Everyone is talking about their New Year’s Resolutions. While my friends are planning to “lose 20 pounds” or “run a marathon,” I am announcing that “I have absolutely no diet or fitness goals!”
I bristle at the mere thought of a resolution to lose weight, diet, or exercise more. I don’t have a good track record with diets.
An Innocent Resolution
At the age of 15, I resolved to start a diet and lose “a few” pounds. Maybe it was the effect of all those Seventeen magazines on my young, formative mind or the Victoria’s Secret models looking down at me while I purchased my first bra, but I really wanted a flatter stomach and skinnier thighs.
Despite being a perfectly healthy weight, I began rigidly following the “Zone Diet” until I weighed less than 100 pounds. The mere idea of eating a meal without the “correct” balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat created panic. I remember feeling very hungry at my daily tennis practice, but I allowed myself to eat one chicken taco for lunch every day.
After a traumatic event in my family occurred, something changed. I began alternating between periods of binge-eating and periods of extreme restriction and exercise. I gradually gained all the weight back. Friends and family were relieved to see me gaining weight, but I wasn’t doing it on purpose. I was terrified of gaining weight, and I was stuck in a really toxic cycle. I continued to struggle for years with a very unhealthy relationship with food, exercise, and my body.
However, today I can proudly say that I have a wonderful, relaxed perspective on weight, food, and exercise. It hasn’t come easily, but I had a huge breakthrough when I adopted the following philosophy:
When I’m hungry, I will eat something that sounds good. When I’m full, I will stop.
This approach is so simple that, at the time, it seemed too good to be true. It was totally life-changing. Nothing was “off limits.” I could eat anything I wanted as long as I was hungry and it really sounded good to me. No more counting calories! No more complicated rules! I stopped restricting myself from certain foods only to binge on them later.
Although I didn’t know this at the time, this approach is known as intuitive eating. I pay attention to my body and only eat when I am really hungry. Usually I just eat what sounds good to me. I am not the fittest person in the world and I could definitely eat healthier, but I maintain a healthy weight. Even better, I rarely worry or even think much about food, dieting, or exercise.
Know What Works for You
I see people on television or at my kids’ school or on Instagram (especially on Instagram) who make a fitness or diet goal and then just achieve it. Let me repeat that. They set a goal and then . . . just execute it (#mindblown). Maybe resolutions work for some people, but they don’t work for me.
Tell me I have to exercise every day and I will begin to HATE exercise. I will loathe every second on that treadmill. I will dread it. Interestingly, I actually like to exercise and will do it several times a week as long as NO ONE (including myself) tells me that I have to.
I guess I’m kind of like my 2-year-old toddler. If you tell me I’m supposed to do something, I will do the opposite. Never EVER tell me I’m supposed to exercise every day. You aren’t the boss of me. I do what I want!
If I tell myself I am not supposed to eat ice cream or cookies or bread, I will become obsessed with eating ice cream and cookies and bread. I will be tempted to slap your sandwich out of your hand (again, like my darling toddler) and scream “mine!” Actually, I eat less sugar and unhealthy food with my “anything goes” approach because they aren’t off-limits or special anymore. I can have them whenever I want. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.
I have to live with a moderate approach that is sustainable for every day of my life. I realize this method may not work for everyone, but I am fortunate to have no food allergies or health issues that require a particular diet. Clearly, I may be a little biased by my past struggles, but I despise diets and exercise schedules. For me, they are a set-up to live in the extremes instead of finding a balanced, reasonable lifestyle.
If you are doing a diet and it works well for you, that’s great! If making resolutions helps you to achieve your goals, I’m impressed by you (seriously, so amazed). As for me, I will not be making any diet or fitness resolutions in 2020 or any subsequent year. If I were going to make a resolution (which I am NOT), it would be something like “eat what you want in moderation” or “exercise occasionally . . . if you want . . . no pressure.”
Happy 2020! And best of luck on your resolutions (or lack thereof).