Note from Stacey: Every Thursday we’re thrilled to offer Laura’s Mileposts in the Distance column.
I’m drawn to the spare, spring like promise of January issues of most magazines. Of course, I want to know how to organize my life! Yes, I’m ready to try a new way of eating after the holidays! And I know that there is absolutely a perfect workout for me! But when I’ve put the magazine aside, the follow up intentions are as closed as the cover.
After all, I’ve got shelves with books that delve far deeper than a two-page spread into how to make changes. I’ve got blogs that I follow that discuss those subjects without all the exclamation points. And yes, I’ve always been one to make new resolutions in September. Old habits firmly linked to the promise of new notebooks and pens, I suppose.
In the past, no matter when I chose to start something new – Labor Day or January 1 – it always came to a crashing halt in three days when I was hungry (from calorie restriction) or achy (from too much of a good workout) or bored (which led back to being hungry).
It’s the organic changes that last for me – and I’m rather slow on the uptake on them. One such lasting change was taking my coffee black. Years ago I worked with a trainer based in Australia – you can read about her here: http://lastchancetraining.com.au/. Whenever we would go over calories in versus calories out, Liz would always point out how many calories a latte – even a skim one – cost. I resisted taking a grande latte out of my routine for the longest time (It’s a reward! I deserve it! I didn’t have a cookie with it! Those were some of my best arguments).
Somewhere, deep down, I recognized the sense of what Liz said, but giving up that latte seemed like deprivation. So I compromised and added less milk to my brewed coffee. The “Aha!” moment eventually came when I put together the fact that a latte always brought on stomach upset a few hours later so I switched to skim cappuccinos for much less milk. Three years later, when we went to Sweden where the coffee was uniformly excellent, I stopped adding milk to regular coffee altogether.
By my reckoning, that change from grande lattes to a tall drip coffee with no room for milk took five years.
Five years to save 100 calories a drink (and the lining of my stomach)!
This is pretty much why I’ve taken on the word of the year method – no starving, no aching, no boredom – just a word that makes me stop and think about the way I live each day.
This year, I’ve avoided the loud promises in magazines and blogs because I’ve embraced some quiet changes that make me happy. And I didn’t need a new calendar to prod me along.
My January 1 was a cloudy day in late November. Here I was, headed into the holidays with a half marathon a scant two weeks after New Year’s Day. I really didn’t want to go into the race feeling out of shape and dealing with a wonky knee again. I knew if I worked on my eating I could at least maintain. So that day I bought a blender, made my first green smoothie in four years and remembered how much I love them.
It was a little change, one without any big fanfare, but it’s made a difference so far. I’ve stopped wearing a knee brace when I run and I’m looking forward to the race – and maybe a few more as the year unfolds.
The hardest part so far is resisting that sly allure of creating a sweeping, large scale change to every corner of my life that you see in media the first two weeks of a new year. In some ways my particular change feels old already – not glamorous or tremendously exciting.
So my hard work is reminding myself that change, for good, is not a shiny distraction, but a habit gaining traction. And that habit will eventually get me where I need to be.
I hope you find your own January 1 at some point this year. I’ll spring for the confetti and champagne when you do.
Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.