Making Change: Four goals, three months.

New year! New you!

Get thinner, younger looking, stronger, stress free, more fit, organized, financially secure, happy at home, happy at work, happy happy everywhere!

(Collective sigh.)

Resolutions and goals are good, because static living really is boring and bettering ourselves really does make life more enjoyable. But it’s tough.

So we’re going to do it with you.

For the next three months, four Daily Sentinel writers will share stories related to the life changes they are working toward in 2014 in the areas of diet, exercise, finances and stress.

Each week we will blog at Look for “Making Change” under the blogs menu tab, where you are welcome to share your own goals and tips. In April, we’ll wrap things up with another story in Trending.

Stress: Do one less thing

By Ann Wright


When Rachel Sauer suggested that for the next three months I do one less thing each day, I laughed.

Because I’m not sure I can do it.

Because I should do it.

Because Rachel is the one who gave me seven different kinds of jam for Christmas. That she canned. Herself.

But she was right. If I could cut one thing off my to-do list each day and get to bed at the time I like to say is my bedtime, or sit and relax and knit or read, it would be better for my well-being. (My husband and kids might like living with a slightly less-stressed me, too.)

I’m not exactly sure how I will do this. I’m not working from a book and with some things (dirty dishes!), not doing them one day results in a surefire relaxation buster (crusty dirty dishes!) the next day.

However, my to-do list needs to check in with reality and how that happens is what I’ll share with all who care to read about this experience.

After getting Rachel’s assignment last week, I decided to try incorporating it on an experimental basis.

On Saturday, I did half the laundry instead of all of it and I didn’t make dinner. OK, so we were invited to the home of some friends for dinner.

I can’t remember what I cut out on Sunday. My day got a little sidetracked when my preschooler managed to break a bottle of red wine all over everywhere. After cleaning up that mess I went for a run.

On Monday, I made chocolate chip cookies, but not the double batch I’d planned. I also didn’t fold a load of towels. They’re still in the dryer.

On Tuesday, the towels remained untouched. I did yoga instead. (As I write this, I can hear those towels howling in the dryer.)

Repeat to myself: Just Don’t Do It.

Finances: Not buying anything new

By Rachel Sauer


Normally, I’m a very sound sleeper. I get all tucked in, read for a while and then, essentially, die for the night.

Sometimes, though — not very often, but sometimes — my eyes pop open at 2 a.m. and I’m not fast enough falling back to sleep to stop my mind from revving up. So, since there’s no way I’m getting out of bed, I lie there and think.

How big is the universe? Should I try biotin to make my hair thicker? How would I respond to a mysterious pandemic? What are my thoughts on Atlantis? Did I eat all the yogurt? Should I move to Tajikistan? What, exactly, is the nature of need versus want?

I’ve pondered that one a lot. In my bed-bound musings, I’ve considered want as the more profound of the two — I can’t choose what I need, but I can choose what I want, and choice is the simplest and strongest control I have in this life.

And what do I want? Well, sometimes, and again in bed, it’s to lie with my iPad propped on my stomach, buying songs on iTunes. I’ll find a song I love and then iTunes will thoughtfully recommend others like it. So helpful!

Other times, I want to make something. But not with the supplies I already have. No no. Those are boring and useless. I want to get new supplies for an all-new project.

Then there are times when I just want a pair of pants that’s long enough. I have pants, of course, but do you know how rare a 36-inch inseam is? I want to buy all of them when I find them.

The irony in all this is that I consider myself good with money. I save for retirement, I don’t have credit card debt, I loathe shopping, I don’t buy expensive things willy-nilly. But in the nickel-and-dime spending, I’m much too generous in convincing myself that I need something rather than want it. I swipe my Discover card a little too easily and thoughtlessly.

So, for the next three months I won’t spend money. Of course I’ll buy groceries, I’ll buy contact solution, I’ll buy birthday gifts for my parents, but I won’t buy things I don’t need — the initially shiny things that I want and that seem to end up as flotsam and jetsam in my mud room, a spiritual and psychic burden of stuff.

So much stuff. Too much stuff.

I won’t spend money, and it might be hard or it might be easy. I can’t say yet. I don’t think I spend all that much, but maybe I do? We’ll see. All I know is, I hope for a clearer idea of my needs and my wants, and I’m guessing my needs are blissfully few: a good night’s sleep, for starters, and a map to Atlantis.

Exercise: Hitting the weight room

By Melinda Mawdsley

The weight room is intimidating. It’s full of strong people who know how to use the equipment and will judge me because I do not.

This was one excuse I used to avoid the weight room.

The other? I’m a woman and don’t want to bulk up like a 1976 East German swimmer.

But it turns out, however, that aging and the slower metabolism that comes with it are real things. Plus, I hate that my upper arms jiggle when I wave.

I need a consistent strength-training program to build muscle and strengthen my bones as I get older.

I need to get past my excuses.

Fortunately, my husband and I have a close friend plugged into the world of fitness, diet and overall health. He was starting a strength-training program detailed in Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little’s book “Body by Science” that cites two studies showing that short, intense exercise could be highly effective for overall fitness. Our friend suggested we give it a try.

We read the book and started strength training last fall. Our once-a-week strength-training workouts lasts a little more than seven minutes per person, not counting the time spent loading and unloading plates on the equipment.

My husband and I have five exercises — chest press, overhead press, seated row, pull down and leg press — where we slowly lift the weight — 6–10 seconds up and the same down — until fatigue, the point where we can’t lift anymore.

The goal is to lift 90–120 seconds before fatigue, while making an effort to hold the weight for five seconds in the fatigue position before bailing.

We don’t break between rotations, so the heart really gets going.

The six days of rest between workouts is essential because this is when the muscle growth and bone density increases happen after the intense workout, the book says. In the days between lifting, I go on occasional walks or hikes.

Since starting this exercise regimen, I’ve increased the weight I’m lifting and I’ve lost several pounds based on how my jeans fit after being in the dryer.

During the next three months I want to continue those increases and weight loss. I really do want my upper arms to stop jiggling.

Granted, I got an early start on this project, and in that time I’ve tried different weight-lifting machines and found the equipment that fits me best. (For more details on how our lifting regimen works, check out our “Making Change” blog at

I also learned something about the weight room. No one stared at me or seemingly cared. The weight room is full of mirrors. The others were looking at themselves.

Diet: Switching to gluten free

By Emily Shockley


My brother was diagnosed with celiac disease about four years ago. His physician told him siblings have a higher chance of sharing the diagnosis than parents or children — about a 50/50 chance.

That bit of news prompted my other brother and me to get a blood test to see if we had celiac, too. It came back negative for both of us.

So I’m in the clear for celiac. But, like plenty of other people, the protein composite found in many products made with wheat, barley and rye that is known as gluten doesn’t always sit well with me.

I haven’t gone through the hell my brother endured, it’s just that sometimes digesting a sandwich or a couple beers can feel like more of a chore than it should. I’ll spare added details for those eating breakfast.

The blood test for celiac doesn’t detect gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy, which is a scant possibility. Maybe other foods simply make my intestines happier. Maybe it’s dairy or soy or something else that doesn’t work for me. I’m not a doctor and I’m not a nutritionist, so I can’t provide the answers.

So I won’t say there’s a life-changing reason for why I decided to try a gluten-free diet for three months. It’s certainly not about making a statement or trying to influence others. (It’s only through the power of the features section that I’m writing this. People who proudly and loudly advertise their gluten-free status and think it’s the answer for everyone make my eyes roll involuntarily).

I just want to try it, to see if it makes me feel good. It also will give me a temporary insight into what my brother and my cousin’s son, recently diagnosed with celiac, go through on a daily basis.



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