New Year’s, one of the oldest holidays celebrated ever, is kind of a funny thing. Back in ye olden Roman times, they decided to move New Year’s from March (a logical spot, what with springtime renewal) to January since the month was named for Janus, the mythical god with 2 faces. Janus had 1 face gazing to the future and the other to the past … pretty awesome symbolism so I’ll forgive the bitterly cold and miserable timing. These imaginary endings and beginnings are a necessary chance to turn over a new leaf (or new tree, depending on how ambitious you are).
Just as it’s impossible to end a year without a “Best-Of” list, it would feel equally strange not to begin a new year without some sort of “this time, I mean it” self-improvement proclamation. Having taken several trips around the sun, it seems that small, incremental changes have more sticking power than giant 180 degree flips and flops. Also key … patience and the ability to fall down and get back up again (and again). With this sweetest of new year’s upon us, let’s look at this thing we call resolutions (or revolutions) and the habits we want to change, break or start. These small and personal increments can add up to a pretty cool big picture.
The number 1 resolution most people make is to lose weight. The fact that obesity now tops hunger in most parts of the world may have something to do with it.
Millions (billions?) of dollars have been made telling people to eat or not eat all sorts of crazy things with: baby-food, gluten-free for those without Celiac, juice cleanse, cabbage soup, nothing but cookies, cotton balls (no really, don’t do this one), or only things mentioned in the Bible. The reality is that it all breaks down to a sensible balance of intake and output within the genetic gifts of your own metabolism (and yes, some are more gifted than others).
Arguably, the best nutrition advice is just 7 words by Michael Polan:
- “Eat food” to avoid overly processed science experiments with unpronounceable ingredients
- “Not too much” is that portion control thing.
- “Mostly plants” means getting more fruits and veggies in your diet.
In the bigger picture, by shopping for more fresh, less processed, more local and organic when you can, our food choices help curb climate change as well as our waistlines.
There are tons of great reasons to exercise (my favourite? to eat more yummy food). Gyms are great, but one of the best ways to exercise is to sneak it into your day through active transportation (walk or unicycle your way to work and errands). The more people travel actively in a city, the slimmer the entire population becomes. A Toronto-based walkability and weight study showed a 36% lower obesity rate in walkable neighbourhoods. You can check your neighbourhood’s walkscore here.
Another popular resolution involves getting organized. One way is to buy less garbage and value quality over quantity. Is it really a bargain if you bought it on sale, but forget about it? (my mixer hasn’t been used in 5 years, so I know all about theses things 🙂 ).Though one person’s trash can be another’s treasure … the whole premise behind Operation Green, an amazing project run by busy Med students salvaging med supplies for developing countries. De-cluttering, buying wisely and getting off the procrastination station are all great ideas (for tomorrow).
The next favourite swear-to-God-I’ll-do-it-this-time is to rock your detox … quit smoking, quit drinking, and live cleanly. As if you didn’t have enough reasons to quit smoking already, just producing cigarettes has a heavy environmental toll, like 1 tree cut for every 300 cigarettes (that’s one tree for every one and a half cartons) plus pesticides, plus fuel, plus plus.
Unlike smoking where none is too many, a few drinks can actually be quite beneficial to your health. If you can drink moderately, check out some local wineries and craft breweries that might even grow their grapes and hops organically. Bonus to Ontarians, we can now buy that in some grocery stores!
While we’re on the subject of detoxing, who knew how much we expose ourselves to when we get ready every morning. Personal care products can be filled with the some nasty chemicals we absorb through our largest organ (your skin, what were you thinking?). Whether it’s your body or your home, there’re lots of ways to clean without carcinogens. Many of these green cleaners will save you some money … sustainable 2 ways.
The final resolution is bigger than the both of us: to connect. Though we love seeing you socially here and on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube (so totally fun! In our completely unbiased opinions) we really want you to de-screen … after you finish reading this blog, of course. Spend quality time with family and friends, volunteer your time (maybe join a green team). In the ultimate happy-karma bargain, helping others helps you feel good about yourself. Find a cause that really resonates with you and get involved. It could be the environment, a hospital (we have a few), or helping refugees … these are all fulfilling things that keep us connected. And that, my friends, is bigger than the both of us.
All the best to your New Year’s Resolution plans, however large or little they may be.
P.S. Get some great ideas from our friends in the Wellness Department here. For UHN staff, see their story 10 Ways to Wellness on the intranet.
(adapted from original post on Jan 2, 2014)