Preparing for the New Year is pointless if you just make a list of resolutions. Don’t do it. Instead, take time to make SMARTER goals and you’ll discover that healthy self-care can become a habit.
Why You Need to Start Dating
Don’t get me wrong. Pedro and I just celebrated our 30th anniversary last week. And this article has nothing to do with dating your spouse. It has nothing to do with dating someone else, either. But dating yourself? Yep. You need to date yourself.
And by ‘date yourself,’ I don’t mean pull out your prom dress from the 80s or find your hot rollers and hairspray. I do mean that in order to exercise balanced self-care, we need to learn to date ourselves consistently—set exercise dates. In fact, our exercise dates need to turn into a habit we can’t live without.
Because in reality, when we fail to exercise on a regular basis, we cut years off our lives. A 2012 study sponsored in part by the National Cancer Institute discovered that adults who participated in moderate exercise for just 75 minutes a week lived an average of 1.8 years longer than their non-exercising peers. Exercising—even without the goal of weight loss—adds years to your life.
When you exercise vigorously at least 150 minutes a week and weigh a normal amount (a BMI of less than 30) you can expect to live up to seven years longer than someone who doesn’t exercise. An overweight or obese person can still add years to their life even if they don’t lose weight by exercising regularly.
So, if you feel burned out by the whole idea of dieting, try dating instead. Make daily dates with yourself to walk for 30 minutes. If you need a friendly reminder to keep moving, you can check out the numerous fitness trackers and phone apps that help keep you motivated.
First Know Your Why
As with all aspects of preparing for the new year—mental, artistic, academic, and spiritual—we need to first examine our why. When I decided to lose weight back in 2004, I had multiple reasons. Some good, some not so good, and some completely unrealistic. I sat down and brainstormed all of the reasons I wanted to lose weight.
- I hated the way I looked when I weighed 190 lbs.
- My clothes didn’t fit.
- I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
- My family was ashamed of me (ok, they never said this, but I felt that I brought shame on them).
- I wanted to improve my health so I could enjoy a longer life.
- Being fat made me grumpy.
- I didn’t want to huff and puff when I stood up after sitting on the floor.
- If anything happened to Pedro (his bout with cancer the previous year almost killed him), I wanted to be able to take care of our girls.
- I wanted to look good in a bikini (this qualifies as the unrealistic one).
After brainstorming my list, I weeded out the not-so-good reasons, and decided that the reasons that motivated me the most had to do with my family and my health. Realistically, I know that losing weight might not guarantee a chipper attitude, a desire to roll out of bed in the morning, or a bikini body.
But staying alive longer so that I could take care of my family, enjoy the great outdoors with them, and be present for important life events? I would do anything for my family!
Confessions of a Hater
I should confess at this point that I have fought skirmishes with weight, exercise, and eating most of my life.
My body loves to store carbs as fat. I love to eat carbs (nothing tastes better than a fresh slice of homemade bread). It’s a lose-lose situation. I hate exercise and sports, too. In junior high, I broke my finger playing basketball. I can’t walk up a flight of stairs and drink water from a bottle at the same time. Trust me, I learned this the hard way when I fell flat on my face at the top of the stairs in front of the science classroom.
The combination of carb-loving and natural lack of athletic ability has not served me well. Mix in a propensity to curl up in the corner with a good book and you have a recipe for an unhealthy lifestyle.
I don’t love exercise; I do love how I feel when I take care of myself by exercising. Adjusting my diet to include more fruits and vegetables doesn’t come easy for me. I get jealous of people who can eat carbs with impunity. But exercising self-control does result in clothes that fit for years, extra energy, and an overall feeling of well-being.
Pitfalls of Pregnancy and Ignoring Self-care
Pregnancy and toddlerhood took a toll on my health—mostly because I let indulgence and excuses form habits in my life. I gained weight and couldn’t seem to lose it. Not that I really tried—I wanted the quick fix. If the cabbage soup diet didn’t help me lose 15 pounds in two weeks, I figured nothing would. I exercised sporadically—sometimes with friends, sometimes with Pedro, but never consistently.
Although we ate a vegetarian diet, we had fallen into the “Vegetarianism—eat sweets, not meats” habit. That combination of sporadic exercise and not-so-healthy eating didn’t serve me well. When our girls hit their pre-teen years, I had no energy to keep up with them.
Fortunately, we can reverse the toll of forgetting self-care. But if we expect it to work like the cabbage soup diet, we’ll find ourselves sadly disappointed. That’s why preparing for the new year means setting a daily date with yourself.
In order for dates to turn into habits and rituals, we need to write them in our calendar. I STILL have to do this each time I change my exercise routine (and changing one’s routine is a good thing—just not a pleasant thing for me). For example, I know I need to build muscle, but I don’t like doing the work it takes to do it.
Set a Date with Yourself
I find it easiest to keep my dates if I can mentally prepare for them. When I plan out my week, I write down the specific exercise routine I want to follow. For example, I printed out a calendar of my chosen strength-building routine, Focus T-25, and I check off each morning that I complete that day’s exercises.
But I also know that I can’t just replace my walking and running routine with muscle-building, so I adjusted my morning calendar to allow for both. My long-term goal to finish the Focus T-25 course (it lasts 10 weeks) helps me keep the end in sight and bolsters my enthusiasm for keeping the daily exercise dates.
I usually sign up for a long-distance running event every year so that I have a reason to run. As you get to know yourself, you’ll learn what motivates you the most and when your best ‘dating time’ occurs. Some people can set exercise dates for the evening, but I’d rather be half-asleep when I exercise.Don't make New Year's resolutions to 'get in shape.' Instead, learn about dating yourself. #NewYearsResolutions #Dating #selfcare Click To Tweet
Steps to Successfully Dating Yourself
- Know your why and remind yourself daily.
- Set daily dates with yourself.
- Reward yourself (ok, checking things off my list is pretty rewarding for me—you might need a bigger reward).
- Have short-term and long-term goals.
- Remind yourself of your why when you feel discouraged.
- Celebrate your short- and long-term goal wins.
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Great perspective on the perennial problem of staying strong and healthy and living life at a weight we can live with. I have a lot of work to do in 2019, and I’m looking forward to it.
Michele Morin recently posted…Merry Christmas 2018!
Setting a regular date with myself but only for very gentle walk with FM 😀
Merry Christmas Anita!
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Lots of good points here! I find that I’m on a journey to love the way I look, anytime. Which is so difficult, but even when I was much slimmer and fitter, it was never enough. I always thought I needed to lose more weight. I agonized over missing a day of exercise. I wept over a half-pound gain. Now I don’t weigh myself. I take a short, mile walks with my pup twice a day with a 35 pound toddler strapped to my back, do Zumba (with other women who rock diverse, imperfect, and beautiful bodies) twice a week on a good week, attempt to eat intuitively, and give myself grace. One day I might have time and money and energy to eat more salad and go on long mountain hikes. But for now, this is my reality. And even as a plumper woman, I deserve to wear pretty clothes, do my makeup and hair if I want to, pierce my ears, smile and think that it’s imperfectly beautiful. I surround myself with people who love me the way I am (like you!). And I’m happy.
You are on the exact journey you need to be on! You are loving yourself well and adding years to your life by exercising and keeping those dates with yourself (and your puppy). Your children will see a woman who loves herself enough to exercise and invest in herself. You’re beautiful inside and out.
This is good advice. I have been more intentional this year about planning exercise and walking more and it has definitely been making a difference.
Setting daily dates with ourselves is such a healthy thing to do. Thanks for framing it this way, Anita!
I can not wait to get back to a regular workout routine! I have a couple of surgeries first – but then I hope to add back in Dating Myself on a weekly if not daily basis! Great advice!
Such a good reminder! I need to get back to a workout routine.