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About those resolutions

Food For Thought

If you’re like most of us, you’ve already fudged a little on one or more of the resolutions you so bravely made just a few days ago. We all like the feeling of being able to wipe the slate clean and start the new year fresh and guilt-free. But too often those well-meant promises we make to ourselves turn out to be a lot harder to honor than they were to make. I’d like to pass on some thoughts about New Year Resolutions, things that I’ve learned from experience and things that persons much wiser than I have shared with me over the years.
First of all, there’s no law that says you must begin keeping those resolutions at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. If the holiday festivities are still underway and there are parties, presents and pressure still making your life hectic, give yourself a rest before embarking on that diet or campaign to stop smoking, learn Spanish, or reorganize the kitchen cupboards.
You must be ready to forgive yourself if you find yourself messing up and doing something (or not doing something) that you solemnly resolved to change for the better. So you cheated on the diet and polished off the last of that cheesecake rather than throw it out. One lapse doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, it only means that you picked a bad time to start. Tomorrow is another day. Put the guilt behind you, and learn to get rid of those fatal temptations before they have the chance to undermine your good intentions.
Most major resolutions involve a change in habits and are geared toward self-improvement. The two biggest involve habits that affect our health and require that we give up something we like but know we should avoid—losing weight, giving up smoking. I don’t pretend to offer advice to the seriously addicted other than to urge you to seek professional help.
It’s never a good idea to tackle more than one self-improvement project at a time. Trying to fix everything at once is a sure formula for failure. You’re not a super-human—if you were, you wouldn’t be facing these problems in the first place. So be kind to yourself.
Aside from eating more of the foods that are good for you and less of the stuff that will probably clog your arteries and ruin your digestive system, chances are that you have resolved to lose weight. Almost everybody who makes food-related promises to themselves wants to lose weight – I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone who resolved to eat more potato chips or consume at least one chocolate milkshake every day. Excess weight is, after all, America’s most obvious health problem if not its most serious one.
There are lots of different diets out there to choose from and you’ll probably have heard glowing accounts of how fast the weight comes off and how good the allowed foods are – once you get used to them. Chances are that you’ll try more than one diet during the next few months because you’ll tire of the requirements and limitations of any of them. Take it from a woman who has been on a diet for most of her life – the only way to take off the pounds is by eating fewer calories than you burn up. And for someone like me, with a low metabolism, those “average serving” amounts given on packaged foods and in recipes, have no relationship to amounts necessary for weight loss.. There are diets that raise your metabolism so that you burn more calories and can eat more of certain types of foods than you might expect, but you have to eat them all in the right proportions in order for it to work – no cheating and favoring just those foods you like best.
It has been my experience that too many people (including me, at certain times) no sooner embark on a diet than they start plotting ways to circumvent the rules, cheat on ingredients and serving sizes, rationalize the use of higher-calorie substitutes, and “reward” themselves for having a low-calorie dressing on the salad by indulging in a hot fudge sundae for dessert.
Probably the toughest part of losing weight is the slowness of the project. We hope to lose fifty pounds in six months. It’s possible, yes, but not very realistic. It probably took several years to put on that extra weight, just a few pounds each year, we hardly noticed the difference. It doesn’t make sense to expect to get rid of it more or less all at once. And, if you succeed in losing the weight, don’t make the mistake of thinking the diet is “over with” and going back to your old eating habits.