Quarterly Report

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This is the first quarter status report on my dry year.  Believe it or not, three months have come and gone since I quit drinking as my New Year’s resolution, and started this blog to share my thoughts about that and other things. To be perfectly honest, I’m completely over the whole not drinking thing. By that, I don’t mean that I want to start drinking again. What I mean is that not drinking alcohol has become so ingrained in me that I just don’t think about it very much. And that’s making it difficult to find things to write about.

At the end of my first month, I reported that I had lost six pounds simply by not drinking, and that I was dismayed that forming a new habit was going to take a lot longer than I had expected. Then, at the end of my second month, I realized that my old habit of drinking wine every night had disappeared unnoticed, and I was 11 pounds lighter. In between those two posts, I revealed that a big motivator for embarking on my “dry year” was my belief that alcohol was preventing me from losing the 20+ pounds I had gained over the past several years, as well as from being a more competitive runner.

In chunking out my planning and goals into more manageable bits, I decided not to change anything else about my eating or fitness routine in January. And, in February and March, to focus on my diet first, mainly by using MyFitnessPal to track everything I eat, as well as my exercise. I hoped to lose 15 of my goal of 20 pounds by that time. My plan was to then pivot from my diet to my running and race training in April, and to try for my personal best marathon time on my 46th birthday in late July. Assuming all goes accordingly, I would still have five months to complete my diet goal before the end of the year.

Even though there’s still snow on the ground here in Vermont, March is over. The inevitable question is: How am I doing? Drum roll please…..

I lost 15 pounds! I’m particularly proud of that, because I was on vacation the first two weeks of March. In just 90 days, my Body Mass Index dropped from 24.7 to 22.4. According to the U.S. Navy body fat calculator, my percentage of body fat dropped from 27% in mid-February to 24% today. I’m not quite in the “fit” category yet, so there’s more work to do. However, I’m really getting close to my ideal weight and fitness level, and feel very happy with my results.

So far, my theory that losing weight will make me run faster appears to be correct. I took part in the Run for the Border Half Marathon on the New Hampshire coast this past Sunday.  It was raining, windy and cold – I got hit by foam and sea water from waves that crashed against the seawall and sprayed onto the race route! Because of the crazy weather and coastal flood warnings, the race was shortened to 10.19 miles. I surprised myself by racing at a 9:02 per-mile pace, much faster than expected. Last year’s half marathon results were all slower than this, ranging from a 10:27 per-mile pace in Middlebury in May, to a 9:20 pace down in Manchester, Vermont, in early September. I felt very comfortable the whole race and definitely had more in the tank when I crossed the finish line.

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(My vantage point running the Run for the Border Half Marathon in coastal New Hampshire on March 30, 2014.)

Over the past three months, the most important thing is that I had decided to reward myself early with a trip to Laos. Since I was saving well over $4,000 this year by not drinking, and it was burning a hole in my pocket, I deserved a big reward for all of my efforts. My 10-day trip was unforgettable and under budget — around $2,500. Later this year, when I reach all of the other goals I’ve outlined, maybe Bruce and I will take another trip together to celebrate.

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Hole in My Pocket

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I led you astray in my last post when I titled it “I’m Saving Big Bucks!” Although I am really excited about saving more than $4,000 of our family income by not drinking alcohol this year, all that cash is already starting to burn a hole in my pocket. Sure, saving it would be great. But, in keeping a resolution as difficult as this one, I would really like to reward myself. That’s precisely what all the experts say I need to do, in order to increase my chances of success.

For example, a well-received book by Charles Duhigg is all about New Year’s Resolutions and the power of habit. Of course, at the heart of my resolution is to create a new lifelong habit of reduced alcohol consumption.  Duhigg places “rewards” as the third most important factor out of 5 for creating new habits like mine.

Additionally, there are dozens of online articles that also stress the link between rewards and resolution success. Among these, I find this Top 10 Tips to New Year’s Resolution Success particularly awesome, because I didn’t do steps 1 through 4. One is to “be realistic”; 2 is to “plan ahead”; 3 is to “outline your plan”; and 4 is to “make a pros and cons list.” I just skipped straight to 5, which is to “talk about it.”  That said (no pun intended), the sixth thing on this Top 10 List is to reward yourself. This other article, makes it clear that there are different types of rewards — daily rewards, milestone rewards, and having a large great reward when the resolution is successfully completed.

In terms of daily rewards, I have already found that the routine of herbal tea with my husband in the evening is both very relaxing and enjoyable. And, also that my newfound ability to exercise in the evening (something I couldn’t do when I was drinking wine every night) is a reward both in that it makes me feel healthier and it enables me to sleep later in the morning. 

I have decided to roll all the rest of the rewards that I deserve into one really big one. With my budget of over $4,000, I have an opportunity to make it really meaningful and awesome. No, it’s not paying down the mortgage, increasing contributions to my IRA, or finishing the ceiling for our basement re-model.  These are all important and practical things that deserve consideration. However, the research says that my reward should be personal to me. I have decided to make it a once in a lifetime experience.

What is my reward? I’m planning an amazing 10-day vacation to Laos.

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(photo: courtesy of Phoenix Tours)

There are several great benefits wrapped into this reward.  First and foremost, I’ll have a chance to check-in on my step-daughter, Erin, who recently took a leave of absence from her career as a fashion designer and is traveling in Southeast Asia for the next four months. (You can follow her journey here). Being with Erin on a small part of her personal journey should be something both of us will cherish for the rest of our lives.  Secondly, I’ve enlisted my old college pal, Angela, to make this trip with me. Ange and I both studied Mandarin and, back in the 90’s, traveled together in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mainland China. What a hoot it’s going to be for us to go to Bangkok and Laos on this trip twenty years later!

I’ll be a full two months into the resolution before we start our journey to Laos.  This means that I will be well on my way to creating a new habit. In fact, the experts say that it only takes 28 days. And, I’m sure that the memories and experiences I’ll take back home will continue to reward me for the rest of my resolution journey.

It’s quite a reward, don’t you think?