It’s Saturday, December 31st and I’m finally getting around to New Year Resolution-ing. 2017 is going to be BIG. I’ve set some pretty ambitious goals for myself. And the past week has been extremely draining, as I scrambled to finish my Christmas shopping and traveled for 25 hours to attend the funeral of my late grandfather immediately after Christmas. All while trying to get a blog going and mentally preparing for a life-changing year. As you can imagine, my emotions are heightened, my time is crunched and my mind is reeling.
But such is life. Events creep up, tragedies happen, and things don’t always go as planned. And although it can be difficult to navigate through it all, I know I can’t let those things stop me from reaching my personal life goals. I have to stay focused.
My grandfather was someone of great self-discipline. A two-time Vietnam War Vet and US Secret Service retiree. An admirable father to 5 children and a faithful husband to his wife for 40 years. A disciplinarian who often showed his stern, yet kind-hearted nature. A loving, patient and charismatic grandfather to 10 grandchildren. He loved his family and his country without abandon, and did the things he needed to do to provide for them. He is someone I admired very much.
Unlike my grandfather, self-discipline is something I’ve struggled with most of my teenage and adult years. In fact, this is the first time in my entire life I set out to do something that would require more than 12 weeks of dedication. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve tried and failed multiple times at veganism, usually due to lack of willpower, forgetting my “why,” or succumbing to societal pressures. I’ve also attempted and failed at other activities – seeking a new career path, competing in a bodybuilding competition, developing a regular exercise routine, and just waking up in the morning at a consistent time. All of these failures I attribute to lack of self-discipline when the going gets tough. It’s actually quite embarrassing to admit. But it’s my truth.
You see, no matter how many people tell you that following a certain lifestyle is easy, the truth is… it’s not. It takes a significant amount of willpower and self-discipline to commit to something for the long haul, to plan and stay consistent every day, and to overcome obstacles when they arise. So I know from my failures that the biggest probable factor to my future success will be when I finally commit to something and see it through to the end. I need to personify that discipline my grandfather actualized in his life.
And although I’ve learned a lot about myself from my failures, I’ve also had many successes in life and learned from those as well. This may be considered a character flaw, but I actually contribute all of my successes to this trait. I am resilient and stubborn as hell. No one can tell me my ideas are stupid or that I won’t be successful at something. Because I will figure out a way to prove them wrong. I have passion and annoying optimism. This is the part of me that never gives up.
So, knowing my grandfather is looking down on me and cheering me on to the finish line, I’ve taken the time to reflect and planned a way to move forward.
These are the top 8 resolutions that will become my intentions for 2017. I encourage you to do the same if you wish to adopt this lifestyle (or reach any of your goals in 2017):
1. Discover (and always remember) your “why.”
I originally ventured along the path to whole right after college when my roommate started working out at a Crossfit gym. I wanted to try it out too! The Crossfit didn’t stick, but the Paleo diet that went along with it did. I wanted to learn everything there was about eating organic, grass-fed meats and eliminating dreadful dairy. The more I researched, the more I discovered the health benefits of eating whole, nutritious foods. And eventually my research led me to a plant-based diet when I discovered why meat is actually detrimental to the human body. My motivation? Optimum health.
I just couldn’t get enough of this stuff. I read tons of plant-based books. I subscribed to raw foodie Youtube channels. I started getting involved with more vegan activist groups after I watched a few videos and documentaries regarding animal cruelty in the food industry. I started volunteering with PETA and made some vegan friends. And I started exploring vegan restaurants, vegan meat substitutes, and vegan desserts. The local vegan pizza joint became a regular routine, along with late night trips to Whole Foods to pick up a couple pints of Ben & Jerry’s dairy free ice cream (which is incredible, by the way… it even got my husband off dairy… mostly). But because my cravings for cheese and ice cream were still being satiated, my cravings for the non-vegan versions continued. I still salivated over the thought of Pizza Hut stuffed crust and Snickers Ice Cream Bars. And I eventually gave in. I realized my vegan “junk” food indulgences just made way for more non-vegan cravings.I lost sight of why I went vegan in the first place. Optimum health.
Vegan junk food is still… well… JUNK! It might be more environmentally friendly and humane junk, but it’s definitely not doing anything beneficial for your health. Going back to your “why” will help you stay on track, and will give you that willpower you need to resist deviations from your path to success
2. Set SMART goals.
Taking you back to grade school, peeps. Specific. Measurable. Actionable. Realistic. Time-based. I’ll give you one of mine so you can get an idea of what a SMART goal looks like.
-Lose 10 lbs in 90 days by eating a plant-based, whole foods diet comprised of 70% carbohydrates, 15% proteins, and 15% fats.
3. Visualize success.
Honestly I think this is a separate blog post altogether. It’s that critical. I recently became aware of the Law of Attraction and how to manifest your destiny. And I learned this:
The magic secret to accomplishing your goals, is to visualize yourself accomplishing them.
Those visualizations and thoughts are sent out into the universe and materialize. If you do the opposite and think of yourself failing, even unintentionally, those thoughts are also sent out into the universe and materialize. So if you think “I suck at this” or “it’s too hard,” then you are right. And if you think “I’m an incredibly awesome person and I am capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to,” then you are right. Get my drift?
Write your goals down so you can see them, and then look at them every single day. Tell yourself out loud how worthy and capable you are of accomplishing your goals. Create a vision board. Then believe in yourself. No… like really believe in yourself.
4. PLAN. PLAN. PLAN.
Do not let a lack of planning stop you from reaching your goals. Dedicate a specific timeslot every week for meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal prepping. Mine is going to be 9am to 1pm Saturday mornings. Make sure you do not plan anything else during this time slot – this is a priority! Make sure your family and friends know not to plan anything with you during this time.
Make sure you plan ahead for events that will involve being away from your house for more than 2-3 hours. Going to work? Pack a lunch the night before, or wake up 15 minutes earlier than normal. Going to run errands? Pack a Lara Bar or several pieces of fruit. Going on a long trip? Research grocery stores and vegan restaurants near your destination, and make sure you have enough food with you for the trip. Don’t allow yourself to be in a situation where you did not plan appropriately.
As good old Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
5. ACT on your plan.
Now that you’ve beat planning to a pulp, just do it already! The best way to turn your plan into action is to Just. Do. It.
No more excuses, no waiting until tomorrow. Do something to start right now. Even though my commitment to this lifestyle begins 1/1/17, I have been slowly transitioning by trying to eat as close as I can to plant-based whole foods every opportunity I get. I’ve been experimenting with recipes. I’ve turned down temptations simply for practice! Make it a game to see how much you can accomplish – compete with yourself! The odds are stacked in your favor.
6. Write down your progress.
Pick a place and time that you can journal every day. Do you think professional chefs become successful without writing down their recipes? How will they know what ingredients to add or eliminate without going back to the recipe? How will they teach their kitchen staff their delicious concoctions?
Just the same, you need to document your progress toward your goal. If your goal is to lose 5 pounds the first month for example, and a month goes by and you haven’t met your goal, you would feel defeated if you didn’t have any indicators as to why. But if you kept a journal, you can easily go back and look for indicators. Maybe you were using too many cooking oils. Or maybe that late-night processed snack attack happened more times than you thought. You can make adjustments, set new goals, and move forward. If you need help with this, there are plenty of apps and online trackers out there – I’ve used Cronometer, Spark, and MyFitnessPal and found all to be very useful. I also use FitBit to help keep track of my activity levels and sleep habits.
Keep in mind, the plant-based whole foods lifestyle is not focused on counting calories or macronutrients (proteins, carbs, fats). Rather, it is focused on making sure your foods are high in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). But in the beginning it is very useful to keep a food journal so you have any idea of your consumption patterns and to make sure you are getting enough calories and macronutrients to support your metabolic activity. The macronutrient guidelines for this lifestyle are generally an 80-10-10 ratio carbs-fat-protein, respectively. I like to aim for 70-15-15 because my past experiences have shown me that my body type functions better with slightly higher fat and protein levels. Your food journal will help you to figure this out for yourself over time. If you need a general idea of your caloric needs, here is a tool you can use.
7. Revisit your plan frequently.
If you were a construction project manager, and you found something went wrong with your current project, what would you do? You would go back to the blueprint. You would go back to the plan because this will be the earliest indicator of what might have gone wrong, and will guide you on how to fix the problem.
It’s great and dandy to plan the next 40 years of your life, but we all know things don’t always go according to plan. That is why you have to revisit the plans frequently, even daily sometimes, to make sure you are doing everything you can to stay on track and making adjustments as needed.
8. Celebrate small success, and utilize an effective reward system.
One of the biggest things I think people trying a new “diet” will mistakenly do is reward themselves with food.
FOOD IS NOT AN EFFECTIVE REWARD SYSTEM. You are not a dog. Put the treat down.
In the long run, rewarding yourself with “cheat” food just associates binges with pleasure. That is not an association you want in your mind, because it will only lead to more binging or cheating. Instead, reward yourself with a spa day or massage. Or new workout clothes. Or maybe try that edgy haircut you’ve been wanting. I like to set aside a little money for kitchen gadgets or vegan eBooks so I can dive deeper into my passion. Whatever you choose, just remember to reward yourself often. If you reach one of your goals or resisted a temptation that is not aligned with your goals, reward yourself! You deserve it.
Although this appears to be a list, let me be very clear.
THIS IS NOT A LIST – THIS IS A CYCLE.
When you get to #8, the next step is to go right back to #1 and do it all again! Lists can only get you so far – you must employ a pattern, a routine, and that is the pivotal point where you will start to see success with this lifestyle (or any lifestyle/goal you choose).
I hope this was helpful for you! If you are still debating on whether this lifestyle is right for you, check out my post on the 14 Reasons Why a Plant-Based Whole Foods Diet is the KEY to Optimum Health.
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