New Year, New Health
Goals, such as resolutions, are a great way to make sure you're going in the right direction and accomplishing what you really want to. However, if you're like me, and most of your goals aren't the type you can do much to advance besides what you already do regularly, resolutions with a time-stamp on them don't accurately reflect your progress. They can actually make you feel guilty for not measuring up to an arbitrary standard of success - which accomplishes nothing.
So, how to measure what was successful about last year and what can be done this year?
First of all, don't do what I did yesterday. I spent the whole day feeling like I had no idea what I was doing with my life and everyone around me must be judging me for how quirky and non-standard I look. Actually, to be honest, I was insecure about wearing a hat that didn't look good with my coat because I was cold. And even though I'd rather be warm than fashionable, I felt like everyone must think I make poor fashion choices because I don't know any better. It sounds silly when I say it out loud, doesn't it?
A reliable source recently told me we focus on the negative over the positive as a survival instinct. This is why, when grandmother is much furrier than we recall, instead of saying, "How nice your gown looks this morning," we say, "What big teeth you have!" Although a good trait when dealing with wolves, it can get in the way of rational reflection, because we get so fixated on the negative that we ignore the positive.
This is what I tend to do, especially when evaluating how I'm doing in an area I want to improve in. I see the areas I think others will judge me for, and then when I talk with them, those are the areas I bring up right away, because if you're going to judge me, I'd rather get it over with.
However, not only does this portray what I'm doing in an inaccurate light, but it also makes me and the other person focus on my weaknesses instead of my strengths. And it makes me feel like I'm all weaknesses and no strengths. Which is not true of anybody, no matter how you may feel.
As I come into this New Year and my final semester of college, I'm experiencing frequent reminders that I need to change the way I eat and live. The amount of changes necessary to take me where I want to go are daunting to me, not only because I'm busy and tired, but also because I fear putting effort in and being disappointed with the results of my inexperienced attempts (which has happened before).
So I decided to adjust focus. Instead of listing all the things I need to change, I'm going to start by reviewing all the things I have successfully changed over the past couple years. It's been gradual, but my living habits are much different now than they were a year or two ago. And if I can tackle another issue and then another with the time and energy I have, by this time next year, I'll be well on my way to a truly healthful lifestyle. Now that's an encouraging thought!
In the past couple years, I have...
- gone from drinking milk every day (sometimes for multiple meals) to not drinking it at all (except occasionally in things) as well as cutting down on most dairy products.
- gone from thinking sugar gives you energy to understanding sugar depletes your energy. I now eat proportionally less junk food and pretty much limit pop to drinking ginger ale if I happen to be nauseous and still need to function.
- figured out on my own that my health breakdown symptoms were centered around low blood pressure due to lack of sleep and some medications. Went from taking 4-5 meds a day at one point to only one, which I may be able to work my way off of after college. Got a white noise machine and started to get better sleep at night.
- recognized how much of my digestive difficulties came from eating too much processed flour, nightshades, caffeine, raw fruit, and red meat. Started choosing whole grains over processed flour, avoiding nightshades and caffeine, reducing the frequency of eating raw fruit, and rarely eating any meat besides chicken or seafood.
- incorporated whole grain brown rice and whole grain wheat products into my diet.
- incorporated miso soup into my diet (really helpful for balancing the digestion).
- incorporated a larger proportion of vegetables into my diet.
- learned how to cook new foods in new ways, and experimented with how to cook for one in a household of five (still learning that part).
- became generally aware that choosing food is not about whether it will make you fat (I used to think I could eat anything because I didn't gain weight), but whether it will allow your body and soul to operate at their best so you can live life to the fullest within your own circumstances and destiny.
There are still things I want to improve or become consistent in, but looking at this list, I'm surprised by how far I've already come in such a short time. I make significantly more informed and deliberate choices about the way I eat than I used to, and I'm continually learning and making adjustments.
This was a good exercise to perform, since now I feel much better about how my journey toward health is progressing. The differences have come from a combination of physical and spiritual/psychological changes, but of course, you can't expect one to area to thrive if you're not taking care of the others.
A year ago this past December, I was in the throes of depression, anxiety, impulsive binge-eating, and extreme fatigue. Now, I'm on less medication than I was before, physically stronger and healthier, just about to start a part-time job, fairly emotionally stable, able to exercise some, and functioning like a more-or-less functional human being. I didn't get my normal end-of-semester-stress cold this semester, even while being surrounded by sick family and classmates on the regular. I actually haven't had any respiratory sickness since last May. That has to count for something.
Final takeaway: if you feel like a failure regarding reaching your goals, step back and take stock of all the successes you've had. It can balance your perspective of yourself and what you can do.