NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION IDEAS FOR A HEALTHY AND HAPPY 2023
By: Eric Olson, Esq.
It’s that time of year again. Fun-filled holidays are brimming with tasty treats and delicious beverages. I’m talking about the good holiday stuff, like Butterball turkeys roasting in the kitchen, mom’s crunchy green bean casserole, sweet potatoes mashed with marshmallows and brown sugar, layered Christmas gelatin with pretzel crust, Gingerbread cookies and candy canes, creamy eggnog, and mulled Gluhwein. After all the holiday indulgences we will face a new year, and perhaps think about a New Year’s resolution. Whether it’s losing weight, eating healthier, foregoing alcohol, or learning something new, annual resolutions can be a way to take stock of what’s important in life – a time to pause and reflect on family, friends, and goals for the next year.
I want to start this article by getting a bit personal and sharing why I tackled the 75 HARD™ challenge last year for my 2022 New Year’s resolution, then discuss what I learned about health and wellness throughout the journey, and finish by offering some suggestions for 2023 resolutions. Hopefully this encourages and motivates us to have a healthier, happier, more successful 2023!
Finding Your “Why”
Have you ever heard the saying, “What Is Your Why?” I hear this often from one of the coaches at early morning CrossFit class, usually asked (or yelled) during a grueling round of burpees or thrusters or some other horrible exercise. The intent is not only to encourage you to keep pushing, but also to remind you why you woke up early to go to the gym instead of sleeping in. Although specific reasons “why” may differ for each person, the “why” is generally your reason for doing something significant, your purpose in life, the driving force that keeps you going when times get hard and keeps you diligent when things are going well. My “why” is to stay healthy and happy for my wife and children, but it took me until last year to really find out how.
I like to think that I finished law school in pretty good shape (which is now more than a decade ago). I tried to eat well and workout consistently while studying for the bar exam. As a single guy at the time, I wasn’t that creative when it came to food. I ate a lot of chicken, salmon, and broccoli, rinsed and repeated endlessly for an exhausting 3 months during bar prep. I spent an hour or so each morning working out at the wellness center on campus (go ‘Canes) and would watch Kaplan videos online in the lounge after working out. Then I would go home, eat lunch, maybe take a nap depending on the day, and do some more studying in the afternoon. It was a routine, and it worked.
Then came my first job after passing the bar. If there’s a surefire way to throw off a routine, it is landing your first real job out of law school and spending the next three to five years worried about getting fired… Every. Darn. Day. This feeling came from deep within, not from anything the partners at the law firm did or didn’t do. It was from my own mixture of perfectionism and insecurities, and it didn’t help to feel like I was drinking water out of a fire hose. I don’t know about anyone else, but law school completely failed at teaching me how to practice law, let alone file a Complaint. A regular workout routine was quickly exchanged for billable hours, stressful days, and sleepless nights. Instead of eating healthy “brain” foods, my diet became Pub subs and potato chips, burgers and fries. It was easier to grab something quick versus cooking healthier at home, and beer goes awfully well with burgers…
This new routine became the new normal. I made excuses not to go to the gym – no time, not enough sleep, too many people at the gym, old equipment, etc. I ate out a lot and made unhealthy choices. I drank too much and slept too little. BUT I was getting my billable hours and I was on track for making partner in 10 (or so) years. After all, that’s what matters at the end of the day for a young lawyer, right?
When my father passed away in 2016, I was devastated. He was 65, led a relatively healthy lifestyle, was in good shape, and had just retired from a successful career as a FedEx pilot, but he still succumbed to colon cancer at such an early age. In the middle of grieving for my father and pondering my own mortality, I saw a Facebook ad for a 6-week CrossFit program with nutrition coaching that was supposed to change my life and help get me back in shape. I immediately signed up for the program, started doing CrossFit for the first time, and lost 14 pounds during the six-week challenge. Feeling fit and healthy, I created a profile on www.match.com – even paid for the whole year in advance – and the first person I met “online” ended up being the love of my life, Micha. We were engaged in a few short months, married the next year, and then had a beautiful baby daughter. All was well in my life, right?? Well… if I’m being honest, not so much.
What started out as drinking on the weekends became more of a regular occurrence. Happy hours with friends and colleagues became routine, and we were always going to events where alcohol flowed freely. It was easy to dampen the stress and responsibilities of being a lawyer with a glass of wine or two after work. It was so much easier to sleep in rather than go to the gym in the morning, so I stopped going. Then the pandemic hit. Gyms closed, courts closed, work closed. No in-person meetings, no wearing suits, no driving anywhere. The motivation to stay healthy slipped away and the body weight came back. After a while, I felt tired, lethargic, and out of energy. My stomach hurt a lot of the time, and I often felt pain in my back, knees, and joints. By the end of 2021, I was 250 pounds and feeling puffy, bloated, and heavy. My clothes didn’t fit, and my old suits were collecting dust in the closet. I could barely keep up with my daughter on the weekends and struggled with feeling good about myself. My wife was pregnant with our second child, and I knew that I had to change my lifestyle or face an early grave like my father. That’s when I stumbled on 75 HARD™ and decided to take massive action in my life.
75 HARD™ – An Ironman for the Brain
I remember hearing some folks at the gym talk about a challenge where you have to work out twice every day and not drink a sip of alcohol for 75 consecutive days, and then my neighbors started it in late 2021 right before Christmas. I thought they were crazy to start before the holidays and also thought there was absolutely NO WAY I would be able to complete a challenge like that. Still, I decided to look into it and started the challenge on January 1, 2022 as a New Year’s resolution.
The website for 75 HARD™ has a big disclaimer at the top that I should probably repeat and incorporate herein: “You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting 75 HARD™ or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs. Do not start 75 HARD™ if your physician or health care provider advises against it.” I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice, but this challenge is also not supposed to be a fitness or weight-loss plan – it is a “mental toughness” program that is like an “Ironman for your brain” according to its creator Andy Frisella. For more information on the program, please visit: https://andyfrisella.com/pages/75hard-info.
This is a program that can change your life; it is a mental toughness program that helps you take control of your life in 75 days. It takes confidence, grit, a belief in yourself, a willingness to win, and perseverance. The best part, it doesn’t cost a penny and anyone can do it! There are 6 basic rules to be followed for 75 consecutive days:
- If you skip a day, you must start over. If you miss a task, you must start over on day one
- Pick a diet to follow, with no alcohol or cheat meals
- Drink a gallon of water daily
- Complete 2 daily workouts, 45 minutes each with one being outside regardless of weather
- Read 10 pages per day of a non-fiction book
- Take progress photos every day
Sounds simple enough. But you cannot tweak the program to your liking. You must choose a diet based on your goals and stick to it. No cheat meals, no alcohol. Not a drop for 75 days. It is a total body detox, fueled by water, good food, and body movement. According to Frisella, if you follow the program exactly as it’s laid out, you will be a completely different person by the end.
I followed a Paleo diet, cutting out gluten and dairy, and stuck to a combination of CrossFit, walking, spin, HIIT workouts, and yoga. It was not easy at all. I almost quit several times. One of those times was a few weeks into the challenge when everyone in my household came down with COVID-19 and all I could do was walk twice a day for nearly a week. I could barely get out of bed, but I was determined to finish what I started. I finished the program on March 16, 2022 – my dad’s birthday, which I though was appropriate and sentimental. I went from being 250 pounds on January 1 to 211 pounds on March 16 and continued the journey for the rest of the year to shed more than 55 pounds of excess weight from the beginning of the year to the writing of this article. I have had one of the best years in terms of health, fitness, marriage, and finances. I went from having no control over what I ate and drank to feeling empowered by healthy choices. I went from having an unhealthy gut to building a strong immune system and healing damage that I had done to my body over the years. It was a journey that I could not have done without my wife’s help or without the support of Donnie Keller and my Ionic CrossFit community, and it was an eye-opening process that helped me get my life back on track.
From this process I learned an incredible amount about gut health and the importance of eating right.
You are What you Eat
For those of you that remember Popeye, he was a tough guy with a love of canned spinach and bulging forearm muscles. In the theme song, Popeye sings, “I’m strong to the finich, ‘Cause I eats me spinach, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man”. There is a lot of truth to Popeye’s words. The foods we eat can have a big impact on the structure and health of our brains. Eating a brain-boosting diet can support both short- and long-term brain function, and it impacts how much energy we have and how strong we can be. We use our brains so often as attorneys, but are we paying attention to our guts and feeding our body with proper food and nutrients to fuel the brain?
Hippocrates had it right: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Eating healthy is more important now than it ever has been before, especially with all the junk food out there. Healthy eating gives us proper nutrients to heal the body and keep our guts healthy. Our guts can become inflamed due to the dietary foods we consume. Stress levels and anxiety, medications, food additives, mineral deficiencies, lack of sleep, and an unhealthy gut can cause autoimmune diseases, poor circadian rhythms, immune deficiencies, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and more.
Nutrition is a very broad subject and should be discussed with your health care provider. It is certainly too broad of a subject to discuss in detail in this article, and that’s not the purpose. However, if I could offer one piece of advice on nutrition it would be to shop the outside isles at your grocery store for whole foods and more vegetables – buy lean protein (seafood, chicken, turkey, eggs), veggies (broccoli, spinach, cucumbers, asparagus), healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts), and healthy carbs (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, fruit).
I happened to choose a Paleo diet for my 75-day challenge and cut out gluten and dairy, sticking to whole foods versus processed foods. Because of that, I discovered intolerances to both gluten and dairy. Wheat makes me lethargic, and dairy gives me gut problems. Cutting out both eliminated brain fog and a lot of bloating. Replacing processed foods and sugars with whole fruits, vegetables, and proteins has had an enormous impact for me on weight loss, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and blood pressure. I wake up early, work more efficiently, have a clearer head, and spend more quality time with family.
My wife and I researched a lot about nutrition over the last year and discovered that many foods that appear healthy are not. For example, “greenwashing” is a form of advertising or marketing that persuades the public that a company’s products are environmentally friendly or healthy. But if you look at the ingredients, some of these supposedly healthy foods are chalk full of GMOs, preservatives, dextrose, sucralose, palm oils, seed oils, xanthan gum, carrageenan, and other harmful substances that destroy your gut. Carrageenan, for instance, is an extract from red seaweed used as a thickener and gelling agent, but it is highly inflammatory and toxic to the digestive tract – some claim that it may be responsible for colitis, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, and even colon cancer. Many food additives are highly addictive, and it is in the financial interests of big pharma and food companies to keep us unhealthy and dependent on medication, creating a viscous cycle of unhealthiness in our world which is a topic for another day.
In our profession, healthy eating should be at the forefront of any conversation involving mental health. According to the Bar’s statistics, lawyers rank 4th in proportion of suicides by profession, 19% suffer from anxiety, 23% from stress, 28% from depression, and 36% from alcohol abuse. These statistics are shocking, but it’s also important to know that we as lawyers have a lot of resources to tap into if help is needed, not only at the local level but also through The Florida Bar. A healthy nutrition plan and balanced diet is a good starting point and should be the first level of change for recovery.
75 HARD™ may not be for everybody, but goals and resolutions can be. Whatever you decide to do for 2023, I challenge each one of you to be consistent. That is the most important but perhaps most difficult goal to achieve. Here are some ideas for starting a healthy journey in 2023:
- Meditate once a day for 10 minutes for 30 days
- Yoga for 30 minutes a day for 30 days
- No alcohol for 30 – 90 days (take a before and after picture, you will be shocked at the difference)
- Read 2 non-fiction self-help books in the next month
- Go to bed before 10 p.m. and wake up before 6 a.m. every day for six weeks
- Quit smoking
- Eat more spinach like Popeye
- Take up gardening on the weekends
- Drink more water
- Walk for 30 minutes a day for 30 days
- Take a cold shower once a day
The ideas are endless, but whatever you do for a New Year’s resolution (if you choose to do anything at all), do it well and put your full efforts into it. Be consistent. The results will be nothing short of amazing! Maybe you will find a new and improved way of life, a clearer head, or more energy like I did. Maybe you will reconnect with your family and spend more quality time with your children. Maybe you will wake up one day and just feel awesome about life! If you have any questions or need a friend to talk to along the way, feel free to give me a call at (239) 610-0847 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy New Year to all and wishing everyone a wonderful and successful 2023!