January is the time for life changes, right? The new year gives us a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to put the past behind us and begin again, and we embrace it with excitement and enthusiasm and a will to live differently.
And then all our good intentions fizzle out by January 31.
I’ve been there. Trust me. Sometimes it’s poor planning that is our undoing. Sometimes it’s a lack of discipline. But when it comes to making lifestyle changes, for me at least, a lot of my past failures are just the result of aiming too high.
I mean well, but I simply try to do too much too soon. I try to completely change my life and my habits and my health overnight. And I completely overwhelm myself in the process.
So why do I do that? I never expected any of my children to go from crawling to tap-dancing overnight! It’s a process–a time of building strength and learning balance and increasing confidence. But because I’m all grown up I expect myself to be able to skip any process and make instant, relentless change, all at the turn of a page on the calendar.
But just as the clumsy, uncertain first steps of a baby lead to longer, surer, more sustained steps later on, slight, clumsily-executed changes in my health choices now can lead to more certain and impressive ones later. So why not begin the process?
These are definite baby steps, but I’m making them this year for the benefit of my own health and for that of my family. So we start here and we’ll build on it as we go.
- I’m limiting, (though not eliminating,) my indulgences.
Fortunately for me, I’m fairly thin and always have been, but, believe me, thin does NOT always translate into healthy. I’ve developed some bad eating habits and especially as I age and I sense my metabolism slowing, I know I’ve got to get a grip on the unhealthy eating.
But that doesn’t mean cutting out every food and drink I enjoy. In fact, I think doing so only serves to make cravings all the worse! I have a dear friend who has lost 130+ pounds and though she was very disciplined and went through many lifestyle changes to get to this point, she also told me she allowed herself occasional small indulgences along the way, which really helped keep the cravings in check.
So rather than go cold turkey on all the foods I love, I’m limiting them instead, so I’m taking in less fat and calories, but not feeling so deprived.
- I’m making healthier snack choices.
And I’m trying out a few new recipes, too, in search of good, healthy snacks. I’ve actually found a microwave potato chip recipe that is totally fat-free and preservative-free, but has all the crunch I crave from chips. Maybe sometime I can share…
- I’m learning to accept that buying healthy foods may cost us more money.
My epiphany moment on this issue really came a few months ago when I was groaning over the price of fresh grapes. My children LOVE grapes, but the price tag had me all in a tizzy. I traveled a few more aisles at the local Kroger store, saw the sale sign for Doritos, 2/$5, and I instinctively tossed two bags in my cart. Suddenly I realized what I’d done! Spending $5 for two bags of junk didn’t even phase me, yet I was too cheap to spend slightly more for a couple pounds of fresh fruit. Now how silly is that?
I refuse to do things like that any more. We’re not wealthy people and I may not be able to afford the best and healthiest foods all the time, but I can afford to start making some better choices. Actually, I can’t afford NOT to!
- I’m reading labels. And I’m caring what’s written there.
I really like the “Clean Eating” approach which recommends buying foods with an ingredient list of five items or less. That sounds reasonable until you start trying to do it and then you discover how hard it is to find anything with fewer than 20 ingredients! But at least I’m keeping in mind that the fewer ingredients it has, the more likely it is to be a healthy, (or at least healthier,) food. I also try to remember another clean eating principle as I grocery shop–I should buy my food as close to its original state as possible. While I can’t buy everything fresh and make everything from scratch, I can be conscious enough to make better decisions.
- I’m no longer resorting so easily to the use of medications.
The more I read, the more concerned I am about so many of the medications we take so casually. It’s so easy to pop an ibuprofen for a headache or a Zantac for heartburn, even do so multiple times per day, without the first thought about the chemicals we’re putting into our bodies! Even worse, we give our kids meds at the first sign of a fever or a toothache and maybe even just because they seem a little out-of-sorts, which must mean they’re getting sick! And we never even consider a possible alternative.
I’m a complete newbie when it comes to the use of essential oils, but I’ve read enough and heard enough personal testimony to intrigue me. As far as I’m concerned, it’s worth learning as much as I can. If there’s so much as the possibility I might be able to treat a health issue in a more natural way, why on earth wouldn’t I be willing to try it?