“Thank you, life, for all of your valuable lessons .... Now let’s use them to kick some 2020 @ss!”
Instead of feeling ashamed about past health experiences, be curious and learn from your “past you.”
Instead of making grand “wishes” for 2020 — broad unrealistic claims divorced from growth, reflection, and reality — make intelligent, realistic GOALS.
For many, the New Year — the demarcation of a “new beginning” — is motivating. If this is true for you, GREAT! Capitalize on the surge of motivation. Since the New Year is now, it is as good a time as any to make a health goal. As my mother taught me, don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.
The trick is to intelligently harness the “New Year’s bug” to grow and learn from past experiences rather than falling into the common trap of making health “wishes.” Health wishes inevitably cause one to fall off the health horse down the shame spiral to further unhealthy choices.
Use the New Year as a time to reflect and make intelligent goals. Instead of being frustrated by past health choices and goals, LEARN FROM THEM. (Reading this in February? Make today your “New Year’s Day.”)
Basically, look back before you look forward. Analyze your past health choices. Then integrate the knowledge.
Conceptualize your health process as a “loop.” Act in a certain way — analyze said choice —decide to replicate or alter said choice next time.
These questions might be helpful in your question, answer, and analysis process:
-When in my life have I been the healthiest? What habits did I hold that I can reproduce?
-When have I been the least healthy? Why? What can I learn from those experiences?
-How do I self-sabotage? What do I do to undermine my own success? Why? What steps can I take to mitigate my self-derailment?
-What are my linchpin and BNB (biggest negative bang) habits? Often linchpin and BNB habits are one and the same, but not always. A linchpin habit initiates a significant spiral of either positive or negative actions and thoughts. If a nutrition regimen changes a linchpin habit it will have dramatic effects on health.
For example, let’s say a diet asks you to cut out alcohol. If drinking is your linchpin habit, just the act of having one drink will set in motion other negative habits (like eating more, staying up late, and being unproductive the next day). I don’t drink, so a diet that advocates cutting out alcohol would not benefit me. My mom can have one glass of wine and, while she enjoys it, the act of drinking it does not make her want more alcohol or spur other negative habits.
Exercise is one of my positive linchpin habits. If I do my workout I am more likely to do other positive things throughout the day. Your BNB habits might not set in motion other bad habits, but they have a disproportionally huge negative impact on your health.
For example, you might only eat after dinner once per day, but those empty calories have the potential — especially if your goal is weight loss — to negate your other positive daily choices. If eating after dinner disrupts your sleep or makes you feel frustrated with yourself and then make additional negative choices, “after dinner snacking” becomes both a BNB and a linchpin habit. To alter your linchpin and BNB habits you have to first be aware of your current habits; you can’t make healthier choices if you are not aware of your actions, habits, and thoughts.
-What do I do that takes 20% of my effort and time, but gives me 80% of my happiness, joy, and productivity? Think people, actions, habits. Work on doing more of those actions and seeing more of those people.
-What thoughts (what I call negative brain propaganda) typically derail me? Why might I have these thoughts? What are healthier thoughts I can foster?
-What most inspires me? Do more of that. Who most inspires me? Spend more time with those people.
Look back not forward. Use previous experiences to form concrete personalized goals. Embrace that you will fall off your "horse" at some point in 2020; falling is part of being human. We all fall. The question is not "will I fall?" but "when I fall, how quickly can I course correct and what can I learn from the experience?" Falling can either destroy you or make you stronger. Learn from all experiences, but get back on the horse as quickly as possible.