You can’t have your cake and burn it too

Today’s morning P90X workout was the full body equivalent of an ugly cry. Yesterday was a day of excess, more specifically daughter’s fifth birthday. One of my jobs as a parent is to orchestrate celebrations and participate in them. I do not want to be the person to turn down cake and ice cream. When one person refuses to ingest forkfuls of frosting, it diminishes the joy of others’ gluttony by reminding them that frosting is an unhealthy addictive substance made with animal fat and cups of powdered sugar. Quit ruining the party with your health nut rhetoric and practices!

Now, I am no stranger to the joys of junk food. However, I have been making more healthy choices since I began my own version of the Beachbody challenge. My chocolate chips have been replaced with cocoa nibs. I have replaced one of my cups of coffee with green tea. What is of endless fascination to me is how quickly the body adjusts to a new dietary reality. Yesterday’s cake tasted like heaven on the tongue, as the dissolving sugar sent a glowing beacon of bliss to my brain. Later though, as the cake and restaurant fare churned in my stomach, it was all I could do not to vomit. Apparently, I can now get food hangovers.

Today the party continues at my mother’s house. There were be more cake, ice cream, and plenty of Easter treats. Do I say no and experience the negative backlash? Why is there so much social pressure to ingest items that are bad for us?

The Ripple Effects of a New Habit

The hardest part of any 30-day challenge is when the shiny newness fades, but it has yet to become an ingrained habit. This morning, I stood stiff and achy before Tony Horton, who led me through a gruesome regimen called “The Warrior.” Through the elevator push ups, leaping squats, and v-shaped Pilates formations, I was reminded how weak I am. As I panted through my 30-second break, pulling deep drinks from my water bottle, the journey ahead of me seemed overwhelming.

Even after the gratifying moment of completion, as I enjoyed the warm glow of endorphin release, I wondered if I could really commit to these gruesome morning workouts long term. Then I looked into the other room and saw my children doing their own workout video they found on the iPad. And I remembered everything I read in my research about the contagious nature of moods, diets, and habits. Rarely have I felt like I accomplished so much before 8 a.m.

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My workouts have had additional ripple effects. Most notably, I am more aware of the type of food I put into my body. I crave clean, healthy foods. It seems almost criminal to ingest fast food after a sweat-inducing workout. Honestly, I need every advantage to make it through a full 30-minute P90x video.

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Physically-Induced Relaxation

The greatest proof in my life of the mind/body connection occurs whenever I have a break from work. As always, when I anticipate a block of free time on the horizon, I begin making a list of aspirations: work on my novel, exercise daily, revamp all my course plans, design jewelry, finish a painting, socialize more, clean and organize the house, read twelve books, watch movies, discover a new TV series, enter an Instagram contest, etc., etc. Inevitably, the first day of my vacation I wake up sick. This time it was with a sore throat and fever, not sick enough to annihilate my day, but sick enough to slow down my motivation train and face the stark reality that I am a human. Somewhere inside me is an internal regulator that actually knows what’s best for me. Like a doctor who orders a medically-induced coma, this regulator forces me to rest.

There is actually a term for this: “leisure sickness,” coined by a psychologist in the Netherlands. Apparently, when our work pressures us with deadlines and must-attend meetings, our immune systems ramps up. When those external pressures are removed, the immune system relaxes, letting those latent germs play out. My job is to rest and repair.  This is just one of my many #firstworldproblems.