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It’s that Time Again

Reflecting on New Year’s resolutions

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Ben Portnoy

WHAT TO RESOLVE Ben Portnoy considers eating more prunes in the new year. (Photo: Caroline Siegfried)

Here we are again. It’s New Year’s time, and many of us consider our New Year’s resolutions. I think back to when I was 14. I was chubby then, and on New Year’s Eve I resolved to not eat candy or cake or ice cream or pies for the next year. I kept my pledge, and I lost weight. When the next New Year's rolled around, my pledge of no sweets was over, and boy did I have a good time.

I’m not sure why we think it is important to make resolutions starting on January 1, but I guess there is some logic in starting with a new year. Still, I like to think that we humans are more creative than that. Why not make resolutions on Groundhog Day? Of course, there are lots of other starting dates you might choose – Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) or Labor Day or Lincoln’s Birthday (now largely forgotten and replaced by Presidents’ Day).

OK, let’s just stick with January 1. We make resolutions, but a study from Ohio State University released in February 2023 reports that these resolutions rarely last long. It reports that only 9 percent of resolutions are kept, and that seems like a high number to me. The same study claims that 23 percent of resolutions are broken by the first week and 43 percent by the end of January. This is not encouraging. 

And what do we resolve to do anyway? Google “New Year’s Resolutions” and a composite list of popular resolutions will include: lose weight, eat a healthy diet, save money, stop smoking, drink less alcohol, exercise more, and organize something. Oh please, no wonder we don’t keep these resolutions for very long. They are boring. They lack a spark that might last for a year or longer, much less for a month.

While Googling, I found a list of unusual suggestions for New Year’s resolutions. The list started with “Cook something new each week.” I liked that one, but what if you stick with new cookie recipes? That wouldn’t fit with “Lose weight” very well, should that be a secondary goal of yours. On the same list was “Learn to love vegetables.” I have always admired cauliflower, but I don’t think I could love a cauliflower. Another suggested resolution was “Make time for cuddling.” That’s not bad. It’s an easy one to keep, but what if you do not own a cat or dog? The end of the list added “Make your bed every morning.” OK, I guess that would not be hard to keep, but what if you already make your bed every morning or your significant other makes your bed every morning or you work nights, so you have to make your bed every afternoon? Oh well, surely there is more to New Year’s resolutions.

In the interest of keeping New Year’s resolutions, I believe that the resolution should reflect an innovative spirit in the resolver. What about resolving to eat more prunes? That is a simple resolution and an easy one to keep. The California Prune Board would applaud your choice for 2024, and that same association claims that you would benefit greatly. They say that three prunes a day will lower your blood pressure and twice that number will lower it even more. The same dose of daily prunes reduces the level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, too. Of course, this choice of resolutions attacks other health issues which we need not delve into at this point.

Another approach to New Year’s resolutions might be to turn the entire concept on its head. Why not resolve to do things that you really secretly want to do? Maybe you should resolve to quit exercising as it makes you all sweaty and achy? Besides, you haven’t lost any weight doing all that treadmill running and stretching. And those sessions of yoga in your tight Lululemon pants are kind of embarrassing. Or you could resolve to eat some chocolate every day. If you work from home and wear a nice shirt over your pajama bottoms, why not simply appear on Zoom in a robe for the next year. That would surely be more fun than trying to lose weight. 

I myself am puzzled about the entire question of New Year’s resolutions. It troubles me that I have not come up with something innovative and appealing to resolve this year. Surely there is some deleterious habit or salubrious goal I might address in a 2024 resolution, but I have to admit that such a goal has not come to my mind. 

I think I have the answer to this problem of New Year’s resolutions, and perhaps my solution will work for you, too. I hereby resolve that, starting on January 1, 2024, I will not make any New Year’s resolution at all. I bet I can keep that one for a whole year.

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