Halloween is fun and the Christmas season is sentimental, but New Year’s may be my favorite holiday. Unlike the social pressure of a birthday party — and the annual “am I really that old?” moment — New Year’s is my occasion for introspection and subsequent optimism. I can reminisce about highlights and officially dump lowlights in my mental “In the Past” bin.
That’s why I participate in New Year’s resolutions. An annual challenge is a concrete way to mark my personal progress.
At first, my resolutions were insubstantial and vague. “Drink more water” and “study more” were among the repeats that I never felt I truly accomplished. Still, my “floss daily” resolution from a few years ago did get me in the habit of flossing much more than I did in high school.
In 2013, I started a tradition of more tangible resolutions. I started tour life in 2012, and since most of my friends were girlish skaters, I found myself making near daily trips to Starbucks partially for the social benefits. I couldn’t justify paying $3 for a plain, no-calorie Starbucks tea, so I indulged in frappucinos and other sugary concoctions several times a week. As an escape from the sugar mountain I was ingesting each week, I completely cut out Starbucks drinks for a year. (The pre-made sandwiches and fruit salads were still fair game; after all, a touring girl’s gotta eat.)
Previously, I had dipped into the popular (and ludicrous) mentality of “I need my Starbucks to get me going.” Though I didn’t have a caffeine addiction, somehow those devilishly delicious drinks made 3-show days more bearable. In 2013, I realized that the satisfaction of having a $4 drink was a learned behavior, and that bringing a tea bag and a kettle to work could be just as effective at staving off stress.
But once I had cut it out for a year, I gradually let myself order just a few iced chai tea lattes too many during 2014. After all, I had survived a year without it; I deserve some more Starbucks indulgences, right?
On the last few days of 2013, I started searching for another New Year’s resolution with which I could challenge myself. It finally hit me — or my tongue, really — on New Year’s Eve when I was eating a burger and fries in a mall after watching Frozen.
I eat out for the majority of meals on tour since I don’t have access to a kitchen or full refrigerator. (For some tips on healthier snacking on tour that I’ve picked up, check out this post.) Whether I had a grilled chicken or pizza as my meal, at least I could make a significant difference in my health if I cut out sides or replaced them with steamed veggies.
And it worked, for the most part. I didn’t waste as many empty calories on ketchup and salted potato heaven as I could have during the year, even if it meant ignoring the iceberg lettuce and croutons that decorated my plate instead. But I doubt that my friends appreciated it, because I whined about my sacrifice nearly every time fries were on the menu and spent the rest of those meals greedily eyeing fries on my friends’ plates like a seagull poised to mooch.
Five days into 2015, I ordered a heaping plate of fries with my chicken burger and made myself so full that I felt sick. So, what did I learn? What was the point?
I knew that cutting out Starbucks and French fries forever were tests I was doomed to fail, because I was so attached to them. With my concrete goal of one year, I could sit at a restaurant in August and mutter “only four months” to myself and anyone else who pitied me enough to listen to my complaints. Cutting those foods out for 12 whole months taught me that sacrifices are manageable in the long term, should I decide to keep them. And my willpower to ignore these luxuries is stronger than I give myself credit for, so there’s no reason why I can’t have a little more patience or push myself harder in other areas of my life, too.
Plus, the sickening binge on fries I had the other night kinda put me off from fries for a bit longer.
This year, I decided not to amend my diet as my New Year’s resolution. Instead, I’m planning on running 200 miles over 12 months. I ran 156 miles in 2014 (not counting elliptical runs). I spent more time at home in 2014 than usual, and since I usually cut back on running during the months I’m on tour, this resolution should force me to keep my healthy routines year-round.
I know, I know, New Year’s resolutions are like wishes; you’re not supposed to tell people about them until after they come true. Still, if I complained about my tragic separation from fries a couple times a month and still succeeded, there’s no reason why I can’t share my optimism for exercise with the world.
As long as it comes with a side of fries.