Recycling gift bags is a tradition in my family. We’re talking down to the nametags.
Each year, after our loved ones pluck new treasures out of slightly rumpled sacks that may or may not still have torn tissue paper inside to disguise their contents, they are returned to the original gift givers to use again next year. This ensures the nametags will be accurate, and less scribbling will need to be done.
The hardest part is matching gifts with appropriately sized bags year after year. The phrase “trying to fit a square peg into a round hole” comes to mind, but if you want it badly enough, I’ve found you can make almost anything fit.
My brother has learned which bags are his (“This creepy-looking Santa looks familiar”), and I’m always proud of us for wasting very little paper.
This gloriously tacky tradition works for us. So, we keep doing it.
An example of a longstanding holiday tradition that we’ve abandoned, on the other hand, is the eating of a dish called spaghetti pie. (In the Midwest, absolutely anything can become a casserole.) In addition to Christmas cookies and dinner rolls, it was starch upon starch upon starch. The food comas set in so aggressively we couldn’t even make it through an entire viewing of A Christmas Story.
In recent years, I’ve managed to sell my parents on the benefits of a whole-foods diet, so we’ve punted the pasta in favor of meat and veg. Everyone is happier and healthier, and we can all make it to the part where Ralphie almost shoots his eye out.
So it goes with your fitness regimen. What you’ve always done may not work for you anymore, and tradition isn’t a good enough reason to keep doing it. Are you periodically examining what you’re doing in the gym and evaluating if it’s producing the results you want?
Try this quick exercise. On a notepad, draw three columns. In the first, write down the result you are trying to bring about (for example: fat loss). In the second, write down what activity or exercise you are doing to meet that goal (for example: 30 minutes of cardio a few times a week). In the third column, jot down a simple “yes”/”no” if you are getting the result you want. For every line that ends in a “no,” consider replacing your current activity with a different method that promises to bring about the desired result. Through this process, you’ll discard what doesn’t work and keep what does.
You have the power to abandon tradition when it no longer serves you. In doing so, you can make your life — and your body — look the way you want it to.