Ah, the last week of the year. The week where people are ready to shake off the previous year and say “hello” to the new one, even though deep down inside they know it will only be more of the same (or in the case of 2017, even worse). Christmas is over and the glimmer of hope that New Year’s provides sparkles like champagne bubbles. People start saving workout plans and healthy recipes on Pinterest. Photos on Instagram of colorful acai smoothie bowls and living rooms that look like a minimalist IKEA catalogue get liked more than ever, in hopes that any of it will translate into real life.
This is when people swear that they will lose ten pounds, they will be nicer to their kids, they really will clean out and organize the garage, and – by golly – that gym membership they’ve been paying for years will not go to waste. Then by March, they have resorted back to all the same habits and absolutely nothing has changed. July rolls around, and the garage remains frozen in time. By September, those 10 unwanted pounds have turned into 15.
Why does this keep happening to people? Because they live by excuses.
Let’s come up with some examples of the excuses I’m talking about:
“I’m too tired to work out.”
“Eating healthy means eating salads, and I don’t like salad.”
“But ice cream is sooooo good….”
“I can’t get rid of X item in my garage, I might need it someday.”
“Kale is nasty.”
The truth is, people rarely count the cost of living the way they want to. This requires facing some personal demons and it requires actually getting off your bum. The change people hope for at the beginning of the year is far scarier than they realize. The moment they think, “I have to change in order to make this happen,” they back off. The creativity required to learn what you need to make the necessary changes work takes too much energy.
By the time they are facing the twilight of their lives, they are popping pills they can’t pronounce for diseases they don’t know how they got and getting surgeries they can’t really afford. Their houses are full of junk their children will have to sort through if they don’t.
Ever since I was I kid, I wanted to live with the end of my life in mind. What kind of an old lady do I want to be? Broken, weak, fearful, and afraid of change? Or vibrant, healthy, wise, and content? Definitely the latter. What is it going to take for me now as a thirty-something to be a healthy, vibrant, happy eighty-something? It’s going to require intentionality on my part. It’s going to require letting go of excuses.
Excuses when it comes to eating right:
“I don’t know how to cook a meal that doesn’t require processed foods.”
This is a big deal for a lot of people, and frankly nothing to sneeze at. This, I admit, is a scary one to tackle for most moms. What if their husband hates it? What if their kids hate it? The key for this one is starting slow. You don’t have to turn into Julia Child overnight. Cooking healthy meals requires little culinary expertise; you just need some hints and shortcuts. Slowly introduce new foods onto the family plate that don’t come out of a package or can: steamed broccoli, summer squash, sweet potatoes, etc. You can up your game to swiss chard once everyone is feeling more on board. Also, slowly start removing processed foods from the plate. Eat out less. Stay committed to the process (no pun intended).
“But healthy food tastes bad.”
This is an assumption that people make who have never had healthy food. They are afraid to try something new and assume that it must taste awful. It’s also important to note that people who are accustomed to lots of unhealthy, processed, fatty, sugary foods have completely wired their brains and their taste buds to crave those foods. They are literally addicted to them. If this is you, consider that there may not be anything wrong with the healthy food, there may be something wrong with your brain. Detox, water, and staying focused are key to getting rid of these addictions.
“Healthy food is too expensive.”
False.* You do not have to shop at Whole Foods to eat whole foods. It is actually cheaper to cook simple meals made from whole, fresh foods from scratch than it is to be constantly buying processed foods. Meal for meal, pound for pound, healthy is cheaper. Your grocery bill really eases up when you stop buying soda and ice cream. Also, you will pay for your health at some point. You can pay what might feel like more now and stay healthy, or pay a whole lot more later when you get diabetes and heart disease. Your choice.
*There are plenty of ways to spend a lot of money on health foods. Plenty. But it is absolutely possible to save money on your grocery bill by sticking to the real stuff.
Excuses when it comes to exercise:
“I’m too tired to work out.”
My husband and I were just talking about this one the other night. Exercise gives you energy. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into the gym feeling exhausted and wondering why I was there, and then left the gym feeling amazing. Also, people have this idea that working out must mean doing 45 minutes of plyometrics. What a horrible idea. No. Combine simple cardio and weight training instead. It doesn’t require running around like a chicken with your head cut off or dancing to the beat of some skinny DVD instructor when you have no coordination.
“I don’t have time to work out.”
Do you have time to watch Game of Thrones? Do you have time to play Candy Crush Saga? Do you have time to spend for ages on Facebook or Instagram? Guess what. You have time to work out.
“I have kids and I can’t get to the gym.”
The more legitimate excuse for not exercising in my book, but still not good enough. (“Wait until she has her kid…” I hear you whispering maniacally.) There are a lot of great avenues for working out at home that include your kids in really cute and fun ways, and it doesn’t always require a terrifying video of Jillian Michaels screaming at you from your TV. Who wants to be yelled at by a stranger in your own home? Ew. The truth is, a lot of the workouts I do at the gym I could easily do at home. Grab your kid(s), your yoga mat, and a kettle bell and have fun (don’t hit your kid with the kettle bell). My sister and I worked out with my mom to her amazingly 80’s Stormie Omartian workout video when I was little and we had so much fun. Got healthy and made some awesome memories.
“My (body part of your choosing) hurts too much.”
This one is for real, and I get it. I lived with chronic knee pain for over a year between my injury and my surgery and a good bit after that. You’re scared you’re going to hurt yourself or to make whatever it is worse. Totally get it. This is where I would say to go online and look up safe exercises to do for that painful body part and some that don’t involve it at all. Like I said, working out doesn’t have look like running a marathon or dancing to Zumba. Getting your body moving can be more gentle than you think. But not exercising at all is worse for your body (even the parts that hurt all the time) than babying it.
Excuses for getting rid of all the stuff you hold onto:
“I don’t know where to start.”
I do. Your clothes. Always start with clothes. It’s the easiest place to start. “Do I wear this or not?” and “Does this fit or not?” or “Has this been in style in the last 15 years?” are good questions to ask yourself as you proceed. Move on from there.
“But I was hoping to use/read/fix that someday.”
I have bad news. That day is absolutely never coming. You aren’t going to read that book ever. That weird piece of whatever you were hoping to use for a craft someday. Yep. Not happening. Swallow the pill of reality, and get rid of it.
“But that item is sentimental and makes me think of memory/deceased relative.”
My mom will be the first person to tell you that there are plenty of sentimental items I will hold onto with a firm death grip. Again, I get it. But let me ask you: is the item in question an actual time machine? No. Can it raise the dead? Nope. Will your memory be erased forever the moment you part with it? I hope the human mind doesn’t work like that (thankfully it doesn’t). If a sentimental item is also useful (hello, grandma’s super cute clutch purse from the ‘40s!) then by all means keep it. But if it seems like you’re drowning in a sea of sentimentality, it’s time to let go of the past and say hello to the present.
Real change, the change you want at the beginning of the year, is scary. It requires a lot of effort and a lot of transformation within yourself. It’s not really something you can resolve to do at the beginning of the year without really putting in the commitment to do it.
But I promise you that if you do, you will never be the same person, you will never want to go back and you will never regret it.
What are the excuses you live by? What would your life be like if you let those excuses go?