Monday, January 9, 2012

I can do anything for 21 days

Disclaimer: I know this post is more than a week late (as my sister pointed out) but since I was away and everyone knows it is useless to attempt New Years' resolutions on vacation,  my New Years started yesterday…which, by the way, is when I started writing this post (despite what the date says).

This year I want to be better. Not best. Just better.  I think that's pretty doable, don't you?  I mean, all it takes is that just once, I choose not to eat that chocolate bar.  Or that even once, I choose to save my money and not buy that pair shoes.  Or that I run just one more block when I think I can't.

See? It just takes one little action to be even a little bit better than I am now.

But I want to be a lot better.  And I think that I've figured out how. Over the break, I read a whole lotta magazines and found out a couple of really cool scientific facts that will make keeping my resolutions so. much. easier.

The first scientific theory came from numerous articles I read about a new book by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney: Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.  I learned that willpower is not just mind over matter.  In fact, it is quite the opposite: its matter over mind.  Apparently, willpower is a physiological phenomenon that takes place in our bodies by converting glucose into energy. And that energy get burned up when we exert willpower.

 Based on that fact, there are two important things to understand:

1.  Our body needs food (glucose) to produce willpower.  So if you think that all it takes to stop you from eating that doughnut is willpower, you're wrong.  What it really takes is an orange which is then converted into glucose which is then converted into energy which is then burned up while creating willpower to stop you from eating that doughnut.

Moral of the story?  I need to eat in order to stop myself from eating.

2. My body  can only produce have an infinite amount of willpower at any one time. Just like I run out of energy to keep running, my brain runs out of energy to keep willing. If I try to use willpower for a laundry list of resolutions, I'm are doomed to fail.

Moral of the story?  I can't spread my willpower too thin. Instead, I'll choose one thing at a time to focus on and make it happen. When that one thing becomes a habit, I'll move on to using my willpower for something else.

This brings me to Scientific Theory #2:
Have you noticed that almost all life-alterning programs promise to make it happen in 21 days?  There is a good reason for that; it is the approximate amount of time we need to form a habit.  Wanna smoke?  Do it for 21 days!  You'll be addicted!  Hate making your bed?  Force yourself to do it for 21 days and on day 22, you should find yourself doing it without a second thought.  I reflected on this and think that it is probably true.  At the start of each school year, it takes almost a month for me to get used to waking up early and it takes most of July 'till I stop waking up early.

Moral of the story: If you can do something for 21 days, you can do it for a lifetime.

Over the past three weeks, I have spent a lot of time thinking about those two articles and have come to the conclusion that keeping my New Years resolutions is scientifically and mathematically foolproof.

It breaks down like this:

Since it takes 21 days to convert an act requiring willpower into habit, I am going to focus on only one resolution at a time.  And if you divide those 21 days into the 357 days remaining in 2012, by January 1st, 2013, I will be a better me in exactly 17 different ways.

Here is what they are (in no particular order).  Keep in mind that I am only hoping to get BETTER and not worrying about getting BEST.

1. Cut out refined sugar (or as my daughter calls, it "fake" sugar).
2. Get rid of my gastrointestinal issues.
3. Stop buying so much stuff.  Use what I've got and get rid of what I don't use.
4. Dress in a way that would make Stacey and Clinton proud.
5. Keep my desk/car/room/life more organized.
6. Really learn how to use my Ipad, computer, and other various electronics.
7. Become better at math and finally prove Mr. Cook wrong when he told me that, "some girls just don't have a mind for math."
8. Run faster & pain-free.
10. Actually use my cookbooks.
11. Talk less & listen more.
12. Be a better mom/friend/wife/sister/daughter by actually calling people back. This also means I must pick up my messages and read my emails once in a while.
13. Stop wasting so much time on…nothing.
14. Get control of and understand my finances.
15. Renovate my kid's bathroom.
16. Reduce my carbon footprint.
17. Stop being afraid…of everything. From spiders to the dark to confrontation to Thai street food.

Resolution #1: The sugar thing.

1. It never tastes as good as I think its going to taste. 
2. With all that fake sugar, comes all sorts of other bad stuff, like fake colour, chemicals, and trans-fats.
3. Eating too much fake sugar has turned me off real sugar-fruit & other natural sweetners.
4. I want to set a good example for my daughter, who also made it her resolution not to eat fake sugar.
5. It is empty calories that is bad for my teeth (which genetically suck to begin with) and leaves me hungry for something more…while at the same time, makes me feel sick.

So why do I eat it at all?  Who know?  All I know is that I do.  And I want to stop.

Day 1:  Clean House.  Outta site outta mind.  Since my willpower is at its lowest at night, that is the time I would wander to the pantry for a little look-see-poo.  Inevitably, I'd end up munching on something terrible for me; Oreos, leftover Halloween candy, and (when I'm really desperate) a spoonful of Nutella (this is me hanging my head in shame).  I needed to get rid of it all.  
If you look closely, you'll notice that the various cereals, cookies, chocolates, and more have made way for dried fruits, whole grain cereals, and sugar-free Jello and pudding (remember--I said better, not best!)

Ok.  So I'm set at home.  Now all I have to do is make sure that I can keep it up when I leave the premises.

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