Near Yellow Mountain

Sunday, January 6, 2013


In the final days of 2012, my lovely bride asked me if I was making any New Year’s resolutions. My immediate reply was “no, how about you?”.  Although I have been on the planet more than half a century, I can only recall two times when I made New Year’s resolutions. In 1982, I actually wrote down my resolution/goal which was to run a marathon. By Thanksgiving of that year, I had run the 26.2 mile distance four times which I felt was a big accomplishment. On the other hand, I continued to view New Year’s resolutions as something that should be indulged in perhaps once every decade or two rather than on an annual basis.

As the clock approached midnight on 12/31, I pondered the reason for being asked the resolution question. My wife of 28 years is not given to asking questions without a reason or making idle statements. If she had decided to accomplish something or make a change in the coming year, it was important for me to know. There is potentially a “spillover effect” (on me, that is) like the time she decided to go “low carb” a few years ago while we were living in Shanghai.

Unaware of her decision - at first I thought that the Chinese government had made an overnight decision to ban and proactively confiscate carbohydrates. The Cheez-Its, that I stockpiled to keep at least one junk food link to the USA while living overseas, went missing. There were other signs of change, the green tea ice cream was another casualty but to counter balance, there was suddenly a generous inventory of beans, seeds and nuts in the house. Pondering the situation, I went for walk and saw a group of construction workers having a typical lunch of starchy rice and “mystery protein”. If there was a carbohydrate ban, clearly it was being unevenly enforced by the central government.  Later that day, I saw a paperback copy of the South Beach Diet on the kitchen counter. I asked about the book and my better half explained that she was a couple of days into “phase one”.  Linking the term “phase one” with the missing carbs didn’t paint a pretty mental picture of my at home dining future. I went to Google for some answers. Phase one sounded like a 14 day fast with a few calories mixed in to dull the pain. After a little more reading, for some yet unknown reason, I decided that “misery loves company”. I declared my second New Year’s resolution in a 24 year period. I was “all-in” for 3 months of the South Beach diet. Phase one sounded pretty bad – no carbs (at least no carbs that I wanted to eat), no alcohol, etc. but phase two seemed to allow enough flexibility to rationalize a reasonable meal and if I made it to phase three, I seemed home free.
The two weeks of phase one went by quickly. I intentionally didn’t travel so I was not confronted with pressure to eat stuff that wasn’t on the acceptable food list. I was several days into phase two before making a trip to Japan. Beer is still not allowed in phase two which presented a bit of an issue since almost every customer meal I have ever had in Japan started off with a beer and a ‘kanpai”. I thought I could finesse toasting and pretending to take a sip but I was not successful. “What is wrong, Lowry san?, you love beer”. “Kenko no tame ni (for my health)” was my reply. I explained the situation – that I was on a special diet for a few months “supporting my wife” who was on the same diet. I explained that I was allowed to have some wine but no beer, no Japanese French fries (the world’s best in my opinion) and no green tea ice cream.  They asked me how much weight I had lost. I said “5kg so far” and they responded “omedeto (congratulations) your diet should be over then, let’s drink beer”. I held my ground and explained that my diet would be over before my next trip. “But you are not so fat like most Americans and we know your wife is already skinny, what is the point?” Finally, the awkward “lost in translation” diet moment passed and I stayed the diet course with a large portion of edamame and sashimi.

By the time the three months was over I had lost 9kg (~20lbs) and weighed less than the day I graduated high school. I went 14 months between Cheez-Its and Pizza. Like the appearance of Haley's Comet, another more than year long fast from Cheez-Its and pizza is not likely to happen again in my life time.

Two successful New Year’s resolutions in 24 years. Perhaps skipping the annual resolution is a cop out but even if I count the years with no resolution as failures,  being 2 for 24 probably puts me at least at an average New Year’s resolution success rate.

If pressed for a 2013 resolution, I would have to say “maybe next year”.