My fifteen year-old cousin arrived in Los Angeles a few days ago. “I’m a vegetarian now,” she declared, while plopping down in a chair in my kitchen. “Oh, you are?” I asked, skeptically. “And how did this happen?” “Well,” she began, smiling brightly, “I just happened to go an entire week with no meat, and I felt that I had so much more energy. I would wake up, and I wouldn’t be tired. So, now I’m not eating meat anymore.”
“Sounds good,” I responded, slightly impressed, yet somewhat skeptical still. As she jumped out of the chair and ran upstairs, my grandma entered. “Yeah, Rayne says she’s a vegetarian now. How long do you think that’ll last?” “Well, when did she start?” I asked. “Right after Thanksgiving. She wanted to wait until after Thanksgiving to start.”
“Oh,” I replied, more skeptical than ever. “She hasn’t even made it through a holiday yet? I don’t think she’ll make it through Christmas.”
The next day, Rayne sat down next to me with a plate of shrimp. Probing, I said, “I thought you weren’t gonna eat meat anymore?” “I’m waiting until after Christmas,” she responded.
Yeah, right, I thought. And my friend is going to start her cleanse after Christmas, just like my aunt is going to start her diet at the beginning of the year, for the tenth year in a row.
Although my skepticism remains high, I am hopeful for each of them. But not very, cause the truth is it’s easiest to start a new diet, a new exercise, a new habit, or program at the beginning of something—the start of a calendar year, a birthday celebration, a new week, a new month. It’s a lot harder to do it now, at the end of something.
It’s more difficult to do something different when you’re in the middle of something, and it’s been a struggle. It’s easy to write off the now and instead fantasize about the future. It’s easier to fantasize about the you who you will be in the future than confront the you who you are presently. One is disciplined with massive will power; the other greets struggle and disappointment in the mirror.
But the beautiful thing about the now is that it is immediate. You can change now. There is no need to wait until next year, after Christmas, or even tomorrow. You can do _________ (fill in the blank) or not do _________ (fill in the blank) now!
I know that the holidays can be a difficult time to diet, exercise, and do the important things that often get pushed to the side because of the urgency of buying gifts, travelling, cooking meals, and preparing for guests. But now is the best time to test yourself—to prove to yourself what you can do, despite the many distractions and temptations, including your grandma’s sweet potato pie! If you’re planning on giving up sweets in 2010, start now. Yes, you will miss out on the many tasty treats Christmas provides. But, you will gain the satisfaction of knowing that you maintained self-control at the height of temptation.
And as you enter a new year, you will enter it knowing that if you can maintain your fitness goals during what is arguably the most difficult time to diet in the year, then you can do it throughout 2010, especially when you go to those special events where you and your diet usually mutually agree to “take a break.” These events include but are definitely not limited to that special Valentine’s day dinner, your friend’s St. Patrick’s Day party, that enormous Easter buffet in March, your cousin’s wedding in April, your friend’s wedding in May, …you get the picture.
If you start now, you will have set yourself up for success in 2010. Why? Because you will have done the hardest thing first. You will have started something new not when it was easiest, but when it was the hardest. You will have done the difficult thing in the most difficult circumstances.
And as the year starts, you will enter it not talking about what you’re “going to do”, but instead continuing to do what you already started in 2009.
This confidence will aid you as you’re running (or walking) on the treadmill in January, knowing that you have a few less pounds to lose than everyone else who said “yes” to the pound cake, and the peach cobbler, and grandma’s sweet potato pie.
So, what new thing are you doing in 2009?