After a month of celebrating the holidays with our friends and family, indulging in cookies, candies, chocolates and so much more it’s always nice to find one’s self in the calm after the storm. January is a month of quiet repos where our time is spent resolving to reset and start the new year off on the right foot. Very often we approach our search for balance with the same vigour and determination that we have when we become obsessed with devouring every piece of fruit cake, every drop of wine and every morsel of turkey that is laid in front of us. Very often it the loftiest ambitions that are so far out of reach they cause our new found desire to “be a better me” to collapse. After only a week or so our New Year’s resolutions fall apart under the weight of the pressure we put on ourselves to lose that holiday weight or any of the resolutions we promise ourselves that “this will be the year we make it work”.
Instead of getting ahead of ourselves by trying to accomplish an insane short term goal too quickly it might be better to see the bigger picture and set long term goals that can be broken down into small intervals of time, making it easier to achieve success at a reasonable rate. For example, saying I am going to get in better shape by June is more reasonable than saying I need to lose 30 pounds by February. This can certainly helps takes the pressure off. Sure we can kick-start both these types of goals with the same level of determination but when we see that we are not losing that 30 pound as fast as we want it can backfire and discourage us from continuing. These goals are dangerous and when we end up failing, making us feel much worse about ourselves.
Starting small and working our way up to a reasonable goal while seeing smaller progress overtime takes patience but reaching that goal is all the more rewarding. Late last year I decided that it was time to take my health into my own hands. As a blogger my lifestyle isn’t necessarily the healthiest. I don’t sleep enough, I eat at all hours, I don’t eat well all the time and I drink almost on a daily basis. The rubber band that we are is much stronger when we are younger but as we age that elastic tendency to bounce back after a night out on the town slackens. It takes more work to get back to a place where we feel good. Towards the middle of last year I wasn’t feeling great about my physical appearance and that began affecting my mental state. I avoided mirrors as much as possible and I hid behind joking about my weight. I had decided that this spare tire was an inevitable side effect of getting a little closer to 40. Justification is often my strong suit.
My New Year’s resolution was not to go on a diet but to increase my exercise, eat better when I can and cut alcohol, junk food and greasy food as much humanly possible. I started thinking this way late last fall when I was trying my best to squeeze into size 33 swim shorts and positioning myself creatively in front of the mirror so I wouldn’t see the gut that was forming. I’ve always been a big walker but I needed to do more exercise if I was going to enjoy my indulgences. There’s no way I am giving up my fried chicken or my cheeseburgers but I don’t need to have those every day.
I began taking control of my body when I started at the gym back in September. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t as hard as I was expect either. I found starting at Econofitness a great way to get started for a couple of reasons. First of all, the price is pretty hard to beat; it’s $10.75 per month. This was important for me because I didn’t want to feel the pressure to go to the gym to make it worth the money I was spending. I needed to start slow, on my own terms and it worked like a charm. When I started going I didn’t even know how to turn on the treadmill but now I go up to three times a week and it’s gotten me back in wonderful shape. Secondly, the Econofitness gyms are not that intimidating. I’ve found that I’ve rolled out my workout slowly, incorporating new machines and new techniques on a weekly basis. Like a primate I bang on the machines until I get them to work and with each new machine I learn I care less about who I think is watching me. The reality is, no one is watching me and no one cares. I’m the only one concentrated on what I am doing because everyone else is thinking the same way. I’m still getting there but the progress I’ve seen so far is very motivating.
The winter months are also great for getting outside and enjoying what Mother Nature is throwing at us. In Montreal we have the privilege of cold temperatures that are absolutely perfect for skiing and skating. We’re only a hour or so away from the best ski hills and we have several public rinks in the city, my favourites being the Old Montreal rink, the giant rink in Parc LaFontaine and the new Mammoth Village at the Olympic Park! With the stadium as a backdrop and plenty to see, do, eat and drink, it’s fun for the whole family (and when it’s really early in the morning, there’s no one there – now that I am spilling the beans that will change – which means shaking your ass to the music freely while you do laps around the ice).
Exercising is only part of the battle. I am a person who loves fried food and I need cheeseburgers as much or more than I need oxygen. That has been a more challenging area for me because it’s so easy for me to have access to this. Chocolate and candy (sometimes I would have two chocolate bars a day as a reward for enjoying my cheeseburger) are other weaknesses that sometimes still get the better of me but knowing what that costs keeps the cravings at bay, most of the time. For me, eating better starts in the morning. The first thing I do after feeding Oscar (my life coach and cat) is prepare a pot of coffee that I drink while getting ready every morning. When I arrive at the office about an hour later I have breakfast. This usually consists of granola and plain yogurt with honey and maybe a piece of fruit. I have also used the Yumibox (Montreal based!!) mixed grains for a couple of weeks and they add a lot of wonderfully warm flavour in the winter when topped off with a dollop of yoghurt. They don’t rely on sugar to give you that kick you get from other packaged oats and grains. There’s also more coffee because homicide isn’t always an option. Coffee literally saves lives in my office.
For lunch I try to bring something homemade or something that’s low in sodium, sugar and calories. If I have to do frozen I will chose the PC Blue Menu frozen meals from Provigo. They are big enough to satiate my appetite when combined with a little more fruit or a homemade soup and they keep me going until I’m done at the office. With dozens of events every month it’s tough to have a schedule that makes sense and it’s even harder to not drink or eat properly. When I stick to my guns and decide that I am going to the gym on a weekday I take care not to have alcohol and I limit the food that’s going to make me lethargic. On the days that I don’t go to the gym I enjoy whatever I am eating and drinking because that’s also part of what I do.
A spa day or a massage will also do you a world of good during the cold stark month of January. Gift yourself an hour or two at Bota Bota or Spa Scandinave in Old Montreal or if you’re feeling adventurous try Balnea on the South Shore. It’s a great way to relax and recharge your batteries after a long year of running around and living every moment of the day (and night). Towards the end of the month there will be a very special 8th edition of the Tsar Spa (pictured above) back in the St. Brigide of Kildare Church on Alexandre de Seve. There’s more info on that here.
The key, at least for me, is not getting ahead of myself and setting a series of smaller goals for myself that I know I can reach and that will eventually build to something bigger. Knowing your strengths and playing to them instead of kidding yourself and feeling bad about yourself will mean more success in the goals you set. Sometimes the best New Year’s Resolutions are made in the middle of the year.