A New Strategy for Resolutions

By Alan Miles

I don’t have a very good track record on New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, the score to date is:

Better Self — 0
Undisciplined Resolution Slacker — 273

But this year things are going to be different. I’m going to make my dismal New Year’s history work for me by making resolutions it will be good for me to break. So, for 2013, I resolve to:

Eat out more often. No problem keeping this one, right? I can just go with the flow — eating out has become a part of the American way of life. We eat more than half of our meals away from home these days, and we spend more than $110 billion every year on fast food alone. But if I make it my resolution to eat out more often, it won’t be Jan. 3 before I find myself sitting down to dinner at home. Oh, I might try to overcome the backsliding at first and convince myself it would be fun to go to a restaurant — but before long, I’ll be saving money and eating healthier food where I live. I’ll start acknowledging that I know (and can control) exactly what’s in my food, that I’m bonding with my family, that it’s nice to be home. I’ll probably even enjoy cooking. If this goes anything like my past resolutions, it won’t take long for me to start packing healthy snacks and lunches when I’m going to be away from home just to avoid eating out.

Watch more TV. I’ve got cable, so you’d think this would be easy — but, no, things won’t go like that once I’ve made the resolution. Just as I’m about to flop down in front of the moving lights and mesmerize myself, some part of me will remember my New Year’s commitment to watch more of this numbing opiate, and I’ll jump up to find something else to do. Perhaps it will lead to home improvements such as a living room end table with four — rather than three — sturdy legs, or a closet door in the bedroom that no longer requires a Jaws of Life to open. Perhaps conversations with members of my family will go beyond a one- to three-word answer accompanied by (if the topic is serious enough) a quick half head turn away from the TV screen. And, of course, there will almost inevitably be an increase in the quality of entertainment choices when I fail to honor this pledge (see next resolution).

Read less. Breaking this resolution goes hand-in-hand with breaking the previous one. What more logical way to fill some of the time created by not watching more TV than by not reading less? As soon as I make this resolution, I’ll start seeing all kinds interesting stuff to read. A newspaper or magazine headline catching my attention will start the derailment, but people will soon find out I’m reading and start recommending things. Before long, my attention span will start to increase, and I’ll be reading books. Eventually, I’ll use my library card so often that I’ll pull it out by habit at the checkout and try to pay for my groceries with it.

Avoid exercise. Breaking this resolution should lead to gains in cardiovascular health, muscle tone and mental outlook — and losses of weight and lethargy. Only my proven inner strength at resisting any and all New Year commitments can overcome the innate laziness supporting this resolution. Ordinarily, I can convince myself that jogging from the third row of the parking lot to the mall entrance because it’s starting to rain is a vigorous workout. Or that carrying my garbage can from the garage to the curb once a week is the equivalent of weight training. But once I resolve to avoid exercise, I’ll be compulsively drawn to physical activity — at first taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking places instead of driving and that kind of thing. Soon, this will result in structured activities that stretch, strengthen and invigorate me. If you drop in at my house by February, I’ll probably be in my sweats and running shoes.

Eat mindlessly. Most of us have always consumed our food without giving much, if any, thought to its ingredients, nutritional value, or origins. Resolving to chow down mindlessly will result in the opposite for me — a thoughtful examination of what I eat. I’ll soon be giving into temptations to consider my daily fare from many different angles — social, environmental, nutritional and cultural. I won’t be able to look at processed food without thinking about . . . well, the processing. Then I’ll want to know how what I eat affects the environment and people at the beginning of the journey the food makes to my table. I’ll think more about local foods and organics, for example, and look for Fair Trade labels when I shop. And once I’m breaking this resolution, I’m sure to rely less on a steady diet of my “favorite” foods and seek some culinary adventures — new recipes, healthier ingredients, ethnic foods, vegan fare, etc.

I’m looking forward to getting 2013 off to a good start with another round of broken resolutions. Hope your New Year is happy, too!

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