To your health: Typical resolutions won't help you get healthy
By LEIA KEDEM
As you read this, I, like many of you, am reflecting on the choices I have made in the 12 months past.
Have we made healthier food choices and stuck with your exercise routine? Have we spent less money and saved more? Built stronger relationships with loved ones?
I recently realized that while we attempt to better ourselves with New Year's resolutions, we're essentially shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot. We are unrealistic with our expectations, setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Think about it: Once we've started off on our mission to lose weight, the game is on. The fridge is stocked with healthy food, we're going to exercise for an hour every day, drink tons of water and the pounds will fall off.
It might go well for a few days, even a few weeks or months. Then life gets in the way ... a birthday celebration here, a dinner date there. Before you know it, several slices of pizza and cake have gone down the hatch.
Instead of moving on from these dietary indiscretions, we beat ourselves up: "I can't believe I ate that cake, I failed at my diet. I'm a failure." Sound familiar?
I doubt you'd say such things to another person, so when did it become OK to talk to yourself like that? We are appalled when we hear about extreme bullying in the media, yet we continue to bully ourselves.
When it comes to diet, exercise or other health issues, we are quick to place the blame on our own shoulders. We say we have no willpower, that we can't do anything right.
So many resolutions are to stop doing certain things: smoking, overeating or spending too much money. Or we need to start doing other things: exercising, losing weight or saving money.
The problem with these assertions is that they imply that our past actions have been wrong, that we have done wrong.
Perhaps we have, but luckily, life gives us plenty of opportunities to learn from our mistakes. However, we can't truly learn from our mistakes if we don't get to the root of what happened — and the why.
How did we get here in the first place? Why have we gained 50 pounds in the past few years? Why do we smoke a pack a day? Why do we compulsively shop? What are we trying to cover up?
So many times we indulge ourselves, saying we need or deserve it, but what we're really doing is avoiding dealing with something unpleasant. This could be stress at work, lingering memories from an unhappy childhood, or any number of problems.
People think that losing weight or stopping smoking will fix all of their problems. It sounds great, but it's just not true. Even dieting is yet another distraction; when it ends, the underlying issues are still there. So this year, along with your goal to get healthy, I ask you to get emotionally healthy, too.
Resolve to tackle the deeper issues in therapy and resolve the problems, not just the symptoms. Therapy is hard work — I won't sugarcoat it — but it'll pay off. Not only will you be in a better place emotionally, but you'll be better equipped to manage your health throughout 2014 and beyond.
While I am not a therapist, I can help get you started with your New Year's resolutions to get healthy. I am excited to announce that for the first time, I will offer the New Year, New You program.
At this free workshop, you'll get up to date on the latest diet and exercise recommendations, create a plan for reaching your resolutions, and learn the best strategies to make those lifestyle changes stick.
The program is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 15 at 801 N. Country Fair Drive, C. Space is limited, so make sure to reserve your spot by calling the Champaign Extension office at 333-7672 or by visiting web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv.
Whatever your New Year's resolution, the University of Illinois Extension wishes you a happy, healthy and productive 2014. And remember: Be kind to yourself.
Leia Kedem is a nutrition and wellness educator with the University of Illinois Extension, serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. Contact her at 333-7672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.