Studies indicate the food and drinks we consume have a significant impact on our general well-being. In 2016, I made excellent progress switching to a healthier diet by purchasing vegetarian meals from Blue Apron. Although these vegetarian dishes could be healthier, they are much better than my normal diet of fast food and snacks. Beyond eating more vegetarian meals, I also never drank a single soda in 2016. One goal for 2017 is to continue this push for eating healthier but how can I do this?
First, I will continue to use Blue Apron as my main resource for healthy dinners in 2017. The vegetarian Blue Apron options are a great way to ensure I eat a large quantity and variety of vegetables. I recognize I could probably make even healthier decisions than those afforded by Blue Apron but Blue Apron is a system I think I can stick with throughout the year.
No Sweetened Beverages and Lots of Water
As in 2016, I resolve not to drink any sweetened beverages – specifically sodas – for 2017. I did an excellent job in 2016 although I did have about a dozen hot chocolates late in the year. I also resolve not to purchase a bottled beverage in 2017, including water. This isn’t necessarily related to health but rather it seems wasteful to buy water when I can easily carry free and clean tap water around with me. I even have some awesome flasks just for that purpose.
Metric: Streak of days without a soda.
In conjunction with the no sweetened beverages resolution, I also plan to continue drinking unsweetened teas. In 2016, my office mate introduced me to white, green, and oolong teas. I want to make tea one of my primary beverages for the health benefits, particularly for green and white teas. I even received an electric kettle and tea pot for Christmas. Now I’m all set to enjoy tea both at work and home.
Less Cafeteria Food
One of the nice things about my current job is the cafeteria. When I do eat unhealthy, it is generally because of the cafeteria. Even though they have a salad bar, I generally opt for the grill, sandwiches, or pizza. In 2017, I want to pack my lunch more often. This will help me both eat healthier and save money. How to do this? One simple method is to use the Blue Apron leftovers as lunch. This will take care of probably two lunches a week. To do better, I may need to cook a meal on the weekend and freeze it for the week ahead. Here are my current ideas on how to make this happen:
- At the start of each month, plan the weekly meal that will be cooked on each weekend.
- On each weekend, cook the week’s meal for work lunch.
- During the week, rotate between the weekly meal and Blue Apron leftovers.
Metric: Number of lunch purchased or total amount of money spent in the cafeteria.
With the magic of Mint.com I can calculate that I spent about $1780 at the cafeteria in 2016, which corresponds to about 270 lunches. There are only 261 work days in a year so a portion of those purchases were additional trips to purchase snacks like cake or cookies. Shameful I know!
This is probably the toughest resolution in this group. I have a sweet tooth and there always seems to be sweets around – like coworkers bringing in donuts and cookies to work. Unfortunately, I have very little self-control, especially during the work day when something sweet wakes me up from my many midday stupors. I’m not sure how I will be able to achieve this one. Here are my ideas:
- When I have an urge for something sweet, drink a lot of water first. For whatever reason, that often suppresses my cravings.
- Have a bag of good snacks available in the office like nuts and trail mix.
- Substitute fruit for sweets.
Metric: Number of sweets consumed.
Many of these resolutions for eating healthy build on how I am currently living so I don’t think I am stretching to achieve these goals. For example, I haven’t had a soda since November 2015 so it’s not hard to keep the streak alive at this point. Similarly, I’ve been cooking with Blue Apron for almost half a year so the time and financial commitment for those meals should not be a problem. The two resolutions which are a little more ambitious are (1) the fewer cafeteria lunches and (2) fewer sweets. Both will be tough and I don’t expect to eliminate either one completely but hopefully I can make significant progress in those areas this year.
Running a mile each day of the year is a good challenge for me. I will set a resolution to run 365 miles in 2017. I missed this resolution in 2016 with only logging around 270 miles. I was going strong until I moved into a house around October. This threw me off my schedule and I no longer lived near my normal running path so running languished for several months. I also recognize that every year I fall behind my goal early during the cold months and spend most of my warm months trying to catch back up to where I should be.
This year I have a special weapon – I purchased a treadmill. I have been running consistently for the three weeks I’ve owned the treadmill. The plan this year is to use the treadmill to maintain progress on the running resolution so that I’m not playing catch up most of the year. The challenge this year is living in a new area and not really knowing nearby running paths. Signing up for a few formal races might be a good way to motivate me to continue running regularly.
Metric: Number of miles run.
Hours of Physical Activity
Similar to last year, I want to track my total number of hours of physical activity as I feel my fitness should be more than simply running. Last year, I recorded many activity hours due to hiking early in the year although I still fell short of my goal. So what steps can I take to make sure I achieve the goal this year?
- Complete my running resolution. This would account for approximately 50 of the 150 hours.
- Hike! Hiking is good exercise, it gets me out of the house on the weekends, and can help me contribute to my photography resolution.
- Bicycling. There are a ton of trails in the DC area. In the warmer months, I should start exploring these trails. Since bicycling can take several hours, this is a good way to pick up some activity hours.
- In my adventure efforts, choose options where I can spend a good chunk of time doing something physical (e.g. hiking).
Maximize 403(b) Contribution
Contribute the maximum amount to my retirement account allowed by law, which is $18,000 for 2017. In addition, this year I get my matching contribution from my employer too!
Build Up Personal Stock Account
I depleted a large chunk of my personal stock account for the down payment for my house. I would like to make regular contributions to that account this year. We’ll see if that is possible, particularly if I need to spend a lot of money on the new house. What can I do to make this happen?
- Live within my means, in particular, pack lunches to both save money and eat healthier.
- Avoid too many extravagant purchases. For me this usually means electronics like TVs and computers. I don’t want to live the life of a miser but I’d rather spend money on creating memories (vacations) rather than gadgets.
- Transfer a small amount of money with each paycheck to the stock account.
I want to make sure that my life has a positive impact in some form. This is particularly tough for a loner like me – most people leave an impact simply by raising a family. Consequently, I need to find creative, non-conventional ways to make a positive impact for others. For 2017, I want to focus on financial giving. The two big areas I want to commit to are:
- Give monthly to my niece’s and nephew’s college savings accounts.
- Give to charities based on logic and reason rather than emotion or convenience, that is, aim for effective altruism. For now, this means making regular contributions to effective charities like Against Malaria or other similar charities that make large impacts with donor’s investments.
Metric: (1) Total amount of money donated to niece and nephew college accounts (2) Number of malaria nets purchased.
I want to push myself out of my comfort zone. In general my comfort zone is at home watching sports, playing video games, or surfing the internet. Travel is one of those ways to disrupt the routine.
I have neglected photography for many years. I want to make an effort this year to reboot this hobby. Photography is great because it gives me an artistic outlet but also forces me to get out of the house, that is, photography is a nice little hack to make me more adventurous. This is great but what specific steps can I take to ensure that I actually do some photography?
- Weekend photography trips. Come up with little trips to do on the weekend for a few hours to work on photography. Examples included downtown D.C., Great Falls, National Arboretum, etc
- Long trips to scenic destinations. Plan several trips throughout the year to scenic destinations like the West, Hawaii, Iceland, etc.
- 365 picture album for 2017. Make a goal of having an album with one picture a day. The goal would be to get 365 pictures for the year not necessarily take a picture each day.
- Work to create a photography album to give to friends and family next Christmas.
In 2016, I didn’t travel at all as I wanted to build up a slight buffer in my annual leave. Now that I have this buffer, I want to make travel a priority this year. I want to take a few big trips, where I define a big trip as 4 or more days away from home. Otherwise, I may try to make a number of small trips where I try to make the most of some normal or extended weekends.
Unlike previous years, I’m going to drop my class resolution. I’m not dropping it just because I didn’t do any in 2016. I’m dropping the resolution because I’m pleased with both the mental challenge of my work and the variety of my projects that I feel I am pushing myself mentally just through work alone. However, I would like to continue pushing myself outside of work and one of the biggest areas I want to concentrate on is reading.
For this year, I would like to read a total of 30 books. I’ve read about 25 books in 2016 despite having a goal of 52. For next year, I would like to read a little more than I did this year although I’m backing off the 52 book goal simply because I want to balance the amount of time reading versus time for other productive activities (photography, photoshop, travel, exercise, cooking, etc).