new year's resolutions

Now that’s a whole 30 challenge I can get behind!

I think we’re finally seeing a shift in the landscape about health and new year’s resolutions. There are far fewer articles in my various social media newsfeeds about dire diets and impossible plans. Instead, I’m seeing some reflective reporting on evidence based plans for how to make your life better, if that’s what you’re after this January. Now maybe that’s just better news algorithms but whatever, I’ll take it.

For example, the BBC this week ran a great list of health tips that weren’t about restricting foods, running unhappily on a treadmill, and weighing yourself. Instead, they made recommendations like smile more, get enough sleep, and get a dog. I can’t find the link for you! (Sorry about that. It’s been a busy week back to work.) (Edit/update: It’s here. Thanks Keri for helping out!) My favourite though was a 30 food challenge. Not the dreaded Whole 30 challenge which restricts foods, this challenge is to eat 30 different plant based foods in a week:

According to Megan Rossi, “We should aim for at least 30 different plant-based foods per week, she says. That is because plant-based diversity is thought to have a key role in good gut health. The bacteria in our gut – collectively known as the microbiome – have a profound role in our health. Allergies, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s, and even depression have all been linked to the bacteria in our gut. One way we can get more plant-based diversity in our diets easily is by being a little savvier about some of the foods we purchase, says Dr Rossi. “Instead of just buying chickpeas go for the four-bean mix. Instead of buying one type of seed buy the four-seed mix,” she says.”

Lots of different vegetables: Image from Getty.

Now Matt Fitzgerald wonders if we ought to strive to eat different foods everyday. In his Is Dietary Variety Overrated? he looks at the advantages of eating the same healthy foods everyday. And there are some advantages. Planning and meal prep is easier and you can choose healthy meals you like and stick with them. That said, when it comes to fruits and vegetables there are nutritional reasons for striving for variety.

He writes, ” For example, in one study researchers from the University of Colorado divided 106 women into two groups and placed them on different diets. Both groups consumed 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but one group ate 18 different varieties of fruits and vegetables while the other ate only five varieties. Blood tests taken after two weeks revealed that while both groups showed a reduction in lipid peroxidation (due to increased antioxidant intake), only the wide-variety group exhibited a reduction of DNA damage caused by free radicals.”

Do you eat 30 different plant based foods in a week? Looking at my food log (yes, I track, I like it, still!) I’ve got a ways to go. So far I’ve had apples, onions, celery, mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli.

How about you? How many different plant based foods do you eat in a week?


Happy New Year! (September is the new year for academics)

September is my January. It’s a time for resolutions. I’ve written about September feeling like my January before.

And I’m not alone.

It’s not just university professors and students everywhere who feel this way.

Here’s Lindsey Siera writing about why September is actually New Year’s.

“Sure, January 1st may mark the onset of the official new year. But for most of us, it’s more about the excitement of New Year’s celebrations than an actual new beginning. In fact, there’s not a lot of “newness” about that time of year at all. It’s still winter. We’re still in the same humdrum routines. For many of us, it’s still just midway through the school year. And for all of us, it just doesn’t feel like all that much is fresh. Now September 1st — that’s when the new year actually feels like it’s ready to start. Albeit nine months into the “official” calendar year, it’s when our new planners actually begin. It’s the beginning of fall, when the leaves begin to change, the beginning of school terms, and (most importantly for fashion diehards) the beginning of the biggest, boldest fashion season of the year.”

Catherine blogged this week about her worries about re-entering the academic year routine after a good summer that had time for flexible fun and fitness. I’m still trying to balance my new big job with my fitness ambitions. Also, I need some plans and goals about writing and research. I love academic administration–making things happen makes me smile–but it’s a struggle to fit my own stuff in. Just check out Monday’s post on my scramble to find vacation time.

I set intentions about all sorts of things: getting enough sleep, packing healthy lunches, setting time aside every day to write, going to the gym, and riding my bike. Also, buying new clothes that aren’t black.

I’m commuting by bike everyday but it’s just 5 km round trip. That’s not enough. I’m also running errands by bike and that helps. Ditto there are a lot of dog hikes in my life. I get into the gym about twice a week to lift weights. What’s missing? Well, long bike rides, for sure. I also need a new thing to get me into the university fitness centre. It will be swimming for a few weeks. If that doesn’t take then aquafit and spin classes will take its place.

How about you? Does September feel like a new beginning to you? Do you set intentions? Make big plans?

A reddish dog with a white collar sitting on a chair, underneath a plant. Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash


New Year Same You (Guest Post)

There are 3 guarantees in life: Death, Taxes, and New-Years-Resolution-Makers. This is that time of year where everyone and their dog is talking about resolution making. From matter-of-fact haters of the resolution-making (that’s me!) to faithful good-intention-filled folks, there are thoughts and opinions flying  about what to do regarding goal setting on January first.

Let me start by saying that I’m a definite advocate of doing good things for ourselves – our minds, bodies, emotions, hearts. And while most often, a new year brings with it all kinds of resolve along the lines of making our lives better somehow, a lot of resolutions end up being more shame based vanity cries of guilt to conform to social constructs built on foundations of patriarchy and financial gain.

Weight loss magic claims are filling my Facebook feed, and already the talks of cleanses, diets, fads, and ways to be ‘thin’ are assaulting me at every corner.  The idea that we should strive to be one specific way (read: thin, strong, sexy, dainty, ‘feminine’, and all according to the subjectivity of constructed ‘norms’). Substantia Jones, photographer and creator of The Adipositivity Project  was quoted in this great post by Mashable saying:

When determining New Year’s resolutions, I’d like people to know about the studies that have found that making a weight goal part of any health goals is likely to monkey-wrench those health goals. I want folks to understand that even the $64 billion-a-year U.S. weight loss industry no longer disputes that their failure rate hovers around 95%.

So you can see how this ‘perfect’ shape/size/ might not be possible for all folks? Especially with a failure rate that high! Yikes! Yet, we will all watch the parade of weight loss promises pass by when we sign in to our devices of choice over the next few days especially. The focus is so heavy on being lighter that the marquee lit message ends up being “only thin bodies are good bodies”.

Even this well circulated article from Women’s Health that claims to be listening to the desired copy from their readers makes several body shame filled depictions of what ‘ideal’ is and what all of their readers must be striving for in unison. It’s right there in the image below highlighted in yellow.

not all bodies

By the way, I will happily tell you repeatedly: Your body is a good body whether it is toned or not.  No magazine (or blog!) authors can define for you what that should look like. And I hope the epitome of all that your health as a women is NOT found in just how toned, slim, strong, or sexy you are.

Now, before you think I’m trying to discourage someone from setting goals for themselves and making new choices, I’m not. I think it’s great and I probably even wish I had some of your same goals and motivation! I’m only suggesting a consideration of what has been consumed and acted upon as gospel year after year of ‘be a new you’ ideas are riddled with body shame, guilt, and pressure versus inspiration and self-led motivation.

Grant yourself permission to not be pressured to see a new year as some form of forced point of change, and please be kind enough to yourself that you don’t criticize you for ‘holiday treats’. And if you do make resolutions, remember that I told you here and now that if you tap out and change your mind it is not a failure – because YOU are not a failure.

If you’re looking for a January activity that’s not bandwagon jumping and leading to possible let down, feel free to join me in a fun Instagram play-along photo challenge! Read more about #GoodYearGoodYou here.

Wishing you a good year ahead!

Bio: Queer, Fat, Feminist of intersections. Not so fit, but chewing on the reasons why and the ways to challenge what that means. No apologies for any of it.


To Resolve or Not to Resolve? On New Year’s Resolutions

possibilityAre you a New Year’s Resolution type or not? I find that people tend to fall into one of two camps — the resolvers and the non-resolvers.

There are just as many reasons to make New Year’s resolutions as there are not to make them. On the make-them side, there is of course the eternal flame of hope that burns most brightly when we turn a fresh page. And what fresher page than a new calendar year?

Picking up on Catherine’s promise that we’ll be posting about the whole “new leaf” thing, here are some of my thoughts.

Almost everyone has something they want to change–get the finances in order, simplify, and the perennial favourites: lose weight, get fit and healthy, eat better. These have great pull as the holiday season winds down and some of us (not to out myself, but okay, I’ll out myself) wake up from the fog of a sugar-induced coma.

But on the don’t-make them side, there’s this: Only 8% stick to their New Year’s resolutions.  Anyone who has ever had to elbow their way to their favourite workout equipment in their gym during the first week of January knows full well that shortly into February the crowds thin again.

Of the top ten most broken New Year’s resolutions, four are about diet, fitness, weight loss, healthier eating (lose weight and get fit, eat healthier and diet, quit smoking, drink less).

Hope is a powerful motivator, though. And hey, maybe you or I can be among that 8%. After all, said article gives the formula that is the 8%’s key:

The key is to realize that adopting a resolution isn’t just about goal setting. What you are really trying to do, is to change your behaviors. And behavior change—to exercise more, to spend less, to stop smoking—is very, very hard.

The key  is in Gleicher’s “change formula”, balancing key motivational factors against resistance:

These factors are:

D = Dissatisfaction with the current situation

V = Vision of the future state

F = First steps towards the future state

And those three variables when multiplied together must be greater than:

R = Resistance (or the cost of change)

In other words, the combination of your current dissatisfaction, goal clarity and specific action plan must be greater than the resistance (i.e., pain) associated with making the change:

Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance

The power of this equation is in realizing there are two ways to win. You can increase the left side of the equation—the size of your motivation, goals and plan—or you can decrease the resistance on the right side of the equation.

That’s the big, “aha!”

I have often found myself quite aware lately that my resistance often outweighs my goals. I told my swim/triathlon coach just about a month ago that I want to get faster but I’m not sure I want to do the work. That’s called resistance. No amount of awareness in the world is going to help if the resistance out-paces the vision.

So what do the 8% achievers do? They plan for the resistance and work with it, trying to reduce it. Here’s where small steps, support, manageable action plans, fun, can come into it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are process goals and outcomes goals. Process goals may be best thought of as habits. Remember, behaviour changes are what we want to stick.

I lean towards the not-make side because I feel as if this is where I start to set myself up to feel crappy about myself.  Nat talked about gentleness and owning our choices. I’m all for that too.

I read recently about cultural procrastination, which according to this article is what kicks in when the resolve, so strong on January 1st, starts to slide:

We always have good intentions that we don’t follow through on. That’s what procrastination is — the gap between intention and action. When you look at New Year’s, by definition, you’re making your intention to start at least days from now, if not weeks or months from now. That gap between intention and action is why I call it culturally prescribed procrastination. Because if you recognize, for example, that you should get more fit, you should change your diet or you should quit smoking, there’s nothing like a good intention now where no action is required to make you feel good. If you recognize these things, then why aren’t you asking yourself the question, ‘What can I do right now to make that change?’ That’s why New Year’s resolutions by definition have an element of procrastination to them.

I’m not here to talk you out of making resolutions. It’s everyone’s choice how they want to approach the clean page that presents itself on January 1st. I’m as prone to the next person at making unreasonable plans for extraordinary change (see my struggles about moderation versus all-or-nothing). Indeed, speaking of procrastination, that’s a big one on my list — I make resolutions about doing less of it all the time.

Here’s an alternative: we can go into the new year with total self-acceptance. That works too. Even Calvin knew that.


Best wishes for 2016, from Tracy I.