New Year's resolutions commonly include goals like hitting the gym, losing those holiday pounds, conquering a previous fear, or accomplishing some other goal. In America, we suffer from a crisis of delusion, mistakenly thinking that making a focused and to-the-point goal at the beginning of the year will ensure success. Most of us know that at the end of two or three months, these goals with pass by, mostly without success.
In 2012, I tried something different. My goal was as vague as possible while still being focused: I was going to become healthier. That was it. From day 1 to day 366, I would be healthier in some way or another.
At that time, I was bordering the extra-obese category, moving to a new city, and starting a new job. You could say that the odds were stacked against me. But , but I knew that I could persevere if I started to set up short term goals and cut simple things from my life. I lost over 70 pounds and picked up a new hobby (running). Last week, I was informed that my cholesterol levels were "the lowest" my doctor had ever seen.
Here are the top three things that I did to meet my goals — and you can do them, too.
1) Set up a fitness goal you cannot ignore.
Fitness is the one thing that people forget about when their goal is to lose 25 pounds. You can do nothing but drink water, but while you may lose weight at first, once you start eating normally your metabolism will be used to little to nothing. You will force yourself to be on a life-long fast to maintain an unhealthy weight.
Exercise increases your metabolic rate. But let's face it, getting out and running a mile or two can really drain your day — especially if you have never been a serious runner. Two times in the past I tried to get into running, but I always stopped. I got bored or became miserable. After a week or two, it was back to the same Xbox or PS3 games or TV shows.
I decided there had to be a way to motivate myself to get into running and jogging. Making a financial commitment I couldn't ignore was what did it for me. I have never had a lot of money, and paying $100 for running shoes has never (and still isn't) a feasible option. I cut two other budgets and purchased them.
That wasn't enough for me though. I signed up for a "tough mudder." The race cost me about $90 as an early register. Fully committed to a 10 mile run and obstacle course ment that I had to be able to run 10 miles or blow over $200. I am too much of a penny-pincher to let that happen. I started running. When I got discouraged or tired, I remembered the tough mudder. I even conviced a bunch of my friends to run it, which makes it seem that much more fun!
"Know thyself" is a general call for the greatest form of wisdom. You know what makes you tick, so find something that you cannot ignore that will force you to get physical.
2) Eat healthy: It's better and cheaper than you think.
Here is a quick rule of thumb that can help you know if what you are eating is healthy: If your food can be described as "skin-color" by anyone, it is more than likely it is not a healthy meal.
You can become healthier by eating right. When I said earlier that I cut budgets to buy running shoes I cut two budgets — fast food and entertainment. It sounds utterly miserable, at first: I cut tasty food and cable television to run.
It wasn't. I found out that fresh produce at the grocery store and farmers' market is more economical than the frozen meals and quick eats I was buying before. Where I used to buy McDonald's or Wendy's for lunch or get a chicken biscuit at Chick-Fil-A in the morning, I started waking up earlier and making oatmeal or grits. Oatmeal, when purchased in the big barrel size, isn't very expensive. Keeping cinnamon, sugar, and other things around to put in it keeps the taste changing everyday. Grits, a southern classic, also taste good to me and are equally cheap. Breakfast for six months cost me a grand total of $10. Ronald's got nothing on that.
Lunch became easy too. Because you are forced to cook almost everything at once with fresh produce, I gained large amounts of left-overs. While each meal cost me on average a dollar or two more than microwave meals, I ate them for two or three meals instead of one. It was a cost-cutting dream.
The different things you can do to food becomes a hobby too. I started asking myself what would happen if I put grilled chicken and vegetables in a half serving of grits. It was actually good. I also wondered what would happen if I put canned tuna in oatmeal. That was not good at all. A terrible idea, actually.
3) Cut back or remove all alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs from your diet.
Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs do not help your health in any shape or form. If you want to get healthy and you do not adjust your consumption of any of these things, you are handicapping yourself. Alcohol is empty calories, plain and simple. Getting drunk is not healthy and will load up on your calorie count. I calculated the caloric amount for a "light-weight" to get drunk off of beer (roughly 5-6 beers). It was over 1,000 calories. That is in between half or a third of a person's diet.
Tobacco damages your lungs, making physical activity more of a pain, increasing the chance you could give up. I know people are hooked and will have to take time to give these things up, but it is an easy way to lose weight. A friend of mine loss over 20 pounds just by going sober — the rest of his lifestyle remained unchanged.