As you’re reading this, I’m lazing around in my pajamas reading a trashy novel and eating a turkey and stuffing sandwich.
Then I’m going to eat some truffles and shortbread and clementines and marshmallow squares and wash it all down with egg nog.
It’s the annual You’re Going to Have to Go on a Diet in January binge, and it ain’t pretty.
I know I’m not alone in this cycle of food abuse. Put up your hand if you’ve been there.
Ah, a sea of hands.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 50 per cent of people make New Year’s resolutions every year.
The most popular resolution is to lose weight, followed by resolutions to kick those other vices, smoking and debt.
I start off every January with the best of intentions. Lots of vegetables, fruit, lean meats, long walks and exercise.
Within weeks I feel great. My clothes fit better, my mood improves, I no longer have insatiable carb cravings and I sleep soundly.
Then Valentine’s Day comes, and I fall off the wagon with a quiet thud. Just a few chocolates, maybe some wine. Popcorn at the movies.
It takes a few weeks to recover from those cheating days, but then it’s onward and upward, to Easter. A chocolate bunny, a marshmallow Peep. Notice how marshmallows are a consistent theme here.
Again, I’m able to lie to myself for a few weeks. I just need to finish that package of Peeps or those chocolate eggs and then I’ll be back to my healthy self.
Eventually, there’s the panicky crash diet just before swimsuit season, then Halloween, then it’s Christmas again.
This leads to a yearly cycle of what psychologists Janet Polivy and Peter Herman call “false hope syndrome — unfulfilled expectations of self-change.”
Self-change is possible, they say, but it’s important to differentiate between realistic and unrealistic goals.
It’s pretty clear to me now that I don’t actually have a healthy self. I only have a self who is temporarily restrained from partaking in my next holiday-related excuse to eat crap.
I know a healthy lifestyle is possible because I know people — in my own family, even! — who eat salad and have maintained a regular exercise routine for years.
But is it possible for me? I feel like I’ve tried and failed a million times.
So this year, instead of promising to lose what I’ve gained, I’m going to try to gain what I’ve lost: a realistic expectation of change.