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December 29, 2010

Locavore Lore: When making resolutions, sacrifice the sacrifice

Last week when I went to the gym, I pulled into a choice front-row parking space in a relatively empty parking lot. I couldn’t help but giggle to myself a little as I recalled the workout-worthy treks I had to endure last January just to get to the front door in this very same parking lot. We all know the drill: The holidays pass by, we’ve all consumed more holiday cookies and eggnog than we’d care to admit, and now we are ready to change our lives once and for all — or at least for a few days, weeks or months.

As January approaches, most of us start thinking about the aspects of our lifestyles we’d like to change. I get it, resolutions are symbolic of a new beginning, but are resolutions so unrealistic that we have to do it every year because last year’s failed?

I’m guilty of it; most of us are — starting the year off with the best of intentions, but slowly letting life, schedules and other priorities get in the way of those pesky little goals that were set at the beginning of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure somebody, somewhere made a resolution and actually saw it through, but I’m fairly certain the vast majority of resolutions go unmet.

But don’t despair, resolutions exist for a reason. They give us a chance to evaluate what we are satisfied with in our lives and what we would like to be different — and these goals help us identify our own ability to modify these things in our lives. Every time we even begin to practice that change, it reaffirms that it’s possible for that transformation to occur. In the end, it’s gradual changes that help us reach our ultimate goals and challenges.

For some, including myself, we are prone to operate in extremes. I can fast for 10 days drinking nothing but juice, but when in Rome, well … did I mention I love Italian food? This summer, I trained for a triathlon. After I competed, I was so sick of running in 95-degree heat that I haven’t been on an outdoor run since. And so the cycle goes.

I’ll be the first one to admit I have a whole list of changes I plan to put into action starting in January. Starting off strong is great, but I’d like to end strong as well.

I do realize it is not possible to live a healthy and balanced life while depriving yourself of food you love or necessary social time. I also realize that when you work full-time, there isn’t a lot of time leftover to carve out two hours a day for yoga. I could probably stand to have a little more balance in my life — how about eating well every day instead of polar extremes?

This year, I’m proposing long-term moderation. Instead of unachievable goals that require unrealistic amounts of sacrifice, how about some long-term resolutions that are easy enough to enact and don’t have steadfast rules? I’m applying three general “principles to live by” for a healthier but balanced new year.

1) Buy local first.

2) Be aware of where your food comes from.

3) Take more time for yourself.

OK, let’s start with No. 1. Buy local first. This doesn’t mean buy local or buy nothing, but in the hierarchy of your decision-making, choose local. If you can get it locally and all things are relatively equal, choose local. This includes but is not limited to food. Of all of my resolutions — er, general principles — this one is the most congruent with the lifestyle I want to live and the community I want to live in.

Buying local does more than just make you feel good. When you support a local business, farmer or craftsperson, more money stays in the community and re-circulates, meaning our economy benefits. When you buy from someone you know, you are participating in the creation of community and develop a deeper connection with the items you purchase. Beyond that, less energy and resources are used to transport your consumables, and in the case of food, it is fresher and more nutrient-dense, because it was picked when ripe and gets to your plate on average 1,500 miles faster. More importantly, you spend money every day. Instead of feeling bad about when you don’t shop local, focus on how good it feels when you do.

No. 2: Be aware of where your food is coming from. At the most simplistic level, this is an act of consciousness. Most of us eat three times a day. Deciding what you are going to eat is a decision you make multiple times a day. Instead of focusing on calorie counting and dieting, focus on the food itself. Do you know or want to know where your food came from? If it was an animal, was it happy? If it was a vegetable, was it doused in chemicals before it got to your plate? Eating should be about pleasure and not guilt. If you can feel good about where your food is coming from, then in my book, it is OK to eat it … regardless of the calorie count.

No. 3: Take more time for yourself. This is my biggest commitment to myself for the coming year. It seems that if we all did this, all of the other goals would simply fall into place. If I just had more time, I’d never have an excuse for things not getting done. Maybe this is just an excuse we all hide behind, but this year, for me, is about creating more downtime — and enjoying it. My tendency is to fill up any free day or night on the calendar because I can. This year, by creating more time for myself, I’ll at least have the option to get active, be outside, cook an amazing dinner or take a hot bath.

OK, so it’s not rocket science, and it’s not extreme, but I think it just might work. But then again, it’s not quite January.