You may be wondering, as I am about a week into this, if trying the big three – booze, exercise and diet – all at once is too much. The answer, I hope, is synergy. The thing is, there’s a synergy to doing all three that I couldn’t get away from when I was thinking about starting this.
A synergy of exercise, diet and boozelessness
I don’t especially like exercise. I don’t hate it all the time, but I never love-love-love it.
So if I exercise, it means something to me. When I invest that energy and time in something I don’t love, I don’t want to blow it. Exercise makes food mean more to me.
Which means that exercising makes the diet part easier. I don’t want to blow all the exercise by just eating something stupid.
And I know that booze makes me stupid about the diet as well, and I don’t want to drink and blow the diet part.
In summary: the synergy is exercise encourages me to eat right, and eating right encourages me to not drink, because I know when I drink I don’t eat right.
It kind of makes a pyramid; exercise is the base, and everything else is on top of it. It all stacks. Synergy!
Speaking of which, I didn’t exercise first thing this morning, which is a recipe for failure… I’m going to go on a mega-walk today, which is the exercise for the day, but I need to be mindful not to let that creep into a bad diet habit.
Anyway, thinking this through, I feel better about taking on what I’m doing right now. Take a step back, look for synergy and see how all the different avenues of improvement ladder into a greater whole. It may relieve some of the mental burden you could be grappling with.
At this moment, I am enjoying the heck out of a cup of coffee. Well, not at this exact moment, I’m typing, and the coffee would be everywhere. But before and after typing this, and between sentences, I’m really focusing on the small pleasures of a good cup of coffee.
Denial sucks. And living well almost always starts with denial framing; you can say “I’m going to eat healthier,” but your inner voice is really saying “I’m going to stop eating the junk I enjoy.” You can say “I’m going to take charge of my drinking,” but there’s going to be a tiny critic that says “I’m going to stop enjoying a drink.”
Today, I’m focusing on small pleasures.
I can’t compensate directly for the gluttonous joy of too much pizza or a bag of chips, but I can lean into other things that are actually, really, quite nice. I’m drinking coffee grown in Peru and fresh-ground in my own kitchen, made in an Italian invention and served in a mug that I’ve owned since I was 12 years old. These are all pretty amazing things. In aggregate, it’s a goddamned miracle, and an experience that is unique to me alone, in this time, in this place.
That’s pretty cool.
I don’t think denial is an avoidable part of this process; I know there’s a lot of good ideas about positive thinking and framing, but it’s a bit ludicrous to think that we can’t acknowledge denial.
I’m hoping to kind of move the denial, though, and give my brain things to focus on and enjoy that make me feel less deprived — small pleasures, like a morning cup of coffee, that I may have started to take for granted over the past few years.
I’m leaning into a cup of coffee this morning. It’s delicious.
So yesterday, I was planning to keep trying to enforce daily “check-outs” — the big sister to the essential morning check-in. Yesterday evening, I came up with a few ideas to structure my check-out and try to make it easier for me to incorporate it into a daily routine:
Yesterday was about checking in; today’s about checking out.
Why’s it so hard for me? Like all good habits, I suppose it’s something that you have to build up and then enforce, but while a check-in is easy for me (even when I’m not doing this kind of thing), forcing myself to just sit down for two minutes in the evening and checking out is hella difficult. Which is weird to me. You’d think the morning would be the time when I’d find it most tricky to carve out some time, and the evening wind-down would be easiest for this sort of thing.
But it’s the opposite. I get in a kind of turn-the-lights-off, turn-the-heat-down, brush-teeth-and-bed channel and it’s very hard to divert myself into anything even slightly reflective like checking out. “I’ll do it when I’m lying down!” the stupid inner voice says, but we all know that inner voice is a complete idiot.
But I did it! And by golly I’m going to do it again tonight. Checking out! Part of my daily routine. Well, it will be.
Thoughts on succeeding at checking out:
Setting a specific time every night.
Tying checking out to a particular regular part of my routine: brushing teeth or getting changed for bed.
Having a timer or other way of knowing this is a finite task with a (short) end point.
Having a ‘cheat sheet’ of questions I can ask myself and answer while checking out:
What was the easiest part of keeping promises to myself today?
What was the hardest?
Can I foresee anything that will cause problems tomorrow — things like office lunches, after-work meetings, social engagements?
Do I have a strategy to manage those potential hazards?
Take it easy on myself: it’s not about having a perfect day, but knowing what went well and what went badly.
Checking in’s been easy for me in the past, and I find check-ins (like the daily check-in at Stop Drinking on Reddit) to be a really powerful tool for me. Doing this podcast will — hopefully — be a daily necessity that forces a check-in, and really drives me to make it an anchor to my day.
It is, in essence, a lot harder to screw up once you’ve made some sort of promise to yourself and others that you won’t. Even if it’s a quiet, personal promise.
But checking out? Whole different thing. And I’m wondering if part of my adherence problem in the past has been that I haven’t taken checking out very seriously. Part of it is I’m just flat-out tired by the time I’m wrapping up for the day… distracted, trying to do a bunch of stuff before I hit the sack, and trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour as well.
But I’m going to try checking out this week; in fact, checking in and out might be kind of the theme of this week. We’ll see how it goes.
I’m excited. Are you excited? I hope so, because I sure am. I’ve had… mixed results with lifestyle change in the past; what it often comes down to for me is a kind of medium-term malaise of “who cares?”.
Well, I care. That’s one. But if I put this out into the world, I’m at the very least showing other people that I care, rather than just hauling around a sheltered and secret form of caring.
And this forces an affirmation and commitment on a daily basis. I’m trying to engineer this entire project to happen — once set up — in less than 15 minutes a day, pillar to post. If I can pull that off, it means my morning routine will be up-exercise-podcast, and that’s a vital sequence for reasons I’ll get into down the line.
Again, I’m excited! Looking forward to seeing where this takes me… and hopefully us.