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Posts from the ‘Resolutions’ Category

Resolutions!

Okay, so I’m doing resolutions again this year. A little late, haha, but that’s me all over. I did okay with my goals in 2012 – not as well as I’d like, but my failures were in those giant goals I set for myself that would require a radical overhaul of my 43-year-strong habits. Cause, you know, that’s not too much to ask of myself, right?

I spent a lot of last year beating myself up for those failures, and the rest of the time learning how to suck at something without hating myself for it. (If anything, I’d say that’s the real lesson I learned.) At the end of the year, I wrote a big long post about what I thought  I’d learned. Basically, that for those major life change, long term goals, I really needed to plan out steps and smaller goals along the way. Which is not a wrong idea, in and of itself. You know, if I knew how to do small steps like a normal person with good sense and a modicum of patience.

So, naturally, at the beginning of 2013 I did the typical Michelle thing: I made the work of goal achieving harder and bigger than it already is. I mapped and planned and plotted and charted and listed. Same old thing; biting off more than I can chew and overwhelming myself before I even really get started. All my charty listy mappy plans were just too cumbersome and added more work to already difficult (for me) goals. My checklists fell by the wayside almost immediately, and I struggled all last year to get my act together goal-wise, not getting any further ahead than I had been at the beginning. 

I did accomplish a lot in 2013, I really did. But I missed the simple resolution process that I’d started in 2012. I wanted to do many of those same goals again in 2013, but without the reminder and prod here on the blog, I let a lot of the smaller things, like visiting family and taking an outing each month, fall by the wayside. I missed doing those things, but they don’t come to me naturally. Without my resolution list, I simply forgot to aim or plan for them.

This year I’m going back to the 2012 method of setting and tracking my goals here. Some of those not-so-simple goals are back, but I’m working with a life coach to help me learn to set reasonable steps, or goals-within-a-goal. But I think the main thing she’s going to help me with is to slow down and not bite off such big chunks. Patience. And to enjoy this whole process, because it should be fun and inspirational and a kind thing I’m doing for myself.

So here are my 2014 goals:

  1. healthy budget
  2. healthy diet
  3. exercise 
  4. spend time with family or friends I rarely see
  5. go someplace different or go to an event each month
  6. keep a daily thankful journal
  7. Write at least 6 Queries for the blog this year
  8. re-paint my kitchen and put up shelves
  9. take a computer class
  10. go to bed at the same time every night
  11. get up early every morning

So that’s it, my 2014 resolutions. I’m excited to get started, or re-started, as the case may be! I hope 2014 is a great year for me and for you, too!!

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There’s No Food In My Food

As I sit in the drive-thru waiting for my vanilla shake, it occurs to me that I have a first-world relationship with food. What I’m eagerly anticipating to consume isn’t about feeding my body. In a physical sense, I don’t need a luscious, creamy, cold, smooth, delicious vanilla shake.

But I sure do want one.

In my life, food past long ago beyond the role of necessity, and into the realm of luxury and accessory.

While I may eat because I’m hungry, I don’t do so with a mindfulness about nourishing my body. Quite often my aim is convenience. I go to fast food because it’s quicker and easier than preparing something myself. I buy prepared foods because it’s faster and easier to open a box and add water than it is to do all the peeling and chopping required when you cook from scratch.

But I don’t only eat because I’m hungry. I eat because I’m happy. I eat because I’m sad. I eat because I’m bored or because the food is just super appealing. For example, I already know cake tastes good, so you wouldn’t think I’d feel the need to try it every time I see it. But I do.

Sometimes I eat as part of an experience. Even though I watch countless movies at home without it, I can’t go to the movies without buying my hot buttered popcorn. That salty, buttery, crunchy treat is part of the joy and fun of going to the movies. In my family, food is a central part of every event. Birthdays, weddings, funerals, religious and secular holidays – there’s gonna be a spread laid out no matter what the occasion. And there are different foods associated with different events; it wouldn’t be Easter at my house if there weren’t a ham. And mashed potatoes and broccoli casserole and rolls and green beans…

Food has become a part of my emotional landscape.

But the real purpose of food is to nourish the body. The idea of food as actual nourishment conjures pretty pictures in my head: amber waves of grain swaying gently in the breeze, green shoots rising up from rich brown earth. I envision fruits and vegetables and seeds and grains, ripe and full and colorful, bursting with the vitamins and minerals and proteins I need. Tree branches laden with apples or cherries or lemons or peaches. Deep green lacy leaves of kale. Juicy, red, ripe, plump tomatoes. Ah, how the earth provides what I need to live and grow and be strengthened. I twirl in a circle in a field of wheat, my frothy summer dress floating around me, and when I pluck a golden stalk, the sun glints off the grains as they flow between my fingers. In slow motion.

In my head it’s a beautiful thing. In reality it’s a lot of hard work. So I pick up some dinner at the drive-thru or I throw a can of something on the stove. Maybe I toss a frozen dinner in the microwave. It’s easy, quick, convenient. 

But the thing is, there’s no food in my food. We have taken what the earth naturally produces and turned it into something different. We’ve genetically modified it, sprayed it down and injected chemicals into it. Prepared foods are scientifically engineered to please and addict us. Chemicals are added to make them crunchier or sweeter or saltier or smoother. More chemicals make them last longer. Still more chemicals are added to mask the taste of all the other “additives”. We’re not even tasting what we think we’re tasting.

It’s like having a real strawberry and a child’s plastic strawberry on a plate; we have been conditioned to desire the plastic fruit. It smells better, it tastes better, it has a better texture. It fits perfectly in our mouth, and when we bite down there is just the right amount of juice, just the right amount of pith. We think it’s the superior fruit, because it was designed to make us think so.

I’ve come to understand that the foods I want to eat are very nearly not food at all.

But still I want them.

As I take another drag of vanilla deliciousness, I joke to myself that I might as well apply it directly to my thighs. But the truth is that doing so would be just as effective, because the benefits of this milk shake are purely cosmetic. It tastes good. I enjoy consuming it. It gives me a sugar rush. It makes me happy. It satisfies an emotional craving and gives me comfort after a tough day. But the value is all on the surface, and the positive effects are temporary.

Still, while my shake doesn’t serve food’s primary purpose, the purpose it serves is compelling.

I’ve been working on my eating habits for over a year now. That seems like a long time, but it’s really tough to turn away from the delicious, easy, delicious and just really tasty foods that I crave. And that’s before you add in boredom and event eating and food “therapy”.

I am only just now coming to a point of real change, but even so, it’s still not about wanting healthier foods.

I want to be healthy. And I want  to want apples and broccoli and salmon and kale and blueberries and tomatoes and quinoa. But I don’t yet have a natural desire for those healthier foods. What I desire is McDonald’s and doughnuts and ice cream and Cheetos and Chinese take-out and Mexican sit-in and easy and fast.

I realize it’s not all my fault. I realize that billions upon billions of dollars have been spent by the food industry to find the magic formulas that will keep me coming back for more. Just the right fat, just the right salt, just the right sugar. The right crunch. The right size. The right smell. They know how to blend the flavors so I don’t get tired of it too soon. And they know exactly where that taste should hit on my tongue so it’ll disappear quickly and I’ll keep chasing the flavor rush.

But I am the one with my hand in the chip bag. I still want those chips, but it’s my responsibility to take control of my wants. It’s my responsibility to change my patterns of thought and behavior.

At this point, my changed mindset is not about what I want, but what I don’t want.

I don’t want to consume chemicals masquerading as food. I don’t want to be fooled by labels that purposefully mislead consumers into thinking a food is healthy, when even a cursory glance at the ingredients clearly shows that it’s not. I want my Hamburger Helper and SpaghettiO’s (with meatballs), but I don’t want all the junk they’re made of.

Change is hard for me, and life-long habits do not get altered overnight. Still, I honestly didn’t think this would be a multiple year project. But I haven’t given up, and I’ll accept that as the win it is. 

I may still be at the beginning stages of this food attitude adjustment, but at least I’m making some progress. I’ve understood what I was putting into my body since the beginning of last year, but I was so ingrained in my eating habits that I resisted change: “It hasn’t killed me yet, so one more fast food won’t either.”

But now I’ve gotten to the point where I’m saying, “My body deserves better.”

And it really does. So I’ll keep working on it, and be glad that at least I’m thinking about what I don’t want to ingest anymore. And each positive choice will build on the new eating habits I’m forming. Eventually I’ll start actually craving fresh fruits and vegetables and all that healthy stuff.

Maybe someday I’ll even look forward to and enjoy the time and effort it takes to cook from scratch.

But one step at a time, right?

Items of Interest:

Here’s an interesting article about the science of processed food, engineered cravings, & the fat/salt/sugar magic formula: Food Cravings Engineered by Industry

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I Exercised! ……for maybe five minutes

Oh, my friends…  I’ll have to fight hard for this one.

On month eight of twelve, I finally pulled out my tiny trampoline to start fulfilling my exercise resolution.   Should I tell you that I didn’t even do that until the third week of August?  Yeah, I think I’ll keep that to myself.  Should I tell you that there are various items sitting on it right now, that I dumped there when I came in the door, and that it’s been accumulating detritus for a week?  I don’t think I’ll tell you that, either.

In August, I realized that I want all these things for myself, and yet I don’t have a plan for getting them.  I set these goals, these resolutions, but I never took the time to map out how I would reach the end of this one-year journey, what steps I would take to get there.  In one case, that didn’t matter: I wanted to take a photography class, so I found one and signed up.  But the rest of the goals I wanted to accomplish do not fall into that one-and-done category.  The rest of my goals required thought and planning and…well, more goals, defined steps to get there.

Simply thinking about my big goals hasn’t provided me with the concrete guidance I need.  Thinking about a goal gives me an overall idea of what I want and how I might accomplish it, but when it’s time to do the work, I am left to meander here and there, finding my way to the end any way I am able.  It’s like following pathways in the woods: some are real, some are dead ends, and some just lead you around and around to nowhere.

There’s another drawback to just “thinking” about what I want: I’m noticing that I spend too little of my thought-life in the present.  Particularly with the resolutions I’m not successful with, the ones that are more difficult for me motivation-wise.  I spend most of my time in “if only”.  If only I had stuck with my healthy eating in April, where would I be now?  I’d feel so much better; I’d weigh less; I’d be happier with myself and with my body.  If only I had kept strictly to my budget, I’d have more money in the bank, I’d be this much closer to paying off that last credit card.

If I’m not thinking about the past, then I’m “could-ing” myself into the future.  By this time next year, I could have this much money in the bank.  By this time next year, I could be at this weight.  The thing is, when I’m concentrating on the “if only’s”, I am less happy, less motivated, and it’s even harder for me to keep going.  Because I’m concentrating on something negative, on what I didn’t do or what I wish I had done.  Those thoughts and feelings hold me back as much as anything else, because they mire me in my failures.

I fully believe in visualizing yourself attaining your goals, but if all you’re doing is planning and thinking about the future, then the present slips beneath you unnoticed.  All your excitement and your hope is focused on some vague point down the road.  It seems to me that it would benefit my journey more if my excitement and my hope were centered around my next step.  Anything that I can do to make my next step easier and more natural, then that will make my end goal that much more possible to achieve.

At this point I’m just going to keep plodding away.  I know I’ll continue at least three of my resolutions into 2013, and I’ll use the experience I’ve gained so far to build on next year.  I can’t continue just “thinking” about what I want to do – or should do, or might do, or will do in the future.  So, I’ll spend the last months of this year putting together a real set of goals: not just a final destination, but the steps I’ll take to get there.  No more wandering down forest paths – I’m going to make myself a map.  That way, I’ll know where I’m going, I can accurately measure my accomplishments, and I can focus on the steps I’m taking RIGHT NOW .

Items of Interest:

Resolutions – August 2012

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Six Month Resolution Review

Most of my focus in June was on getting items cleared out of my house and packed up for the yard sale (July 21st!).  I didn’t put as much concentrated effort into the other resolutions, just a tweak here and there.  I was able to get some blog work done, though, so that feels good.

In reviewing where I am six months into my resolutions, I’ve come to a decision to drop three of them: one because it was accomplished, one that is not entirely necessary, and one that’s too big and vague to effectively take on right now.  I’m making big progress on the house, a little progress with my budget, and breaking even in other areas.

I’d say this first six months has been a really great learning experience for me, if sometimes frustrating.  But there is a reason why there are so many quotes about the usefulness of failure, and how learning from those failures leads you to success.  I feel as though I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded, but I’m trying to learn about myself in the process.  And I’m trying to teach myself not to be upset about my failures, but to keep in mind that this is a long-term venture.  I am changing habits, and that doesn’t happen overnight.  I’ll be lucky if I get some of these new habits accomplished in a year.  Until then, I’ll just keep plugging along.

Here’s how I did in June.