IMG_5464We are going to do all the challenges. New Year is the moment for resolutions, but we’re taking a shorter horizon, hoping it’s long enough to establish good habits and break bad ones, and thus become resolutions. A 30-day challenge of all the things.

While doing Pilates with some friends this week, one asked the group, “what decision did you make for 2020?” I liked that framing. Somehow, by overuse, “resolution” has come to mean “good intention” rather than “firm decision.” I am in control of my life, and I am deciding to do a few things differently.

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Sautéed leeks, with white beans and a splash of white wine. My Christmas meal, served with…
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Squash and mushroom risotto. And steamed broccoli. Colorful, nutritious, delicious. We are well into a plant-based diet.

My BFF and I decided to make a list together of all the challenges we wanted to accomplish. You’ll note that they are to-do’s rather than don’ts, except for snacking. Doing the challenge together gives us some accountability. Plus, this post is a public declaration–more accountability! Here’s the list:

  • 10,000 steps a day minimum (according to my FitBit, my daily average is around 8,000)

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    Less coffee, no sweets.
  • Eliminate added sugar (already we both mostly cook all meals from scratch, but we both have a sweet tooth and tend to crack for desserts and chocolate. Also: no wine, which is basically sugar.)
  • Intermittent fasting, which is basically to say eat dinner earlier and no snacking after. 
  • No snacking (this is hard for me, working from home and tending to graze all day).
  • Wake up 30 minutes earlier.
  • Use that bonus morning time to journal (my friend) or exercise. For most of my life, I worked out as soon as I got up. I had a routine, with situps, weights for my arms, stationary bike while reading the newspaper (it took around 45 minutes, with 30 on the bike). I even did it while pregnant, up to a week before giving birth to my kid. Yet I let it drop when my kid started taking the bus to school and got up super early. Plus the stationary bike broke. And I got an iPad and started reading the paper while curled up on the sofa. A snowball of lethargy.

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    Goals.
  • Daily stretching. Another thing I used to do that fell by the wayside. My friend is into dance, and so stretching is important for her.
  • Abs and strength training. Thanks to Pilates, my BFF and I have abs of steel, but mine are under a Michelin Man layer of insulation, AKA fat. I want to get rid of it and also improve strength. In the days when I worked out, my exercises with weights were intended to give me arms strong enough to pick up heavy things without ruining my back. Time to work on that again. 
  • Write every day. My friend wants to journal; I want to write a book.
  • Meditate. This makes both my friend and me uncomfortable. We are not much for spiritual stuff, and neither of us is religious. One reason I prefer Pilates over yoga is I don’t like the meditation part of yoga. But every evidence shows it’s good for us. Must find a way to do it. I actually took a meditation class many moons ago (“find beauty and harmony in your life”). It didn’t stick. Will try again. Just 10 minutes.
  • Run every other day. My friend and I hope to do a 10K this year.

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    My beautiful, car-free jogging trail.
  • Read books every day. Another thing I did faithfully for years was read books before bed. Then I got an iPad and switched to reading news before bed, as if I hadn’t been reading news all day long. There’s always something else to be informed about, even though it’s usually incremental. And then I worry about the dismal future of the world all night.
  • Improve sleep. During the holidays, I’ve been sleeping too much and I spend too much time in bed. This is as bad as not enough sleep. More exercise should help. No wine should help (high glycemic foods before bed can perturb sleep). Eating earlier should help. Reading before bed should help. And I plan to be stricter about bedtime and wakeup time.

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    My to-read list. I just finished the top one, Celestial Bodies. Very interesting and sad. Not shown, but on order from the library (more library books!): Chanson Douce by Leïla Slimani, which I will read in the original French. I tend to be too lazy to read in French and I like to devour books (I read Celestial Bodies in three sittings), so having to slow down for French is frustrating. This must improve!
  • Drink more water (but not right before bed; see sleep). Some years ago, I quit drinking soda, so now I consume coffee (too much), wine and water. But probably not enough water during the day. 6-8 glasses, for sure.
  • Do a cartwheel. I was proud that at age 50 I could do a cartwheel. But now, somehow, my legs don’t quite get up there. Is it the legs? Weak arms? Weak back? Whatever, I want to do it again before I turn 60. My friend, who is younger, wants to do a handstand and walkover. I once could do those, too, but a walkover is decidedly out of the question.

The cartwheel aside (that will take more than a month), the list consists of things to do on a daily basis, starting now. We are going to try to stick to this list for a month. Usually with these 30-day challenges, people pick one thing to focus on. But so many of these are interrelated. Better diet will help sleep, as will exercise. Getting up early will help exercise and/or writing. Etc. It seems that one way to stick to the goals is to aim for all of them so they reinforce each other.Screen Shot 2020-01-03 at 10.19.06 AMMy friend follows a YouTuber who does challenges and who crosses off the days of a calendar each time he accomplishes his goal. One blank day isn’t a failure, not even a couple of blanks in a week, but he vows not to have two consecutive blank days. That sounds reasonable. I know a couple of people who vow to diet or quit smoking and as soon as they crack, they give up on the effort entirely. Perfection or nothing. Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m not about perfection. I agree with the adage, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” I’m all about “better” not necessarily “perfect.”

I’ll give you updates about how it’s going and in a month we’ll assess the results.

What are your decisions for 2020? Do you have a bucket list instead? Tips for succeeding at any of these?

Wishing all of you the very best for 2020, surtout la santé!

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À votre santé! Adieu to wine, at least for a month. And this is such a good one. Sniff!

 

62 thoughts on “New Year, New Life

  1. What a worthy list! I could sign on to all those as well. I am also an intermittent faster, and my BFF has taken on that challenge recently – the accountability really helps, and it’s such a sustainable lifestyle. Your post has me inspired, and I’ll look forward to following your progress. Best wishes for 2020!

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  2. Oh my gosh…. I had to stop reading about 2/3rd in, I was totally exhausted and felt dead in comparison to what you intend to do…. no critic, mind you, I just haven’t got any determination in that field.
    I used to do February w/o wine for many years, it always went well but somehow, living in France, makes it really sound like a sacrilege and we have many friends who come with a bottle of something good and want to share. But moving back to Switzerland later might bring that idea back on my ‘front burner’…. at least that! Also, I would LOVE do be able to do cartwheels, I was a great sportive as a kid and some days I feel like skipping and doing cartwheels but I’m afraid I would kill myself should I try it.
    I DID read your last 2 sentences and I fully return those wishes, especially the one to the Santé! 😉

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  3. Worthy efforts, all! I’ve got a decade plus on you, so I won’t be trying cartwheels anymore (–don’t want to tempt my osteoporosis to try anything ugly) and there is no cartilage left in my knees, so no running, either. Pretty much plan to stick with walking and eliminating sugar as much as possible. Already drink water and follow the intermittent fasting most of the time. Will continue to do so. Good luck with your to do’s and Happy New Year.

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  4. I used to do “regular” yoga every day, but since I’m over 70 and have a bad knee and shoulder (both from playing tennis), I’ve joined a “Gentle Yoga” class designed for all use “older” folks…lol. It continues many of the positions of “regular” yoga, but also teaches things we should know as we age…such as learning to write with the opposite hand, stretch several times during the day to maintain flexible muscles as well as muscle strength and dexterity in our hands/movements. It’s a great class and the floor exercises are great until we have to get up…lol…which always provides us with a good laugh. Miss being able to stand on my head when I’m alone, but that’s okay…we all have to give up something. What amazes me is that no one I know wants to believe I’m over 70 despite my hair…lol. Life is good, expanding the mind as well as the body is ongoing – learned that lesson from my dad.
    Happy New Year to all…stay strong, grow, eat well, love much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my yoga class, it sounded like the Bastille Day fireworks when we squatted, what with 90% of the knees popping. Balance also is so important. Little exercises, but if done daily they can spare you a fall and major pain.

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  5. Happy New Year in good health and spirit to you and yours! You’ve compiled an impressive list of things to focus on for 2020. I am inspired by your determination to try meditation again, I may follow you on that. I’m also intrigued that you’re planning to write a book-honestly I think that is GREAT. Looking forward to see how 2020 will unfold.

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    1. I remember in my meditation class being told to focus on, say, a color. It was very Mark Rothko. That I could get into. Good luck with your meditation and all the best for 2020!

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  6. Looks like I am in the minority….your list exhausted me just reading it. I live on no sleep, am happy to reach 6000 steps a day, drink at least two glasses of water a day and can never have enough coffee, wine or ahem, vodka. Cheese? More please. Of course I am always tired, am chubby and usually crabby too. My dog and chickens get the best part of me. And oh yes, I sometimes snack through the night like a rabid raccoon. I have a stack of books I start and on my to do list to finish. But the stack grows… Hoping to change at least some thing….! Happy new year!

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    1. If it works for you, then that’s OK. Having dealt with my parents’ aging, I want to be less of a pain for my kid, which means doing something now. And a lot of the items are related–more exercise (which I used to do!) leads to better sleep. So does eating earlier (intermittent fasting). The exercises are mostly to protect my back–what sedentary person doesn’t have back trouble? I’m not out to compete in the Olympics, just to make tweaks that will improve my quality of life. Maybe you would find the same, but maybe your quality of life is good as is, and if so, my hat is off to you. All the best for 2020!!

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  7. I have trouble with drinking water too. What helped was buying a lovely clear glass carafe and filling it each morning with the days allotment of water. Very visual… not a perfect solution, but it helps! Wishing you every success on your challenges.

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  8. What an inspiring challenge you have given yourself! I too am incorporating some new intentions for 2020. In addition to my restorative yoga practice, I am pursuing weight lifting with a trainer to help my bones as they age! I especially look forward to hearing how your intermittent fasting goes, but am a little sad you are doing all of these things at once! The science nerd in me wants to see how one change makes a difference before you add a new item to see how that changes the baseline. I am sure as you said that doing it all at once will have the most immediate benefit and they all fit nicely together. Good luck to you and your BFF and Happy New Year!

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    1. Weight lifting is indeed supposed to be great for bones. Also walking/running, for those micro-fissures that heal stronger.
      Intermittent fasting, at least the version for overnight, is about eating earlier in the evening, then not snacking until breakfast, or, even better, lunch. Basically, it’s what people used to do back in the day, before electricity and lights at night.
      My bet is that the combination of challenges will be mutually reinforcing, rather than overwhelming. It’s the end of the day and so far I failed on sugar after a very good day, because my husband opened a superb bottle of wine and I wasn’t going to let him drain it alone. Plus, it’s Friday. I didn’t exercise first thing this morning, but I did my steps and abs. Didn’t do the arms because I overdid on Pilates this week and my left arm is HS (hors-service–out of order). Did abs and stretching. No running today but it’s for every other day. Wrote for more than an hour. No meditation. That’s the worst. Reading is coming up. Didn’t practice a cartwheel either…..

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  9. I have the intention to remain alive, fill a carafe with wine and be sure I drink it all, continue with my handyperson exercises, garden voraciously, walk to the mailbox once a day (and back), lift a chihuahua every day, read at least two pages of a book each night before dozing off, and don’t overeat to the point where I can’t get up from a squat. Really, at 76 isn’t that good enough? Bravo to you for your intentions, but don’t forget to have fun doing it all!!
    bonnie in provence

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  10. Whoa! That is a long list of “decisions”! But 30 days is doable, so have at it! I finally started following an anti-inflammatory protocol this past September (removing wheat, corn, soy, dairy, sugar, potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant from my diet) I have not been perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. For example, wine and cheese will always be part of my diet occasionally, and I will confess to having an eggplant/tomato/mozzerella casserole when I am jonesing for some “pasta” BUT removing wheat and eating a low carb diet has been a game changer. No more pain, 18 lbs gone forever, and my skin and sleep are dramatically different. So BEST WISHES, and let us know how it goes!! On y va!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yours sounds like a bigger challenge than getting up a bit earlier to exercise! I wonder whether the problem with foods like wheat or corn is the vast quantity of chemicals used to grow them. Otherwise it seems humans would have quit eating them long ago. In any case, it’s great to know you got good results.

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      1. It’s really not as challenging as I thought it would be. My doctor has been asking me to try this protocol for years as inflammation is a real issue for me, but I really pushed back. I don’t know why wheat and corn (and all the other stuff on the list) affect some of us so badly, but removing it has been a real game changer. Doubtless you are right about the chemicals, which are found in everything now, sadly. Even organic foods have traces of Monsanto’s poison.

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        1. The change in the amount of chemicals used on/in foods and the amount of plastic, including all the particles that get broken down and that are in our water or fish or animals, is very recent–post WWII. Yes, people used chemicals before that and were careless about how they disposed of them, etc., but there were far, far fewer people overall and the total amounts were far lower. We are reaping the unintended consequences of all our modern conveniences.

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  11. That is a monumental list girlfriend, but one that’s interrelated. I’ve always been a stretch freak, but since I moved to this house, I’m not, and I don’t know why, and it’s having a negative effect on me. So stretching and reading every day are on my list. I’ve already given up alcohol… one drink of anything makes me feel terrible… and chocolate, spinach and kale caused my kidney stones last year, so goodbye to those! I’m so sad about all of these!! The rest of your list I have under control unless I drop them, like I did with stretching! xoxox, B

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  12. I like your list! Very ambitious, and admirable. Mine is pretty extreme, probably because I lost half of last year to health issues, and partly because I refuse to lose anymore time to them. I intend to correct what I can in a hurry. Happy New Year!

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  13. I like your Grid of Accountability. No wine? In France? That’s blasphemy! 🙂 I just got my cholesterol tested and it’s very good and I chalk it up to frequent (but not in large amounts) wine consumption. I guess a month won’t kill you, but more than that and I think the French authorities would ask you to leave the country. 😉

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  14. At a first look, that seems an overabundance of decisions, but I take your point that there’s much overlap and that the synergy will work in your favour. As well, I like the idea of some Wild Card days — the yoga studio I used to attend occasionally did a 30-day challenge (20 minutes a day, but they set the challenge at 25 days days out of 30). I think it’s more realistic, allows flexibility, and is thus more likely to be achieved.
    I wonder if you might find the (free, although there’s a “Plus” version you could pay for) Insight Timer app useful, as I do, for guided meditation. I really like Jennifer Piercey’s 22-minute Yoga Nidra, but there are hundreds of guided meditations of various lengths.
    And finally, great to hear that you have started writing with a book in mind. Your writing here clearly shows that you have one in you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will check it out. A friend suggested just being still for 10 minutes. An earlier (and my favorite ever) yoga teacher had us lie in the corpse position, silent, for several minutes. It was meditation, and without any blathering about chakras.

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  15. Well, putting that mighty list out there is one big motivator! You sound much more the type to Get Things Done than I’d ever be, so I watch on with admiration. Good sleep is something I’ve also got an eye on (I’ve also read that Matthew Walker book) and I’ve always intermittently fasted without realising it, so I’m not entirely weeping at my bone idleness as I read your lofty goals (in bed, with morning tea, rather late, haha!)

    For probably 25 years, my only Resolutions used to be Learn French & Learn Bridge and I made no headway in either and suspect it was just a faux list, anyway, so I had something to trundle out when asked. Out of the blue last year, I set myself a physical goal rather like your own: Do the Splits. A bit of a silly one in your 50s but it seemed do-able. Over the year, I’d give it a try at the end of my irregular Barre class and was millimetering my way down and was looking set to victory by the year’s end but stopped going to my exercise classes at the end of October and … the deadline has passed. (I think that last sentence sums me up, really.) Perhaps if I’d set the goal down on my blog last January, I’d not be making this confession now!

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    1. You can try again. I grew up next to a center of elite gymnasts. I never took gymnastics, but it killed me that everybody but me could do this stuff and I tried to learn on my own. I worked on the splits in front of the TV when I was a kid, and then it was just a question of maintenance. But the maintenance became spotty in recent years. And in other ways, too–because I had been doing those early-morning exercises, until, one day, I stopped. So the list is really about doing the good things that I used to do.

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  16. WOW! This is amazing and admirable. I am with you about working on being healthier. I stopped drinking coke zero about 9 months ago, I do not drink coffee, never have. My beverage of choice is a hot chocolate in the morning at 10:00 after yoga. I go to hot yoga 5 days a week, on the weekends I take off. I also walk 10,000 steps a day. I do not like to meditate but I could use a little meditation to settle my “monkey mind.” Weight training is a great idea and I should do more of that and am hoping to this year. My goal for the year is to focus on my health and to get better muscle definition. Like you I do intermittent fasting, I find it very easy because I don’t like to eat before 10 and I love to eat dinner early. I don’t watch tv and I read a lot, last year I read 60 books.

    As for writing, I don’t have a book in me and I cannot wait to hear about yours! I love reading your posts, especially the ones about your travels and adventures.

    Good luck with your goals. I am looking forward to hearing about your progress.

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    1. A class is a great way to stick with something. And a morning yoga class is such a nice way to start the day. Unfortunately, we are in the middle of nowhere, so I am reluctant to take the car to exercise. While muscle definition sounds great (and you are young, so it’s possible), I just want enough muscles to pick up a basket of laundry or a bag of groceries without damaging my back.
      Wishing you excellent health and happiness for 2020!

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  17. The cartwheel and handstand aim is wonderful. I have never been able to cartwheel and I think I shall leave it that way. Something about the coordination, I think. I also think we will need visual confirmation of those achievements.

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    1. The thing with all those tricks is to learn them young and then to not lose them. However, all good things come to an end eventually. I remember some years ago showing off a walkover to my nieces and something went “pop” in my back. That was the end of walkovers and the start of months of kiné. I kind of fear a similar result with the cartwheel, which is why I keep pushing it off.

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  18. You are an inspiration! As they say in French, ‘Quand la santé va, tout va’. Hope you achieve your goals or at least get the health benefits in 2020. I am feeling lazy and uninspired at the moment. Probably just jet lag and a nagging cold after 2 weeks away. Hopefully my mojo will return and I’ll be inspired to set some goals before too much of the year slips away. Bonne année!

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  19. I hope it’s not too late to wish you ‘Happy New Year’. I like the idea of decisions and find your grid impressive. My husband would probably do a spreadsheet! I’m (always) trying to drink more water and this year I have downloaded a free app to record each glass I drink; sad but true and it actually works for me. I’m doing dry Jan – just as well I’m in the UK because I would find it nigh on impossible in France! I continue to do zumba and another dance-based class because they make me happy. I seem to do less exercise, other than walking, when I’m in Castelnaudary. Must decide to find a class or a PT…

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    1. Zumba is still big around here; surely you can find a class in Castelnaudary. In my village, a whole year of weekly classes is just €50, so even if you missed a bunch with traveling, it’s still reasonable.

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  20. I am in awe of your spreadsheet. My method is scribbling, sometimes, on scraps of paper, which I then lose.
    For meditation, I resisted the idea for a long time, until a friend convinced me just to sit quietly, eyes closed, for a couple of minutes, then five, then ten. Yes, your mind goes scampering all over the map, but you just ignore it and keep sitting still. It works. Tai Chi is a form of moving meditation that’s helpful, too.

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      1. Yes, even when you’re doing “perfect” meditation, the mind shouts and hollers and carries on something fierce. You just ignore that and stay with the measured breathing. After a bit of practice, it does get easier, although I don’t think anyone ever gets it perfectly right. Which, I suppose, is why it’s called “practice”. 🙂
        And this is good, reminds me that I need to be more regular in my efforts along these lines.

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  21. Wow. That’s quite a list. My one big change is no wine during the week. Unfortunately this makes me sleep and feel so much better that I will likely continue it. Do keep us posted regarding your progress. And if you manage that cartwheel, post a video!

    Liked by 1 person

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