Admittedly, the third week in January is a bit late to post my New Year’s Resolution, but better late than never.

Last year, I had a focus on growth with a community slant to it. I donated blood, contributed to an open source project and tried to add to myself.

This year, my central goal is to “diet”: physically, spiritually, and digitally. There is a common conception of a diet as a restriction and reduction of intake, foregoing the things we believe are enjoyable. It leaves the idea of a diet as a bleak and joyless process that ultimately will end and we may return to our old habits of eating cake or whatever vice we enjoy.

My goal is to diet in the holistic sense of the word: to not just reduce/stop consuming things deemed unhealthy, but to replace them with things that nourish me. Furthermore, while also physical, I aim to undergo a digital diet as well. The two overlap on the concept of a “dopamine diet”, a restriction of excess neurochemical stimulation.

The Physical Diet

This one is somewhat straightforward: I currently weigh ~82kgs and I would like that to be under 76kgs. This would shift my BMI from overweight to normal weight. However, while achieving this, I would like to make it a sustainable thing and that requires a lifestyle change including diet and exercise.

My favourite sports are surfing, running, and rock climbing. However, due to the lockdown restrictions and an injury, I am unable to surf or run, which leaves only climbing. To balance this, I will be adding yoga as a regular fixture of my routine. The first two weeks of this year, I did yoga almost every day, and I could definitely feel the benefit it had on not only my physical well-being, but also helped reduce my stress levels.

The body and the mind are connected. Therefore, an important part of the physical diet is a practise of managing the psychosomatic response to stress. Through meditation, yoga, and other mentally restorative practices I hope to reduce my stress levels. Studies suggest that stress enhances the craving and increases risk of relapse in alcoholics.

As for nutrition, I am cutting out all snack and junk foods. The rule is, if it comes in a sweet packet, or from a fast food restaurant: it is not allowed. Regular restaurants are a grey area, and so the general rule of thumb is to take the healthier of the menu options. This is not an absolute rule so that I can hopefully avoid a self-defeating guilt/binge cycle. The focus is on rewarding positive change and not punishing failure.

The Digital Diet

The other aspect I would like to tackle is my consumption of digital media. Whether it be videos, games, social media, or news, I would like to reduce the amount of digital content I consume. These things are designed to be rewarding, and some even highly optimised to promote their use/consumption.

The easiest example for me is video games. By design, they reward the player for completing certain tasks in the game. Furthermore, it is easy to feel a sense of mastery, accomplishment, or progress especially in games such as Factorio. For video games, this is an overt part of the design, but for other things such as social media it is more difficult to spot.

These systems are designed to be rewarding, to stimulate the release of dopamine which is linked to our reward centers. The idea is to hijack the reward stimulus and “farm” a user for dopamine, increasing engagement. The problems I have with this is that: a) it can easily become addictive, and b) overstimulation of the brain can make other tasks feel less rewarding.

What I realised during lockdown last year, and what I hope to achieve this year is that I enjoy tackling problems. I thrive when struggling against really difficult challenges and finding a creative solution for it. Unfortunately, if my reward centers are already overstimulated, I find it difficult to sink my teeth into a problem.

Therfore, the digital/dopamine diet. Replacing the easy “mental junk food” activities with more difficult, but more rewarding activities.

I hope to replace my current diet of digital entertainment with writing, reading, meditation, chess, and creative activities such as drawing or programming.

The Resolution

All of the above has been very theoretical and wishy washy. The concrete resolution is as follows (and as always follows the SMART principle):

  1. I would like to lose 6kgs before July 2021 and maintain it until 31 December 2021.
  2. I would like to reduce my digital consumption to 1 movie or 2 tv episodes and no more than 1 hour of video games per week by July 2021.
  3. I would like to stop consuming any social media and limit the time spent surfing the internet to 30 minutes per day by the end of the year (31 December 2021). internet

I will be keeping track of these privately throughout the year and will report back further.