Start the New Year Right with Vitamin P
A shiny new penny. A brand new bike. A promising New Year. It’s human nature to want what’s “new.” And, it seems, it’s human nature to slip back into old habits. Not unlike the wide-eyed child, who, after tearing through gifts, settles back into playing with their long-favorite toy, our well-worn habits offer comfort and security.
Humans are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Even “shiny and new” can be painful when it requires change. Change is challenging.
Show me a day when the world wasn’t new. — Sister Barbara HanceStill, people make resolutions year after year around the New Year’s holiday. Resolving to change. Something. Again. As Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is the easiest thing. I should know. I’ve done it a thousand times.”
He’s not the only one who can’t stick to his resolution. According to Nielsen Media Research, 37 percent of the population in 2015 resolved to get fit and eat healthy. Research from the University of Scranton reports that of only 8 percent of those who commit to exercising more and eating less—or even simply eating better—maintain their resolutions successfully.
Why is that?
People are creatures of habit. Creatures of habit resist change. Change is hard. When it comes to resolutions and changing habits, people often bite off more than they can chew. The higher the goal, the farther the fall.
It might also be because most resolutions we make are tired and toxic. If the resolve to “eat less, exercise more” actually worked, America would be a nation of healthy people. But it’s not. Tired and toxic creates stress. Stress is a saboteur; it increases insulin and cortisol and shuts down metabolism and calorie-burning, the very mechanisms that people are hoping to engage.
What’s the solution? I tell people to take their vitamin P—pleasure, practice and presence—and in large doses. These three are essential to good health and can help start the New Year right.
A dose of pleasure. Pleasure catalyzes relaxation, and relaxation catalyzes metabolic power. Replace your usual January dose of restrictive diets and excessive reps at the gym with healthy doses of pleasure in every bite and with every movement.
In his book, The Slow Down Diet, Marc David cites a study designed to determine how cultural preferences and pleasure affect the absorption of nutrients from a meal. Two groups of women, one from Thailand, the other from Sweden, was fed a traditional Thai meal. Though each meal contained the exact same amount of iron, the Swedish women absorbed only half as much iron as the Thai women. Even when the roles were reversed, those who ate the meal of their culture received the full nutrient value because they enjoyed the meal, while the others didn’t.
Researchers also divided each culture of women into two groups. The groups were fed the same meal, but the second group received it pureed, like baby food. Turns out, mush isn’t as enjoyable. Those eating the pureed meal absorbed 70 percent less iron than the other group.
Pleasure matters when we eat, and it matters when we move too. So step off the treadmill and into the woods. Soak up nature. Unplug the earbuds. Hear the birds. Stress will dissolve. Energy and joy will increase. Even immunity will improve. Feeling better will supersede numbers on the scale.
A dose of practice. Practice provides space for the slips and falls on the ice. Practice allows beginning again; in fact, it requires it. Too often, when resolve takes a dive two or three weeks into the New Year, people give up on their resolutions. The shiny penny is tarnished. The new bike gets a flat tire. The fireworks of the New Year fade.
A dose of presence. But what if we transform “new” to “now”? Not a date on a calendar. Not a number on a scale. A dose of presence invites metabolic power in the moment, as pleasure deepens the practice of being truly awake to the possibilities of now.
So, take your vitamin P—in joyful, generous doses!
Deborah Garrard is a certified mind-body eating coach; a whole food, plant-based nutritionist; and founder of Bee Well Serve Well. Contact her at [email protected]. For more information, visit BeeWellServeWell.com.