether Pledgehammer helps to keep resolutions or not.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Pledgehammer. Not a bad idea, but one of my resolutions was to save money, so I could never commit to donating money to a stranger…..

  10. Darya Pino says:

    @SteveThank you so much for your thoughtful response.I agree with you that regaining weight is the real problem with diets, that is what the study says. I actually wrote that Synapse article 2 yrs ago, so the study has been published by now. Here is the abstract.However, I don’t think that the implication of the study is that people should not try to lose weight. It just means they should approach weight loss differently. Not so much as something temporary, but more as a life change. People can’t be on a diet forever.When I mentioned moderation, I didn’t really mean it for weight loss per se, but more as a way to approach food and life in general. It is certainly not a comprehensive diet plan 🙂 I just think there is a problem with crash diets and cleanse diets and low carb diets and anything else that induces deprivation. It is dangerous to throw common sense and moderation out the window, but people seem more eager to try some crazy scheme than eat less and exercise more.I think smoking is a whole different can of worms, since the addictive properties of nicotine have a different effect than a bag of potato chips.In food, however, there is a lot of great data suggesting that gradual changes are effective at changing people’s habits. I recommend the book on my sidebar by Brian Wansink called Mindless Eating. He studies the psychology of eating and how external cues govern our habits, leading in tremendous changes in eating behavior.And while I do agree that a regular walking schedule may be hard for some people, they will never become regular walkers until they walk at least once. In short, I don’t think moderation is the end-all, be-all answer to weight loss. But at the same time I don’t think many people will accept being locked into a prescribed diet for the rest of their lives. People love flexibility and variety, and for the long term we need more than a diet, but rather an approach to eating that can accommodate any situation we encounter. I do think moderation can go a long way to this end.Thanks again for your thoughts 🙂

  11. Darya Pino says:

    @NBDefinitely quitting smoking is the most important. But weight loss is a close second.

  12. Darya Pino says:

    @MattI actually totally agree with you on the investment thing. I tell people this all the time. Why spend your life building a retirement fund just to throw it away on hospital bills and a shortened life? If people thought harder about their health, they would realize that hardly anything is more important. Even their precious 401Ks.Also, your tenacity with your eating is really admirable! I wish I had time for that kind of dedication. I am pretty good, but with the full time lab/PhD job and running a blog and building a website, I am forced to buy my soy milk rather than make my own. I do what I can though :)I am looking forward to seeing some of your simpler recipes!

  13. Darya Pino says:

    @ManifestationVery noble, nice work.—–@PledgehammerSounds interesting, I will have to check it out!

  14. Karin says:

    My new years resolution is mainly to have better eating habits- I don’t want anything drastic or to go vegetarian, but I do want to eat better. It just seems like there are so many fads out there, it is so hard to know what will be the most effective changes. I’ll check back in if I have any updates =)

  15. Matt Shook says:

    @DaryaThat’s quite the workload you’re taking on there! I hope you try making your own raw cashew milk at least a few times…with proper planning you’ll be able to whip up a batch in less than 10 minutes! ;)I have several more recipes (some very simple ones too) in the works and will be posted once I return home…OC is proving to be very trying of the mind and body.

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