By MATT WIXON
Welcome to 2009. A new year, a new start, a new opportunity to make your life everything you want it to be.
Starting tomorrow, of course. We’ll just forget about today, considering we're nearly a week into the new year and you’re lying in bed, trying to hit the snooze bar for the 10th time. You're probably still feeling that pain in your back that started when you woke up New Year's Day after a night of sleeping on your keys (while fully-dressed, with a bent-up party hat strapped to your head).
Did you ever find out what that red stain was on your shirt? Lipstick? Salsa? Blood?
OK, it doesn’t really matter. Today is the day to start self-improvement! Or tomorrow, or perhaps the next day, or maybe next week after you finish off the carton of cigarettes. Then it will be time to start your New Year’s Resolution.
Which, if you’re like most Americans, means deciding to get fit. In fact, it’s the No. 2 New Year’s Resolution, second only to resolving to make a resolution at a later date because "I’m really unmotivated this week/month/year/lifetime."
Motivation is key. A good example is the show called "The Biggest Loser," which could refer to a Kevin Federline biography but actually is a show about people competing to lose weight. The top prize is $250,000, which is why most winners need less than a year to go from human marshmallow to triathlete.
I could get in primo shape with that kind of motivation. Even rock-hard abs would be possible with a $250,000 reward -- and several rolls of heavy-duty tape, a pair of handcuffs and one or more of the anti-depression drugs advertised on television.
But that’s a little complicated, and I want it to be easy. So do most people, which is why something like the the Ab Torso Torture Blaster, endorsed by Suzanne Somers, Chuck Norris or some other celebrity who has a personal chef, will be a big seller again this year. It will require three easy payments, equaling one payment for each time the Super Turbo Gladiator Glutinator gets used before 2008.
Sadly, there’s no easy way to get fit. But there is a simple way, as shown in a recent study of people committed to losing weight.
Participants in the study achieved significant weight loss in just days by cutting out snacks between meals, cutting out snacks before bedtime, and cutting out breakfast, lunch and dinner. The research also indicated that after a few days, some of the study’s participants had dropped a dress size, others could tighten their belts an entire notch, and all were willing to fight with knives for a box of Wheat Thins stamped with "Best if eaten by 2005."
Weight control isn’t as simple for those of us who want to eat. And even if you have self-control at home (or tape and handcuffs), sticking to a diet at work isn’t easy. For one thing, vending machines are just steps away.
Fortunately, my employer looks out for employee health by bringing in vending machines that never allow the pack of powdered-sugar donuts to drop from the top row. This results in donut-seekers shaking and banging the machine in an effective low-impact aerobic workout.
But that’s not enough. To get fit, real exercise is required. The kind of exercise that involves sweating, grunting and heavy lifting, and that’s just to get the spandex workout pants over your thighs. If you get that far, you’re on the fit side of America’s bell curve.
If it sounds difficult, remember that we can’t all look like the people in the fitness ads. That’s why we should shoot for realistic goals, like never being one of the anonymous people that are videotaped walking down the street for the special report "Is America Getting Too Fat?"
More importantly, remember this:
You don’t have to start your New Year’s Resolution today. You can start tomorrow. Or the next day. Or in October, right after your Beer of the Month subscription ends.
It is a New Year’s Resolution, after all. You’ve got 12 months to achieve self-improvement.
Feel free to hit the snooze bar again.
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Photo by Kristan Hutchison, courtesy of National Science Foundation