Last Year’s Resolutions

My how time flies! The month is almost over, and people are asking if I plan to discuss my [New Years' Resolutions]. For those readers new to my blog, you can review the [resolutions I made in prior years]. I started blogging about my New Year’s resolutions back in 2007 because IBM has a “black-out” period before it announces its year-end financial results, and I can’t talk about IBM itself during that time.

Two articles gave me some insight.

Derek Silvers writes in his blog post [Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them.] Here is an excerpt:

Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.

In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a ‘social reality’, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.”

The solution for this? Spread out your resolutions throughout the year. That is the advice from Jonah Lehrer in his Wall Street Journal article [Blame it on the Brain]. Here is an excerpt:

Willpower, like a bicep, can only exert itself so long before it gives out; it’s an extremely limited mental resource.

Given its limitations, New Year’s resolutions are exactly the wrong way to change our behavior. It makes no sense to try to quit smoking and lose weight at the same time, or to clean the apartment and give up wine in the same month. Instead, we should respect the feebleness of self-control, and spread our resolutions out over the entire year. Human routines are stubborn things, which helps explain why 88% of all resolutions end in failure, according to a 2007 survey of over 3,000 people conducted by the British psychologist Richard Wiseman. Bad habits are hard to breakā€”and they’re impossible to break if we try to break them all at once.”

Based on those two articles, I focused last year on a single resolution, to lose weight. It worked, I lost some weight, not as much as I wanted, and certainly not for the usual eat-less/exercise-more reasons.

First, I tried Tim Ferris’ [Four Hour Body] diet, and I had every intention to post about my progress throughout the year, but that didn’t happen. The diet involved eating a restricted diet for six days–including beans, green vegetables, and lean meats–then having one cheat day where you eat a whole bunch of the bad foods you weren’t allowed the prior week. The problem I had was that I got so used to eating the same way six days a week, that I forgot to cheat! On this diet, cheating is not optional, it is mandatory. Mo, on the other hand, had no problem with the cheat days, and even extended this to cheat afternoons and cheat evenings!

Mid-year, I saw the movie [Forks Over Knives]. I consulted with my doctor, and switched over to a plant-based, whole-foods diet with his approval. This is basically [dietary veganism]: no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no poultry. What’s left? Lots of slow carbs like beans, spinach and quinoa, that I had already learned to cook and eat earlier on Tim Ferriss’ diet, without the stress of remembering to cheat on the weekend.

The nice thing about this diet is that you can eat a lot more than usual, so you are never hungry. The bad news is that I developed a vitamin deficiency, and so my doctor asked me to switch to a relaxed mostly-vegetarian diet, with some eggs, some fish, some meat, and lots of vitamin supplements.

I thought I would start 2012 with a bunch of funny resolutions, like the ones in [Chuck & Beans], but I decided to keep things on a serious level. If you’ve made resolutions, do not tell anyone what they are, and try focusing on a single one at a time.

For all of you who had a bad year in 2011, I hope you have a much better one in 2012!

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