The power of a New Year’s resolution
On January 1, 2015, I made a decision to change my life. Up to then, I led a completely sedentary existence, living on the stereotypical IT-worker’s diet of junk food. My work was sitting at a desk, all my hobbies and passtimes were passive, I ate fast food at least five times a week, and I weighed 143kg.
With a family history of diabetes, I was already diagnosed with impaired glucose tolerance, and my doctor had told me that I would be on anti-cholesterol medication for the rest of my life, “But that’s OK, these drugs have been around for a long time, they’re well-tolerated and well-understood.”
But in the end it was vanity that gave me the kick I needed to change things. A family member had presented me with a print of a family photo for Christmas, and I was horrified by the way I looked.
I resolved to change.
I look back on what happened next with very mixed feelings. I succeeded in shedding 63kg that year, nearly half my bodyweight, but I did so stupidly and dangerously — with obsessive exercise and extreme food restriction. By the end of the process, I had lost the weight, but damaged myself emotionally and psychologically, and it took an amazing dietitian and psychologist longer to pull me back from that than it had taken me to shed the weight.
It wasn’t the first time I had starved off large amounts of weight; indeed, yo-yo dieting had led me to gain 40kg over the years. But now, four years later, I’ve beaten the odds and kept the weight off, and in doing so, beaten the odds about people who lose large amounts of weight almost always regaining it and more.
What made a difference this time?
It’s easy… previously, when I would starve weight off, I had no plan for “what next”. Yes, I weighed less, but I went straight back to living exactly the same life that had led me to that state. And so, I quickly returned to that state… it’s not rocket science!
This time, friends intervened with lifestyle changes that I experimented with, fell in love with, and made part of my life.
One friend introduced me to running; I fell in love with it and went from never having run more than a few metres in my life to running three marathons in 2017.
Another friend introduced me to cycling; I fell in love with it and went from never having sat on a bicycle before (even as a child) to participating in multiple rides in the 100km – 160km range.
And another friend introduced me to Zumba; I fell in love with it, and zumba led to barre, and barre led to ballet, and barre and ballet led to opening Barre en l’air.
And with my dietitian’s guidance, I fell in love with eating whole, unprocessed foods — things I would previously have told you I hated. It turns out tastes are malleable. (Not celery though. Yuk.)
But I haven’t loved swimming, or boxing, or a lot of other things I’ve tried. (Still looking for an upper-body activity to love…. any tips?)
I learned that when you discover the things you love, you don’t need motivation, or willpower, or discipline. You don’t need to force or punish yourself. You just need to tune into the healthy activities that bring you joy. That’s what will bring consistency, and consistency will bring change! And I have gained the most amazing tribe of truly wonderful people along the way.
So, my advice here is:
We all have it within us to transform our bodies and our lives. Experiment with food and movement until you find your joy, and let the joy guide you.