Thanks to the holidays, the roll of flesh you now see sitting triumphantly atop my waistband is composed almost entirely of butter, chocolate, and discount champagne. And yes, at the top of my list of New Year's resolutions are the words "get stronger (back to yoga)" followed closely by "STOP EATING M&Ms FOR LUNCH."
(Full disclosure: I am eating M&Ms while I write this, but it's just a mid-morning snack. Also, they are dark chocolate. M&Ms are full of antioxidants.)
So, you say you want to get back in shape for the new year, too? Come, let me guide you through seven important steps that will bring you closer to making everyone think you're working hard to get healthy again.
STEP ONE: Complain about how sore you are after going back to the gym. Even if you haven't been near a Pilates class since 2002, if you want people to think you're taking your health in hand, complain about it. Your quadriceps (or "thighs") are burning every time you go up or downstairs. Your arms are so sore you can barely lift a spoonful of low-fat yogurt to your mouth. Man, are you working hard!
STEP TWO: Don't eat in public. The last thing you want right now is someone judging what you're putting in your mouth. If it's not cold lettuce sprinkled with lemon juice and shame, somebody's going to have an opinion about it. Stay one step ahead of them all and, at least while you're out and about, don't ingest anything more complicated than bottled water and gum for the next six months.
STEP THREE: Learn the latest diet vocabulary. Just because you're not eating with people doesn't mean you can't talk with them about food. What diet are you doing? Paleo people don't eat any grains, just lots of meat and vegetables. Or maybe you're eliminating high-fructose corn syrup, additives, and trans-fats. Have you become a locavore, eating only in-season foods produced within a 100-mile radius of your house? Whatever the trend, stay on top of it!
STEP FOUR: Enlist a beard. Eventually you're going to crack and want to admit your sham lifestyle to someone, so pick a buddy who's willing to cover for you in case of emergencies. Did someone see you steal the last donut from the break room? Your beard will be the one who will loudly say, "Hey, thanks for getting that last donut for me!" during the staff meeting, thus crushing all suspicion that surrounds you. Hopefully.
STEP FIVE: Highlight your most athletic body parts. Just because you're not actually losing weight or eating better doesn't mean you can't dress the part. Workout wear can double as street-casual, especially if it has lots of Lycra in it and can partially function as shapewear. Good yoga pants made from a thick cotton-poly blend can smooth out all manner of lumpy butt problems, and a capri length pant can look extra sporty if you're blessed with shapely ankles. Running shoes are comfortable and suggest a commitment to athleticism.
STEP SIX: Appear to be shocked at how well your program is working. Around March or April, the time will be right for you to start marveling at how loose your pants have become. Tip: you will need to buy larger pants for this to work.
STEP SEVEN: Or, you could actually eat better and get some exercise. Consider signing up for MyPlate to track what you're eating and how many calories you're burning. (It's free.) I did it for four months last year and was amazed at how it kept me on track with eating more protein and good fats, and less carbs and sugar. I'm serious. No really. Try it.
Image via Sam Howzit/Flickr