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What’s your approach to January? Wildly optimistic new lease on life? Or just another moment in time? Here’s how I’m thinking about the new year. (TL;DR Batshit and happy.)
First things first: why am I sharing my approach to the new year?
Nobody in their right mind writes these long, narrative-style blog posts all about MEEEEE anymore. I know that. I don’t either.
And yet. Here we are.
I’m talkin at ya about my approach to 2020 for three reasons:
- If there’s one thing I’ve learned as we get a little older, it’s that there’s still a lot we don’t talk about as much as we should. Money. Perimenopause. How it’s okay to be smart and feminist and serious about your work, and also excited about doing a stupid-fabulous 30 day juice cleanse and training for a half-marathon, all at the same time.
- There’s a bunch of stuff here that I’ve had a lot of success with in the past. In another world I might frame this post as advice for people who wanted to replicate that success. But since some of it is about diet and exercise, and some of it is about mental health, and I’m no doctor, that’s definitely not happening. You do you. I’m just gonna share too much about what it’s like to be me.
- You absolutely don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. But if you do, I’d love love love to know what’s coming up for you in 2020 as well, either in the comments below or just between us.
What is Project January?
For better or worse, I’m one of those people who gets really excited about having a fresh start in the new year. Every. Single. Year. Each January looks a little bit the same as years past, and a little bit different. But I’m always filled with the same gratitude for new beginnings and excitement that self-improvement is in the zeitgeist.
Over the years, I’ve found that I tend to come back to the same areas of focus every January: physical health, mental and emotional health, work, and lifelong learning. Some years it’s mostly microadjustments, other years it’s more of a burn it to the ground and rebuild from scratch situation.
I cannot tell a lie: In 2020, I’m burning a LOT of shit to the ground.
Project January is a way of embracing this predicable, slightly ridiculous tendency toward self-improvement and staying accountable for actually achieving the goals we set, whether they’re minor or major. By acknowledging that I come back to the same basic goals every year, I feel positive about this ritual, even when progress hasn’t always been linear.
I don’t feel stuck in a cycle, but rather grateful for the progress I have made, and excited for a clean slate when needed.
Plus, naming things is fun. Making things into THINGS is fun. And we could all use a little more fun in January.
Project January focus areas
Here are those focus areas that I’ve been returning to for a solid 20 years. I bet they’re not totally unfamiliar to you, whether or not New Year’s resolutions are your jam.
- Physical health
- Mental and emotional health
- Lifelong learning
In January 2020 I’m taking a hardcore approach to health and fitness, spending a lot of energy optimizing work, and tweaking some already pretty good systems on the lifelong learning front.
Physical health: food, movement, and appointments
As we head into 2020, I’ll be going a little nuts with the health-related goals. Before you get any ideas, please note that this in no way constitutes advice of any kind. Don’t do any of this at home, okay? Talk to your doctor. You know the drill.
Food phase 1: 30-day juice and bone broth fast
In January of 2018, I was craving a total reset on the food front. I did a 30-day green juice cleanse, and holy crap, it changed everything. I lost 25 pounds. I felt focused, engaged, and calm so much of the time. It was hard in a good, empowering way, and also not as hard overall as I expected.
I loved the physical benefits and also the mental and emotional benefits. Taking a break from food translated into a much bigger kind of psychological break and space and freedom that I couldn’t have articulated beforehand and didn’t know I needed until I found it.
Two years later, I’m doing it again. This time I’ll be drinking both green juice and bone broth for 30 days (January 2-January 31). (I also drink a cup of coffee with plant-based milk in the mornings and herbal tea when I feel like it, which is just what works for me. In case you were wondering whether I do that.) It’s a little daunting even the second time around, but I’m really looking forward to it, too.
I’ll definitely do this for 30 days, and I’m leaving open the possibility of doing it for a little bit longer if it feels right.
- Here’s the basic green juice recipe that I rely on, sometimes swapping ingredients in or out. It’s low-glycemic and tastes great, if you’re into that sort of thing. You’ll also find information about juicers in that post.
- And here’s the bone broth recipe. I’ll use chicken bones instead of turkey since Thanksgiving is a distant memory.
- In general, and especially during a cleanse, I’m a big fan of this tea, which is thought to help support liver function.
Food phase 2: Bright Line Eating
Starting in February and continuing throughout the first quarter (with a break for some planned travel to Europe), I’ll be resetting and reinforcing good eating habits with Bright Line Eating. Do you know about this program?
I’ll write a whole post dedicated to Bright Line Eating in the coming weeks, but here’s the executive summary:
If you’re a successful, high-achieving person who struggles to maintain a healthy weight easily, it’s probably the fault of that same damned brain that fuels your success in other areas. Diets don’t work in the long run. But rewiring that hard-working brain to work for you with a few simple behavioral changes CAN WORK.
I read the Bright Line Eating book over the summer and kinda couldn’t stop talking about it for a while. To be honest, I really didn’t want to like this program, but I couldn’t help it. So.
Similar to the mental freedom that comes from a juice fast — but meant to be sustainable in the long run — applying some of the Bright Line Eating principles for a few months last year really felt great. It felt like the food version of President Obama’s suits: a reasonable way of avoiding decision fatigue without feeling restricted.
After the holidays, I’m looking forward to finding that balance again.
Movement phase 1: Runapalooza
In 2017 I ran my first half marathon, and on April 4 I’ll be running the same race again. It’s Asbury Park, NJ’s Runapalooza, and you can add that to the list of things I want to hate but don’t.
I didn’t run with a time goal in 2017, and I’ll take the same approach in April — just run to finish. Last time I managed about a 10.5-minutes per mile pace, only walked once for a short time, and barfed ZERO times (thanks to that walking break). Repeating that result would be an absolute success in my book, though if we’re being perfectly honest I’d really love to not have to walk a single step of this run.
I’ll be following this Hal Higdon training schedule starting 1/6 (with a week’s worth of wiggle room). It’s not terribly onerous, which still amazes me, because a half marathon is SO FAR, you guys.
Movement Phase 2: Something old, something new
Right now my sights are focused on the half-marathon, but after that I know I’d like to transition gracefully into an activity plan for the rest of 2020 and beyond. Running long distances isn’t really my thing in the long run (see what I did there?), so I only tend to do it in these moments when I REALLY need an external goal (rather than just staying fit).
After that, I’d like to do the following:
- Move every day, even if it’s just a short walk.
- Get back to what was once a beautiful, thriving hot yoga practice but eventually gave way to working in the morning. Hot yoga takes a LONG time between the class itself and the sweaty aftermath, so moving forward I’ll limit this to twice a week.
- Try a totally new-to-me cross-training class this year. I have my sights set on a new local F45 studio which feels both exciting and intimidating. We shall see.
Here’s a dumb thing I do: neglect to make or keep routine healthcare appointments for myself, even though I’m good about taking the kids. I’m 43, and that’s unacceptable. So that’s a thing I’ll be fixing in 2020 and forevermore.
Mental and emotional health: integrating rage and joy
No matter where you’re from, this is a pretty weird time in the world. Without question, I am ridiculously privileged. In many ways, I have almost everything easier than almost everyone.
I had a validating conversation with a very smart friend last week about how much harder it is now than it was 10 years ago not to be angry all the time. Maybe it’s because we’re women older than 40. (This…um, motivational poster?…feels like it should have a punchline, but doesn’t.)
If anything, I’ve gotten worse over the past few years at navigating how rage and joy and everything in between should fit into a good, useful life.
So a goal for 2020 is to get better at being a whole person, integrating joy with rage. Maybe this is the new “having it all.”
Ay yay yay.
Work: grow smarter, not harder
2019 was a good year for Umami Girl. Traffic doubled and revenue tripled over 2018, so no complaints. In 2020, I’d like to see the same kind of growth again. But I’ve already made lot of the “easy wins,” so this year I’ll have to get more sophisticated to make that happen.
I’m always trying to understand what the optimal size will be for this little company, and continuing to dig into that question — without fear of growth, but without ego, too — will drive some of the choices we make this year.
I’m excited to get going.
Lifelong learning: finish those books
I enjoy learning so much that this one is easy and joyful for me. The goal this year is that before I buy new books, I’ll read the books I bought last year but didn’t get a chance to get to, including:
- The Testaments (Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale)
- The Witch Elm
- Invisible Women: Data Bias In a World Designed for Men
I’m also excited to dig into the podcast Dolly Parton’s America.
And maybe more than enough. Here we go.
Living room photo and juicing photo: Shilpa Iyer for Umami Girl.