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Start the New Year with What You Want to Include

I love the movie Chocolat, and one of the lines towards the end has stuck with me. It’s when the priest of the small village talks about how the people shouldn’t be focused on who they want to exclude but rather on who they want to include.

It may not seem like a huge difference, but it can be a crucial distinction in thinking about many things in our lives – among them people, activities, and food.

Avoid the exclusion of diets

I know a lot of people make New Year’s resolutions, often about food and/or exercise. And all too often, food resolutions are about diets and exclusion.

I bet most of us know someone who’s said something like, “I’m going to get back on track and eat healthy after the holidays” or “I’ll try that diet after New Year’s.” And all too often, this means they plan to cut out certain foods or food groups, like sugar or carbs.

The problem, when you cut food out and keep the focus on what you’re excluding, you’ll think about it more. You may start to feel deprived and resentful that you can’t have that food. And you’ll be less able to appreciate and enjoy the food you have.

Focus on what you want to keep in your life

Another option is to think about what you want to have as part of your life.

For example, maybe you want to include more variety in your meals. If you do that, you may find that you enjoy what you eat more because you’re not having the same thing all the time. You may feel more satisfied because of this and could end up eating less.

Or maybe you’ve noticed that you eat when you’re bored. Instead of trying to cut out food, think about what you could include in your life that would make you feel more engaged or energized. It might be something active, like swimming, dancing, or walking, or perhaps you want to read more or learn a new skill such as knitting or painting. Whatever it is, adding something that will reduce your feelings of boredom will make you much happier overall than trying to cut out certain foods.

On the flip side, maybe you’re too busy and can only dream of being bored, and you end up eating a lot out of stress. In that situation, adding something may seem like it would make the problem worse – but it depends on how you think about it.

Instead of including yet one more activity or commitment in your busy days, you could include some quiet time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a lot, even 5 or 10 minutes in the morning or at the end of the day (or both) can help. Just a few minutes when you don’t have to accomplish anything, do something for someone else, or be responsible. Including even a few minutes when you can simply be yourself may help you breathe a little easier and feel less stressed.

Inclusion feels better than exclusion

One of the reasons diets don’t work is that they’re all about excluding and not allowing certain things. And knowing that you can’t have something usually makes you want it even more.

When you focus on inclusion, though, you feel more satisfied and you’re not worried about what you’re missing because the focus is on what you have.

So, if you’re setting some goals for the New Year, I suggest thinking about them in terms of inclusion. You may find that it makes those goals easier to meet.


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