Beyond New Year's

It’s January and many of us are recounting the Christmas cookies, special drinks, and festive foods we’ve ingested over the past month. We’ve embraced the stark arrival of January’s ordinary routine because although we cried putting away our Christmas trees, we’re ready for normalcy once again.  We all know this is the time for putting our best foot forward; setting high goals for things like fitness, time management, and diet. If you haven’t started back at the gym yet, you’ve at least mulled over your projected intentions for the new year. But as you think of health goals, I implore you to not choose an “all or nothing” mentality. It’s this very state of mind that will cause you to eat a dozen donuts in a weak moment--because if you cheat with one, then why not indulge in the other 11?

Changing a lifestyle means persistently challenging our habits, even when the New Year’s high wears off. I’d love to say that one can master Whole30 and run hilly marathons overnight. I’d love to say that one counseling session can heal all our emotional baggage, but it’s not true. My own journey has required a lot of small steps to impact the total trajectory of my health. It’s taken years to lose weight, find exercise that I enjoy, learn how to be emotionally vulnerable, and pursue God in the midst of it all. It may have started with a New Year’s Resolution, but I didn’t master a healthy lifestyle in just a year.

Healthy change is a process. It happens when we put grit and thoughtfulness into our daily decisions. In time, those little decisions build a strong foundation that sustains our lifestyle beyond January. Our lives can’t go from 0 to 100 overnight and stay in high gear-- it’s just not sustainable. So let’s embrace the different seasons of change; there will be times when we really rock at life and times we derail from our plan. The most important thing: keep going. Because one good decision is better than 10 bad ones.

If you’re like me, you struggle with wanting to do things perfectly. For instance, when I don’t follow through with something, I tend to feel shame. Like when I make a goal to work out 3 times a week and it all dissolves after one strong week. Or when I cave and go through the Sonic drive-thru for a Reese’s Blast, and I feel like crap afterwards. Or when I can’t keep up with my endless to-do list so feel unproductive. It’s easy in these moments to want to throw in the towel because if I cheated at one meal of my day, then why even try the rest of the day? Sound familiar? The enemy of progress in our lives is an “all or nothing” mentality. If we don’t have grace calculated into our goal formula for the year, we’re not going to see lasting change.

Think of all the great things you want to achieve in 2017. Picture the self you imagine at the end of this year. Now, break it down. What is one thing you can do today that moves you toward that version of yourself? Maybe it’s putting more vegetables in your diet (shouldn’t we all) or truly forgiving someone. It could mean saying no to sugar or going on a walk. It could mean opening your Bible for the first time in awhile or getting help for your addiction. It could mean finally taking your chronic illness seriously or letting go of the hurt you’ve so tightly held onto. Simply choose one thing and do it. Then go to bed knowing that you’ve chosen something life-giving for yourself---and that’s truly amazing. Then tomorrow, wake up and repeat.

Here’s to a healthy 2017 and beyond!