Those Pesky Diet and Exercise New Year’s Resolutions
Some personal tips for getting the body going.
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16)
How are those New Year’s Resolutions going? It’s a good thing, setting goals. In 2 Thessalonians 1:11 we read, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.” (emphasis added) We should want to do good things. By setting goals, in writing, we commit ourselves to these good things in a more tangible, concrete way. People who do that normally get more done.
Some of our resolutions may pertain to diet and exercise. I began the year with a goal of losing 4-5% of my weight. I’m close already, but I need to maintain it. Exercise alone wasn’t enough. Diet changes were (and are) needed.
That’s probably because I’m getting old. My 14 year old eats like a horse and is skinny as a rail. That raises the question: As aging Christians — an intentionally vague descriptor — should we care enough about our bodies to make weight and diet-related goals? After all, aging will only make things harder, and the overall trajectory, we’re promised, is that our bodies will waste away, if death doesn’t come first.
Some people give idolatrous importance to physical fitness. You can find many worshipers this time of year at Planet Fitness or other such temples.
But truth be told, some of us don’t give it enough emphasis. A balanced approach is needed. Eating well and exercise yield not just physical but mental and emotional benefits. They help us think better, feel better and sleep better. That allows us to be better — to better serve God, our families, our employers, our churches and our communities. So do it for your own good, and the good you can do for others. Here are some things that are working for me.
Smaller Portions, Eating Slower and Limiting Snacking
If you’ve been working from home, you know that walking by a full refrigerator or stocked pantry can be a source of temptation. Avoid that part of the house as much as possible during the workday. (By the way, are we working from home or living at work? I digress.)
Wherever you work and whatever the meal, have a clear idea of how much you’re going to eat at a particular sitting. A small kitchen scale or measuring cup will help you allocate reasonable portions. Get used to putting such instruments out on the table when your family eats together. Proteins are better than carbs, chicken is better than steak, and smaller portions, enjoyed leisurely, can be just as filling as larger portions gulfed down speedily.
Limit snacking and be intentional about how you snack. Almonds or fruit rather than cookies or ice cream. Be intentional about the when, too. My daily lunch is now a chicken salad — with no bag of chips on the side, as I once did. About 2-3 hours later, if hungry, I’ll have a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit. Then I wait until dinner. No snack between breakfast and lunch. (Breakfast is fruit and either eggs or sausage, with maybe a small piece of bread.)
Watch juices, soda, and condiments like BBQ sauce. Those calories really add up, and they’re often unnecessary. Get used to drinking a lot of water. A full glass prior to a meal can help you feel full after eating less. Also good for your intestines if you catch my drift.
Immediate teeth brushing has been oddly helpful. The mouth feels fresh and clean. And for whatever reason, it takes my mind off the possibility of eating more. Don’t wait for bedtime. Do it right after dinner.
These are general habits I’m developing from which I can deviate on special occasions, like birthdays.
Running for long periods of time is discouragingly difficult if you’re out of shape. So at least combine walking with jogging. Find a route in your neighborhood whose distance you know. My wife and I have a 1-mile loop and a 2-mile loop, both of which we regularly use. Start by walking fast. Then incorporate some mild running with walking. Can you sustain a run for half a mile? How about a full mile? Work your way up from wherever you are now. Once you’re running more, be sure to stretch for a few minutes before and after. It’s more important the older we get.
Combine the walking/jogging/running with something that really occupies your mind. A podcast, a daily Bible reading, or fast-paced, encouraging music. If you’re walking, use the time to go through a prayer list, or return phone calls. If you combine exercise with something you’re going to do anyway, the extra time becomes minimal. That takes away the excuse. With a little discipline, you could probably tackle a few miles daily.
I recommend doing it first thing in the morning. It’ll clear your head and you’ll only have to shower once (unless you’re an after-work shower person). If you wait until later, it might not happen. An alternative is to do a lengthy walk with your spouse after work, using it as a time to connect and talk about the day. Maybe you can do both?
If you can incorporate free weights, those are good too. But minute-for-minute, nothing beats running, swimming, or biking for calorie-killing efficiency. Ok, maybe burpees or jumping jacks. But then you can’t see your neighborhood.
May GOD mightily grant your resolve for new habits in the new year.
Dr. Alex Chediak (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is a professor and the author of Thriving at College (Tyndale House, 2011), a roadmap for how students can best navigate the challenges of their college years. His latest book is Beating the College Debt Trap. Learn more about him at www.alexchediak.com or follow him on Twitter (@chediak).