When the new year begins is arbitrary - where's the start point of a circle? However, our society selects January 1st as the first day of the new year and, with that, comes a few traditions. Some people start to take down the Christmas lights and even put their Christmas trees at the end of their driveways for recycling. There is also the tradition of making new year's resolutions and I'm far from being exempt from that habit.
Every new year I set out goals for myself, from dietary to fitness to spiritual to the more practical. So, for 2011, my dietary and fitness goals revolve around reducing the amount of bodily inflammation I have. I don't mean such sundry things as scraped knees though I'd like to avoid that, too. By bodily inflammation, I am referring to a more chronic, low grade bodily systemic inflammation.
In their book Ultraprevention Drs. Mark Liponis and Mark Hyman offer sensible advice and well researched information on many of the health problems facing western civilization today. Liponis and Hyman, both medical doctors, address the connection between lifestyle and the development of health problems. There is something intuitive about the idea of mind-body connection but now the research seems to bear this out. As I have MS and as MS involves an inflammatory response to the activation of my already overactive immune system, the issue of strategies was of particular interest to me. Liponis and Hyman state, "...Unfortunately, this protective mechanism of our immune system also has dangerous secondary effects on our bodies. The result of this inflammatory response by the immune system is unfortunately damage to many different organs in our bodies, as well as our circulatory system itself, because our immune system is an integral part of each and every organ in our body as well as being in the bloodstream itself..."(1)Also, "...In the case of chronic inflammation, a safer strategy may be to employ anti-inflammatory nutritional and lifestyle changes that can help to reduce inflammation..." Always one for these kinds of challenges and as January 1st approaches, I thought it best to resolve to include more anti inflammatory foods into my already cautious diet. In fact, I'm currently enjoying a nice cuppa mint green tea (green tea alone is, to me, undrinkable).
As I like to set fitness goals, I resolve this winter season to get 100 kilometres of skiing done. I've already got 19 kilometres so far and I'd be out there right now but for the lack of snow. Oh, and the windchill is a bone numbing 2000watts/m^2, aka TOO BLASTED COLD IN THE WIND. However, the season is still young so I'm not worried...yet. My other fitness goal for 2011 is to trike 100 kilometres in one outing. I did 80 this year and lived to tell the tale.
The role of exercise in keeping chronic inflammation down has been very well researched. Specifically, "...that improvements in glucose metabolism were associated with decreases in cytokine concentrations during weight loss programs..." (3) This conclusion was made from having studied overweight and obese post menopausal women and while I am none of the above need to be just as careful. My new year also promises to be spritually enriching for me as I will be more involved with the Ottawa Buddhist Society. I have found the OBS in particular and Buddhism in general to be so helpful to me, especially when I'm convinced that I will be forever 10 kilometres from home and I'm exhausted and hungry and need to go pee... Buddhism has helped me to put things into perspective a little more easily and you can't go wrong there! Thus, in '11, I resolve to immerse myself into a deeper spirituality; the environment is so supportive and caring that it can only be good for everyone involved.
Finally, even though I'm looking at the crusty layer of snow and ice covering my back yard, I have already got plans for my little garden. Try as we might (and we did), we just cannot grow vegetables in the back yard. The work and care put into the venture just seem to outstrip the fruits of our labours - literally and figuratively. I grew tomatoes last year and, despite the healthy lush green stalks, only got about 10 tomatoes from two plants. I planted two packets of sugar snap peas last year and got mediocre results...
...however, the herbs I grew last year were incredible. We had a really good crop of sweet basil, thyme, marjoram, Egyptian parsley, oregano and chives. So, we will be growing only herbs in '11. What we harvested from '10, we dried and will continue to use in soups and stews. So my practical resolution in '11 is to grow some healthy herbs. I've already got the back yard plotted out and know what is going to go where. We only need for the spring to eventually come.
In the meantime, I am enjoying the day, grateful to be living it and hoping we get some more snow soon. I've only gone skiing three times this season, I'm up for more...May you all have a good new year's holiday and an awesome 2011!