Sunday, April 15, 2012

How to Change

I struggle with my lifestyle changes, sticking to them.  I love the shoes, would never go back to the old ones, but I slack off on the exercise, I cheat on the diet.

For my birthday I whipped up some apple crumble a little too quickly.  In my attempt to use less flour, I used way too much sugar, and once added to the cookies my co-worker brought, I was in sugar shock most of the day.  At the end of the day was my birthday feast at a Chinese restaurant, which included a bit too much sweet and sour to appeal to my less adventurous friends.  The next day I was hungry all day long, eating a snack every couple hours like in the old days.  I think I'm mostly re-balanced now, but it was a reminder of how important it is to stick with the changes and not backslide.

A couple articles of interest in this area have come up lately.  The first is How Exercise Can Prime the Brain for Addiction.  In the related study, mice were given exercise wheels then exposed to addictive substances and withdrawal.  The mice introduced to exercise just prior to the addictive substance learned really well about the addictive substance and had a hard time quitting later.  Those first given exercise wheels during the withdrawal period learned very quickly that the addictive behavior was no longer profitable and got over it the fastest of all groups.  The the mice also had brain scans showing increased brain cell growth when exercising, explaining why they learned more quickly after beginning to exercise.

The second article sounds a bit more ominous: Change or Die.  But the point of the article is not to fear what will happen if you don't change, but look for positive benefits if you do.  Nine in ten heart surgery patients don't make the lifestyle changes their doctors suggest, and most suffer from the exact same problems again after surgery.  Find support in your change, make drastic changes that will have bigger effects on your life rather than small ones, and re-frame your options in a positive light.

I'm not sure what this means for me today.  I'm crazy busy with work right now, and have little excess energy for more radical changes or joining any support groups.  I am making my changes in light of better function and happiness rather than out of fear of diseases that killed my mother despite her healthy* life choices.

* what is healthy was not agreed upon between Mother and I.

It does give me some hope though about becoming a farmer.  My biggest fear is that I won't be able to hack it.  I'll buy the farm, and let it grow up with weeds, and spend my free time in the farmhouse in front of my computer just like I do in my city house.  But how much more radical, more exercise, and more immediate benefits can I package into one change?  It can be done, I just have to have to finish saving up my down-payment, get a little more time in my schedule, and push that ball up the crest of the hill before I can see if it really will roll down the other side.