Sunday, January 02, 2011

Goals for the new year, part one.

I generally don't make resolutions. At least, not publicly. Sure, every year since about 4th grade, I've thought, "I want to lose X pounds this year." Sometimes I've even thought of it all the way up to, say, January 5th. Usually it's forgotten within the first three days of the new year, though. So, for me, new year's resolutions are usually not something I take seriously.

I do occasionally set goals, though. Usually my goals don't have anything to do with the start of a new year. I can think of three major goals I've set for myself in the past that I was actually successful at achieving. The first was during the summer between eighth grade and my freshman year in high school. That was the year I was introduced to the Y's Ragger Program and earned my first rag -- the blue rag. One challenge associated with the blue rag is to be your best self. I remember thinking that my best self would be more outgoing and more interested in the people around me. Because of my blue rag challenge, I began to make a conscious effort to engage others in conversation and it changed my entire personality. I went from being relatively withdrawn and quiet to conversational and outgoing. Clearly, I'm still no social butterfly and I'm not the life of the party, but I'm very different from the girl I was before accepting that challenge.

The second life-changing goal I managed to accomplish was shortly after Brynn was born. Before having Brynn, I had never successfully lost weight. I'd thought about it a lot and had been really unhappy with my body from the middle of elementary school all the way past college graduation. I've always been a bigger girl -- even in high school when I was swimming year round, even working out 4+ hours a day in the pool. Small is just not in my body's vocabulary...well, besides my cup size. That's a different problem. Anyway, By the time Brynn was born, I'd gained 30 pounds (about ten of which was Brynn and probably another eight in fluids and baby-related stuff that disappeared shortly after she was born). A few weeks after her birth, I had a good chunk of weight left to lose plus whatever I could lose beyond my pre-pregnancy weight to get to a healthy goal weight. Since I'd never successfully lost weight before, I knew it would be a challenge.

But...those months when Brynn slept 20 or more hours per day, when I had no job and almost nothing to do at home, I was pretty disciplined. I started using to track my calorie intake and within a month and a half of starting, I'd not only lost the baby weight, but also gotten below my pre-pregnancy weight. I was sooooo proud of myself -- to finally accomplish something I'd wanted for so long. Then I got pregnant with Callie, the weight came back, and the discipline disappeared. When I think about it now, I know I could lose at least a few pounds if I tried...but it's a lot of work and I just don't have it in me today.

The last life-changing goal I accomplished related to the food I ate and the food I fed my family. It was initiated by a article I read about pigs being abused at a North Carolina slaughterhouse. It sickened me in a way I'd never experienced before, so much so that it set me on a road to change my eating habits. It started with not wanting to contribute to animal cruelty, grew into wanting to limit my contributions to the toxicity of our environment, and turned into a personal crusade to keep my family eating as organically, locally, and sustainably as possible. With the budding resources at the time (from books by Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver plus a tiny handful of websites with directories of small, local farms), I managed to completely change the way my family and I eat.

At first, it seemed impossible. Giving up bone-in chicken thighs on the grill was PAINFUL, let me tell you, for the kids as much as for me. I missed the steaks, the cheap chicken, the pre-marinated pork loins, the grapes grown in Chile, the clementines from Spain and Morocco, the New Zealand lamb and apples. Now, when we occasionally have those treats at a friend's house, they really seem like treats, rather than feeling guilty about eating them.

Between changing my understanding of food and then also beginning treatment with a chiropractor, I became aware of some of the toxins in my environment and the toxins that my kids are exposed to on a daily basis. Fire retardants, pesticides, formaldahyde, mercury, fluoride, parabens and other body-product additives like sodium laurel sulfate and aluminum, BPAs...all of it. The list seems to grow monthly yet somehow we've maintained a relatively normal lifestyle while working to minimize our exposure to these toxins. And all of it started with a story about abused pigs and a goal to be conscious about what I eat and what I feed my family.

Each of these major goals I accomplished had serious motivation behind them and the information I needed in order to accomplish the goals. When I got my blue rag, I KNEW how to be a good conversationalist. I knew how to engage other people because I'd spent my whole life watching my mom do it. I tell my interpersonal communication classes this all the time -- I've never seen anyone engage others in conversation better than my own mother does. People know that she cares about them by the way she listens to them and the question she asks. I had a model and I knew what I needed to do to become more outgoing. I also knew that if I didn't engage others, I could have a very lonely time in high school. I was motivated to make a change.

When I lost Brynn's baby weight, I had by my side, giving me the information I needed to keep my calories-out exceeding my calories-in. I had the time and the discipline to keep track of everything I ate and I had my old jeans standing by to motivate me.

When I changed the way our family eats, I had the motivation -- the poor North Carolina pigs provided more than I needed. Bit by bit, I gained the knowledge I needed to find what we now call "happy food" and over the past three years, the resources available for finding and buying happy food have grown at what seems to be an exponential rate. It's become easy and second nature for us because we have the resources available to help us.

With all that in mind, I'll be back tomorrow to share my goals for the new year.

1 comment:

Fulton said...

I'm intrigued! Can't wait to hear them. With a build of 2 posts for these goals, you know you can't fail without some heavy ridicule!