Most people like to make a list of their New Year’s Resolutions around, well, New Year… or at the very latest mid-January if they forgot to do it earlier. By then it’s usually accompanied by the slightly paralytic feeling that they may have missed their “starting slot” and therefore their changes won’t be as effective or won’t even work at all. It’s a convenient excuse not to even try. I know it is, because I’ve been guilty of it myself year after year. Or if I remember to write my resolutions at all, the drive to follow through usually peters out by February… same old, same old. *yawn*
It is now the end of July 2014. As I mentioned before, I am in the process of implementing (or at least experimenting with) several major changes in my life. Are any of them similar to the items on the list I probably wrote (and forgot about) back in January? Sure. I know which things I want to improve on, although I’ve since discovered several more. Did I make a list and try to tackle them all at once? Of course not. But now that the changes are happening, perhaps I will make a list, if only to clarify things a little in my own mind. Here goes:
The Great Life Revolution of 2014
1/ Sort out my eating
This is the first change I set in motion, willingly and knowingly, back in February of this year. For about 2 glorious weeks in January, I’d been careful with my food and my exercising, but the scales had reached an all-time high despite my efforts and so I decided to cut the crap and get some external help.
I must stress this: even armed with the best of intentions and as much reliable information as you can gather from all manner of sources (meaning: not just Buzzfeed lists, although they may prove entertaining and even helpful later), there might come a time when you need to ask for professional help. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 5, 50 or 150kg overweight. You need someone to tell YOU what YOUR BODY needs.
For me, that involved confirming once and for all that I had a heavy bone density. The nutritionist I went to see has a nifty machine that will tell you the composition of your body (bone density, fat, muscle, water, etc.). My fat levels were as to be expected, but my muscle mass came as a pleasant surprise: it was in the good zone. And so we proceeded to make a meal plan that would help me lose fat but maintain what muscle I had. Surprisingly enough, I was not asked to do more sport than I already did (Zumba once a week). I also asked which foods I should avoid because of my occasional battles with heartburn.
I won’t lie and say it was easy. During that first month, I broke down completely and cried like a baby several times, feeling like the worst injustices possible were being done to my body. That I was the one doing them was irrelevant… having a nutritionist is useful in that you feel you have to suddenly obey and please some higher entity, not just yourself (I personally find it harder to quit that way). After a month though, I went back and was delivered the good news: 3 whole kg of fat were gone from my body (along with a bit of water and muscle mass). So I persevered.
Next week, almost six months after that first cry for help, I have another meeting with the nutritionist. I haven’t kept to the meal plan quite as closely as I did in the beginning because I’ve started exercising more (second point on my list) and running is very hungry work. But I’m hoping that next week’s meeting will set me back on track with a new list adapted to my more active lifestyle. I also hope to have shed three times as much fat as last time!
2/ Exercise more
This one is on my list every single year, and yet I truly believe that trying to start this resolution in January might equal shooting yourself in the foot before you’ve even started. The days are short and dark then, Christmas is over… Unless you live near mountains and intent to ski every weekend, what kind of sport is ideal to start in the dead of winter? There’s always the gym and that’s fine, but it’s also expensive. Motivating yourself to leave the warmth and comfort of your home to drive (or better, walk) through the snow or rain to go and partake in an activity that you’re not yet confident about and are not even sure you like yet can seem like a momentous hurdle.
The idea that I might change my mind and start running first came to me at the end of January, when my colleagues signed up to take part in the relay race for the ING Night Marathon (which takes place in May). I had no intention of joining them, but at the same time I wondered what going out for a run now and then might feel like. The argumentative part of my brain immediately found the perfect excuse not to try: “It’s too cold, you can’t possibly try it now when it might snow and you’ll injure yourself and catch your death.”
I mean, who at the age of 26 and living in a developped country actually catches their death while running?? (unless you’re running in a bikini of course…but who am I to judge?)
Anyway, I eventually found the willpower back in May and am now proudly exercising 3 times a week (1 Zumba class, 2 runs), as well as walking 1.2km every single lunchtime Monday to Friday. Yesterday, it was raining slightly and I entertained the notion of cancelling my run (waterproof running gear is sooo expensive!!) but when I got home, I automatically started changing into my exercise clothes. I took that as a sign. My body wanted to go running and who was I to stop it?? It actually turned out to be one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve had so far (and the rain stopped soon enough anyway). By forcing myself to do those first few runs (and to ignore any whingeing on behalf of my brain on subsequent ones), I eventually became addicted to exercise. It’s a wonderful sensation, I wholeheartedly suggest you give it a go.
Now, for the first time ever, I’m looking forward to reaching January 2015 and having no resolution whatsoever to make regarding my exercise regime. What a feeling!
3/ Live better (and spend less)
This change also happened around May and the foundations have been implemented since, although I am learning new things every day and it will always be an ongoing process. After reading a series of inspirational blogs about quality of life and frugal living leading to financial independance and early retirement, I realised that I needed to rethink my entire attitude towards consumerism and money. These are some of the questions I asked myself:
- Why do I think I need to keep on buying new things? What exactly am I looking for?
- Do I truly appreciate the things I already have at home? And can I benefit from some decluttering?
- What is truly important to me in life? The ephemeral thrill of a new trinket or that house I’ve always said I’ll buy one day?
So I talked to my husband (who dislikes spending money anyway and who described these epiphanies as “music to his ears”) and we adopted the following changes:
- an aggressive savings plan (for the moment, 40% of our joint earnings, hoping to increase that to 50% or more once we’ve assessed how well it is working)
- less eating out (and in the process, returning the restaurant outing to its rightful place: a special occasion to treasure and value, not just some excuse not to cook)
- coming up with alternative ways of entertainment (cheap = good, free = better)
- actually using the things we already have at home (all those unwatched DVDs, unread books, etc. etc.). Once we have used them, if we decide we don’t want to keep them, we may sell them (and actually make more money, yay!).
On top of that, I made an extra personal change (my husband has never suffered from this particular ailment):
- giving up shopping (unless the item is actually needed in a “my life will be affected in a truly negative way if I don’t replace/acquire this item”). So far, I have found that almost all shopping is eliminated when this basic requirement is applied. It does mean I feel slightly nauseous when I walk through a department store or watch adverts for consumer goods, but I am so grateful I no longer judge how well my life is going by how much stuff I am buying.
While some of these changes may seem drastic to some (or even most) of you, they are so liberating. I am no longer driven by the urge to buy the latest dress from my favourite brand. Wearing it will not make me more “me”, it will just allow me to go out in public looking at least semi-decent and possibly keep me warm. And guess what? I already have a lot of clothes that help me do that.
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So what’s the purpose of this post? I guess it’s to share with you how much evolving a life can withstand (i.e. a lot) in the course of a few months, and how you don’t need a set of New Year’s Resolutions to do it. Change comes upon you when you least expect it, when your mind is open to a new idea and you decide to take up the challenge. Do things one at a time, and soon they’ll build up naturally. Yes there will be some hard work and a healthy dose of will-power involved, but the rewards will come quickly. In the end, what you decide to change matters little (in the grand scheme of things). The most important change you can make is to embrace the possibility of change itself.
So… What does your Great Life Revolution of 2014 look like?