New Year’s Resolutions

I have a confession to make. I’ve never been very active, but when I worked, I would walk at least 30 minutes a day as part of my commute. It turns out that kept my weight in check and my energy levels in balance. During the past summer, I didn’t notice much change in energy levels, mostly thanks to getting out in the sunshine and fresh air with my kids, but I did start noticing that my weight was increasing. Then, when the days started to lengthen during the fall and the air turned cold, I’ve spent more time indoors and less time moving. Not only has my weight continued its slow (but steady – 5 lbs in the summer, another 5 lbs in the fall) increase, but my energy level has been decreasing.

We’ve never had a bathroom scale in our house. I’ve never really wanted to know how much I weighed. But one day, at my parents house, we got out their scale and decided to weigh all the cousins (my kids and nieces and nephews). That was fun, and it piqued my curiosity. I had assumed that my even if my weight fluctuates, like my budget, it would revert to the mean. Well, that was only wishful thinking. Further, I was influenced by a poster at the YMCA that says: “The best way to gain energy is to expend energy.”

So here’s the tricky part. I hate exercising. Actually, I had doing anything that causes discomfort or pain. I really can’t understand why anyone will choose to inflict pain on themselves and justify it as exercise. Running is one example of an activity I just don’t understand. I’ve asked runners about it before, and found that it’s not fun for them, either, to get up early, get dressed and out of the house into weather that’s not necessarily welcoming, and start running. Apparently, the first few minutes are not enjoyable for anyone. I assume it gets better, but I know myself well enough to not make “running” a New Year’s resolution. I don’t need to ┬ámake promises to myself that I’m only going to break, with the feeling of failure and disenchantment that go along with it.

But I do enjoy swimming. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always had fun in a pool. I’ve never been a strong swimmer, but I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. I have a YMCA membership, the pool is very near my house (a five minute bike ride, in the summer), and I enjoy swimming. I’ve decided that I’m not swimming for exercise, I’m swimming for fun. There’s no question that my muscles get tired and a little sore, but somehow it seems less intense than my pleasure at being in a pool. I’ve only been a few times so far, but I think this is going to work. I’m sleeping better at night, I feel more energized in the morning, and I assume that it will help me control my weight without dieting.

I’ve had similar success when setting financial goals, by choosing things I enjoy. I enjoy investing in stocks and the research that goes along with it, whereas I don’t buy IPOs or distressed debt. I enjoyed paying off my mortgage early, and I don’t mind having some investment debt. What are your New Year’s resolutions? How likely are you to stick with them? Did you choose something that will be a sacrifice, or something that you’ll enjoy?

3 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions”

  1. Hi there,

    Firstly, happy new year! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog hugely during 2011 and hope for more of the same! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    In terms of weight loss. The most important thing I’ve discovered is that you can’t out exercise a bad diet. It just won’t happen. In fact you may gain more weight as you “think” you’re doing well and so eat more.

    That 60min swim, while great for you, burns about the same as a Snickers Bar, or less. It’s amazing just how much energy there is in food.

    So.. My advice is to look less at exercise and more at what you’re eating. Track your intake for a while (the free “My Fitness Pal” iphone app is amazing for this). Reduce your portions slightly until you are eating less than you burn per day. Keep swimming as it’ll help tone you up, and as you say you enjoy it but the real losses will always come from the kitchen, not the gym.

  2. Hi Simon,

    I appreciate your concern. I know that swimming is better than not swimming, so my decision to start swimming was an improvement for me. What you said piqued my curiosity, and I went looking for information.

    A Snickers bar (which I haven’t eaten since Halloween) has about 280 calories. In a given day, I need about 2100 calories ( Swimming for half an hour consumes about 400 calories ( My conclusion is I’m burning 20% more of the total calories I was taking in anyway.

    My weight gain was probably a result of two factors: eating way too much Halloween candy, and snacking too much between and after meals. That’s where I need to make better choices.

    Here’s an interesting article about how to make better choices (leading to better habits):

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