Sunday, February 7, 2016


I've never really been great about New Year's resolutions. Sure, there is something lovely about starting a new year with a clean slate and thinking that it is a perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself, shed old habits, and emerge from your cocoon to become the beautiful butterfly you were meant to be.

But change is hard.

The last few years have been busy, a little tumultuous: learning, changing, growing, stepping far outside of my comfort zone, failing, succeeding, slipping back into old habits. As 2015 drew to a close, I was very aware that I wasn't exactly where I wanted to be. I'm not far, but I'm not there. So this year feels like the year to declare a few resolutions that will nudge me in the right direction.

I'll start by saying I hate the idea of resolutions as punishment: I'm giving up dessert! I'm quitting smoking and drinking forever! Thinking about a resolution this way is guaranteed to fail. Because even though we look like adults, we're all basically 3-year-olds and we're definitely going to throw a tantrum when someone (even ourselves) tries to make us do something we really don't want to do. The way you frame your resolution can make all the difference, so my resolutions are all focused on the positive.

And yes, I'm totally aware that I'm about a month late in talking about this -- January was sort of a "soft open" for my resolutions, but I'm excited about kicking things into gear in February.

Consume More

We are living in the golden age of media -- from must-watch television to books to film to addictive podcasts to the blogs everyone is talking about, there is so much good and juicy content out there for the taking. And last year I found myself consistently frustrated that I was missing out. Somehow there is never enough time to read and watch and participate in all of the good stuff. Except that I know that's not true. We find time for the things that matter. I make time to work my 8-ish hours everyday, I find time for laundry, grocery shopping, and walking the dog, I even find time for getting a good sweat once a day (though that did require a concerted effort), so now I want to find time for great content. I want to read more, I want to see movies that challenge me, I want to learn and laugh and cry and be inspired.

So the first part of my resolution is to make time for the good stuff by being a little more ruthless with my schedule and finding those pockets of time. Car trips, long runs, and housecleaning are excellent times for catching up on podcasts. Mindless TV sometimes feels like a treat, but Seinfeld reruns and Chopped marathons aren't doing me any favors. Between Netflix, Hulu, and my friend's Xfinity login (shh, don't tell), I have an incredible library of TV and movies at my fingertips, so I do not need to watch Meangirls every time it's on.

I've also dusted off my Feedly account (RIP, Google Reader -- you are still missed) and loaded it with all of the blogs that I never get around to keeping up with. I want to get out of the habit of spending time on Facebook first thing in the morning (because click-bait headlines screaming "Kim Kardashian Doesn't Look Like This Anymore!" are rage-inducing) and give myself 30 minutes to read things that are inspiring and enlightening and help me do my job better.

And it's hard for me to admit how little reading I've been doing lately. Reading has always been my favorite, a way to explore and try to understand myself and the world around me, and for years I consumed books in great gulps, chain-reading one after another. That hasn't happened for the past year or two, for reasons (books are expensive, my library stocks mostly beach reads, no time, etc.) that are mostly lame. I'm remembering that when I started my first job (at a tiny nonprofit in Boston) I was thrilled to discover that there was a bookstore just around the corner. I would spend almost every lunch hour there (sometimes I bought and sometimes I just found a cozy corner and "borrowed" -- nonprofit salaries are painfully small). Since I work from home now, it really shouldn't be hard to carve out 20 or 30 minutes to read while I eat lunch.

Consume Less

One of the unhappier discoveries of 2015 was that when it comes to shopping (particularly for clothes), I've been overdoing it. I decided to end my first blog for a number of reasons, but a big factor is that it made me too focused on shopping and buying. Even though I've been thoughtful about my purchases and have been tracking my spending, I couldn't shake a serious case of Veruca Salt "I want it all"-itis.

Like everyone else in the world, I was charmed by Marie Kondo's anti-clutter manifesto The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and last year spent a good amount of time weeding out excess from all corners of my house. Taking inventory of my closet made me realize I have a lot of clothes -- more than I really need for my current lifestyle (work from home in leggings, the best dress code ever). This doesn't mean that I won't be buying any clothing in the coming year, but I need to scale things back.

I'm on a month-long shopping freeze for the month of February (I did it last year and thought it was great). It's a weird season, there are racks full of crusty old clearance merch, and let's face it, it's a short month -- it's really the perfect time, and I'll be doing a thorough closet clean-out to get rid of things I don't wear. For the rest of the year, I'll use the following rules: focusing on needs instead of wants, limiting the amount of time I spend stalking coveted items waiting for sales, and cutting way back on fast fashion (this documentary and this book are on my respective lists, but I know they are both devastating).

Consume Better

I know I feel better when I'm eating well and taking care of myself. Well, at least my brain does. Lately my mouth has been calling the shots, and it wants cheeseburgers. And even when I'm eating relatively healthy, I find myself falling into the "snack trap" -- afternoon munching on relatively harmless snacks (popcorn, trail mix, dried fruit) that kind of ruins my dinner appetite and gets me a bit out of whack. 

A few weeks ago I watched In Defense of Food, a great documentary about the mess we've made of our food industry and our generally skewed ideas about nutrition. I'm happy to say there wasn't much in the way of new information, but I really loved the way Michael Pollan presents his basic tenets of nutrition. Pollan started a bit of a nutrition revolution when he declared we should. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." This delves a bit further into the ways that we've gone so very wrong when it comes to nutrition (low-fat mania, over-processing, way too much sugar) and some smart, easy ways to get back on track: shop the perimeter of the grocery store (where all of the fresh stuff is), don't go crazy restricting or obsessing over certain ingredients, and basically ignore all of the obnoxious and misleading package labels that are trying to convince you that Lucky Charms are healthy because they are "made with whole grain" (spoiler alert: they are not).

This is important to me because while I've done a pretty good job of making exercise a regular part of my routine, I've been reminded over the past months that you can't undo a bad diet in the gym. I had sort of been convincing myself that since I love donuts and I love running, things would sort of just even themselves out. Turns out, not so much. You have to run about 3 miles to burn off the calories in a donut, and when it comes to donuts I never can have just one...

My goal for this year is to ask myself "is this food?" before stuffing anything into my mouth, and then being able to answer "yes" about 90% of the time. For example, a banana? Yes! Trader Joe's white cheddar popcorn? Sadly, no.

Is there anything that you've resolved to do (or not do) in 2016? How's it going?


  1. I'm also trying to shop a little less this year, both to try and spend a little less each month and in the interest of trying to buy less overall. Although I don't work from home, I'm still finding that I really don't need to add much more to my wardrobe. I had already accumulated a pretty big business casual wardrobe during my previous summer internships.

    I've read Michael Pollan's books, and they're very sensible. My main food and health goals are more about saving money, as I probably spend too much on delivery orders, which is easy to do in NYC.

    1. Smart! Take out in NYC is such a hard habit to break (no one delivers here in Orlando, and I miss it!).

      I've been thinking about setting up a few savings accounts for big ticket goals (trip to Morocco, etc) that might help me curb my urge to buy the pretty shiny things I love (but don't really need). I think there might some satisfaction in taking the $30 I would have spent on that cute Loft sweater and putting it somewhere worthwhile (rather than just feeling like I'm slapping my own hand by "not spending"). Could work!