Sunday 30 December 2018

The Best Advice For Sticking To Your New Year's Resolution

   New Year's Day. Colloquially known as the time to make unrealistic goals doomed for failure following the first slip-up. That's a positive statement to start the year with, isn't it? Well, don't take it the wrong way. I've pointed it out because it's a sore truth, and by making you aware of that fact, I hope to arm you with a steelier determination and tag line. "I won't be among them." Indeed, if you give it all you have, the only way you can fail is by giving up.
   That's the trouble with new year's resolutions. If you say "I'll make a change tomorrow" then it feels a bit sudden and gives you no time to plan or prep, but it also means you don't fall far. Saying "I'll make a change on Monday" gives you a few days to plan and prep, get your mind in gear and have a better time of it. But the pedestal is a little higher and so there's further to fall. "I'll start on the 1st" - more time, more prep, even further to fall. "I'll start in January." It's more or less the worst thing you can do if you observe the pedestal.
   Ultimately, the best advice for any new year's resolution is drop the 'year'. If you slip up - and you will, because everyone does - then you'll feel like you can only try again at the start of another month, if not the next year, and it will simply never happen.
   Accept the fact that you will slip up and you'll find it so much easier to pick yourself back up. If you've resolved to learn guitar and miss a lesson, boo hoo, reschedule, don't quit. If you're trying to lose weight and miss a gym session or eat a piece of cake, boo hoo, enjoy the cake and reschedule the session.

   If you're trying to lose weight, don't join a gym. Unless you plan on hiring a personal trainer, it's a waste of money. Most of the machines can be rivalled if not defeated by free weights (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells) and many of them - like leg press machines - are completely pointless unless you wish to improve your ability to swing your legs while sitting on the loo (yes, we shorties are lucky, though leggy ladies will never admit their jealousy). Instead, buy a set of weights. You don't need much space to use them, and you can use free websites like Darebee or Shape, Youtube and so on for brilliantly effective workouts. Alternatively, try Blogilates for a ridiculous number of free Pilates workouts - videos and printables - for beginner to advanced, which are low-impact, apartment-friendly and require no kit, but are also very effective at changing the shape of your body.   By buying your own weights, you will never have to renew a gym membership. Buy weights once, and then you have them. You'll also be unable to use traffic, insecurity or finances as an excuse, and time also becomes less of an option. You also won't have to share kit and you can fully control your environment. I started out with a simple set of dumbbells (1kg, 1.5kg, 2kg & 2.5kg) which cost about £15. Over the course of 5 years I've accumulated 3 kettlebells (4kg, 6kg & 8kg, about £10-£15 a piece), a barbell (£30 for a 2.5kg bar, 2x 1.25kg plates, 2x 2.5kg plates, 2x 5kg plates totalling 20kg), a single extra 10kg plate (£25, bringing the barbell up to 30kg, which is well beyond my abilities even now), as well as resistance bands, a workout bench, some gorgeous yoga mats and and endless amount of activewear. And I've barely noticed the expenses, either, and with a collection of DVDs and a few bookmarked Youtube channels, I could spend not a penny more and have the kit and instruction to last a lifetime.

   If your goal is to eat better, don't take on any fad diets - keto is dangerous, low-carb is impractical and will lead to binge-eating, raw is actively not recommended by any nutritionist, and prioritising protein is also pointless. You need carbohydrates for energy. Too little will - and trust me on this - make you drowsy, weak, irritable, will stand in the way of weight-loss goals, compromise cognitive abilities, and did I mention make you irritable? So very, very irritable? You need fats for the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals as well as protection for cells. You need protein for repairing cells especially if you workout, but as you don't need more than 0.83g of protein per lb of body weight (not the fabled 1g per 1lb, because any more than 0.83g even for professional body-builders stops being effective and just becomes consumption), you get more protein in your diet than you need. I train very often and have done for a while. I only need 106g protein - any more than that is excessive and is just converted into fuel instead, because my body has no need of it.
   Do not cut out all the foods you love, either, as that will also lead to binge-eating. The best method is to take on the 80/20 standpoint. 80% what your body needs, 20% what your tastebuds want. Eat well for the majority of the week and the occasional treat won't do a thing to harm your healthy-eating or weight-loss goals. Cutting it out entirely means that you're very likely to over-do it when you finally do allow yourself a taste. It will also make you miserable and irritable.
   Do not go for cheat days. It's so easy to undo two weeks' worth of work in a single day. Instead, if you need it, take a cheat meal by all means. I do every week. Usually pizza or a Chinese take away. It hasn't done a lick of harm despite doing this once a week, every week, for years. I also set aside another night in the week for scoffing chocolate or biscuits in front of a movie with my husband. Again, no harm at all. And certainly something else to look forward to. And if a chocolate bar slips in at another point of the week, yep, that's fine, too.

   If you're trying to learn a new skill, set aside an hour once or twice a week to practice it. It could be drawing, teaching yourself a subject, learning to play an instrument - I took up the violin, using the Online Piano and Violin Tutor on Youtube, and played for 45 minutes a week and really got somewhere. I had to set the violin aside for 2 months to see to my Etsy shop over Christmas and never really picked it back up. I've been trying to do so again, and setting aside an hour a week is really working for me. I can find an hour. The trick is not to expect instant gratification. Learn, listen, observe, and don't ever be afraid to try new things. Even if the bow screeches.
   If it's a creative avenue, don't pick up a pencil or some such and expect to draw a masterpiece in a month. And don't feel guilty for using other artists' work as reference - read: reference. Don't ever copy a picture and then take credit for imagination and composition, but don't feel like you can't try to copy it at all. Give credit where credit is due, but keep in mind that it's a brilliant exercise for observing use of pens/pencils/tablet brush settings and getting a better feel for things without worrying about what you're going to draw. I've spoken to a lot of artists, traditional and digital, all of whom have said the same thing. Copy someone else's work if it's just an exercise at practise and technique. And if you're drawing your own pictures, then using multiple images from other artists as reference for certain parts, like a hand or positioning, is even better. I do it myself. And use your phone or a mirror to use yourself as a reference, especially for hands, which I've noticed tends to be a universally hated detail among artists. No one I know likes to draw hands.

The ultimate advice for any new year's resolution

- Don't expect instant gratification.
- Don't set unrealistic goals (dropping from a size 20 to a size 8 or going from novice to concert pianist in 12 months).
- Definitely expect to slip-up, and when you do just dust yourself off and get right back on the horse before it runs out of reach.
- Don't tell people your plans, show them your results - don't share your resolutions, and then you won't feel as embarrassed when you slip up, and you'll be doing it more for yourself than for the approval of other people.
- Don't give up, that's the only way you can fail.
- Don't view it as a chore, it's something you've chosen to do and you should enjoy it - or why bother? Some things will be a nuisance at first while you learn to get to grips with it, but once you've found some footing, the fun sets in. Once you learn how to punch and, for the most part, avoid hitting yourself in the face, kickboxing is amazing fun. Once you learn not to hold the pencil too tightly or press down too hard, drawing is brilliant. Once you work out how to hold the bow and bow cleanly over open strings, it makes the task of bowing finger notes more rewarding. The screeching will return because you're thinking about too much else, but it will clean up and you'll be so happy with the sound and feel braver. As you will with all of the above.

   Don't tell me your resolutions. I'm only sharing mine in my next post because it's much smaller than my other resolutions, and because I also know that I'm the kind of person more likely to succeed if I publicly set it in stone.
   Good luck this year!


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