Every year since I was 18, I have made the new year’s resolution to eat better; with my real intention simply to just get rid of all the sweets and junk food. I eat fairly healthy, but I do have my indulgences: peanut butter, chocolate (frequently those two together), cookies, more peanut butter, and after I complete long, hard workouts – I’m a fiend for chocolate donuts. I’ve always been a firm believer in the saying, “anything will burn if the furnace is hot enough,” reassuring myself that because of the hard workouts I may be doing, that I can eat whatever I want. This may be true, but I know it would likely be better all around if I could clean up my diet. My most successful year I managed to get rid of all the junk food for 3 months (I was 18). Ever since, I have barely made it more than 2 weeks into January. Despite my success in maintaining an active lifestyle, I have consistently failed to avoid the peanut butter and delicious chocolate donuts. So, the cleaning-up-of-the-diet has essentially became my perennial goal with the New Year, partly out of interest to see if with more maturity I can fend off the sweets for more than a few months.
That being said, I have been able to maintain an active lifestyle for a long time now, and given the stresses and workload associated with my family and job, I do feel fairly qualified on giving advice to others. In an article I recently read from Forbes magazine, an estimated 45% of Americans set at least one New Year’s resolution with the most common goal being to improve their overall health. Yet only 8% are able to achieve and maintain it through the end of the calendar year. I have failed to achieve my diet goals previously because I give in to temptation and I quite frankly lose motivation – I like my chocolate donuts too much. However, maintaining an active lifestyle and eating healthy has so many health benefits that this should really be everyone’s New Year’s resolution. As I have once again aimed to clean up my diet for 2015, my strategies for this year are very much the same that I use when I am training for a race and these are very much applicable to any of your resolutions as well:
1. Make a Goal and Commit to it
In the 2013 movie “Pain n’ Gain” with Mark Wahlburg (very good 1st hour, the 2nd loses it), Ken Jeong, who is a physician by the way, plays a motivational speaker named Johnny Wu. He asks the question, “Are you a Doer’ or a Don’ter?” After more dialogue, he charges into the main idea of his speech regarding his 3 steps for success: “1) Get a goal, 2) Get a plan, and 3) Get up off your [explicative]…” I’ll leave the last word out. Now, this part of the movie was clearly meant as a form of satire, but the underlying concept is very true. The first step in achieving any goal is setting one. The second step is developing a plan for how you are going to achieve it. Then it boils down to determining whether or not you truly want to reach that goal. You have to convince yourself that you are a “doer” as cheesy as that sounds, and go after it. The big goal for this year is Ironman Louisville in October and guess what – I’m already signed up, confirmed to be the last starter, and training for it.
2. Create a plan that actually makes sense for you and stick to it
I have a very busy work schedule, and I have my family commitments as well. In order to find the time to exercise, I have to make time. I sit down with a calendar every January and map out my weeks. I figure out what days and what times will work best to fit in my runs, my bikes, and my swims. Then I have to stick with it. One of the biggest keys to success is persistency and creativity; and this is true in athletics, work, and life. I attribute almost all of my success in athletics to my ability to consistently get up early or stay out late in order to get my workout its. It’s always rough getting started, but I’ve found it takes about 2 weeks for a new activity to feel regular. I tell friends and patients all the time to just push through those early morning alarms because after 2 weeks, its really not so bad.
3. Portion Control
Whatever your plan is for achieving your goals, you have to address it in portions and be reasonable. If I’m getting ready for a 26 mile running race, then the first run out the door should not be 24 miles – I’ll end up hurt. Similarly, if your goal is to lose weight, starting a complete crash course diet that is unsustainable is not going to help you reach your goal. I once had a patient trying to lose weight on a “grapefruit juice diet.” She only drank grapefruit juice. Of course this doesn’t work. The reason it didn’t work is she ended up binging every other night. Probably eating like this:
Just about anything in moderation is tolerable and sustainable. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds – it doesn’t have to be in the first month. If your goal is to run for 20 minutes – then the first workout out the door should not be a 20 minute run. Look at the big picture and figure out how to stretch this out over time.
4. Set milestones
The easiest way for me to remain on track for a key race is to plan a few smaller races along the way leading up to the “A” race. I am currently planning a few races leading up to the Ironman in Louisville. I will use these to test my fitness and see what areas need work. These milestones can be weigh in’s, reflection points, or simply any opportunity to re-evaluate how your progress is going and figure out how to revamp your approach if necessary. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds then the goal for February 1st should be 2-3 pounds, March 1st should be 2-3 more, etc. etc.
5. Make it fun
My wife has made the resolution to eat better and lose weight as well. She too makes this resolution almost every year. This year, she’s made a side wager with one of her friends. They are weighing in on the first of each month (at my house, and I am holding the official weight sheet). To make it fair, they are comparing body fat % change rather than actual change in pounds. They’ve each thought up some “shaming prizes” that the other will have to do if they don’t keep up – such as a henna tattoo on the small of their back saying “Git r’ Done” to the one who doesn’t lose weight at the end of the month. This is all in good fun, but the reality they are calling each other every day discussing what they’re doing actively to improve their lifestyle. Get your friends involved.
6. Write it down
As is said in Medicine – “if it’s not written or documented then it didn’t happen.” I keep a training log where I write down every workout I do. My wife has downloaded an app one her phone where she records al of the items she eats. The point is that this makes you constantly review your progress and will keep you from slipping and on focused on the task at hand.
7. Share your goals
One of the best ways to keep yourself committed to a goal is by sharing your goals with others. Perfect example, Do you think I could have decided not to do Ironman Louisville last year after announcing to the whole world I was doing it as a part of Ironcology? Every morning that I didn’t want to wake up at 4:30am to get in a workout, I thought about how many people were expecting me to race. Sharing my goal held me accountable.
So without further ado, here are my 2015 new year’s resolutions:
1. Clean up the diet (again) – reduce my snacking and junk food/sweets to 1 portion per day; drink more water than soda
2. Improve my efficiency at work to enable more time at home with my family
3. Teach my boys to play the piano
4. Raise the remaining $59,000 needed for Ironcology’s first project goal – the Brachytherapy Suite.
5. Double the $54,000 I raised for Ironman Louisville in 2014 during this year’s race, and use it to improve another area in need of upgrades at my cancer center.
What are your New Year’s Resolutions and how do you plan to stick to them?
You can help us out with Resolution #4 by making a donation to Ironcology today.