Scarlett’s Letter 1/21/2013

I’m a creature of habit. I have good habits and bad habits. I have been making an effort to evolve deliberately into the person I’d like to be by replacing bad habits with good habits over the course of the past few years. In the process, I have become a more focused, thoughtful, discerning, compassionate, thin, healthy, happy person. 

My job requires a great deal of domestic travel, especially during the last half of each year. During the first half of each year, I have the opportunity to work from home, training clients online and working on projects. There is still some travel, but it is not nearly as frequent as later in the year. The pattern is thus; I focus on reinforcing my good habits and working diligently on my evolution during the first half of the year, and try like hell to keep it all together during the hectic, last half of the year. So far this year, with a very busy beginning of the year, college kids home from afar, a visit from my significant other, some work-related travel, I have not even begun to reinforce those good habits that got sidelined during “busy season” last year. I feel like the slippery slope into bad habits that started with busy season late last year has no end! 

I am still carting around ten pounds that snuck on as a result of having to eat in restaurants while traveling, and not having the time/facilities to work out the five or six days a week I like to. My attitude is still in “cynical mode” from the rigors of frequent air travel. I’m drinking more than I like to (two a night rather than one). And most importantly, I have not been starting my day with my reflections; meditation, affirmations, gratitude, what’s important now, etc. I “normally” meditate for a while in the morning, then write, with a pen and paper, in a journal, my daily affirmations, the things I am grateful for and what is important at this very moment. This practice keeps me focused, balanced and in touch with my purpose and my goals. The combination of healthy eating and regular exercise, including cardio, core strength, endurance and flexibility (yoga), with my routine of meditation and writing in my journal, make me a happy, well-balanced, focused person, capable of easily dealing with the daily ups and downs life throws at me, able to ward off stress and anxiety, able to sleep restfully, able to focus on the now rather than on the dwelling on the past and stressing about the future. 

Right now, I am so out of balance, every little thing throws me into a state of overreaction, anxiety and stress. I have no energy, my skin is dull and blemished and my size six jeans are feeling a bit snug. I even had a nightmare last night that I could barely peel my jeans off they were so tight! I don’t sleep as soundly as usual and I am in a constant state of emotional flux. I am restless and not unhappy, but certainly not as happy as I usually am. 

My bad habits are beginning to outweigh the good habits I so carefully developed. I’m in a vicious cycle; I have no energy because I haven’t been working out regularly, so I’m “too tired” to work out. I’m not working out so I’m not sleeping well, which makes me too tired to work out. I’m not working out so I’m not getting enough endorphins, I feel like boo boo, and so I overeat to try to make myself feel better. My self-esteem is diminishing because I look and feel icky and because I’m not getting my daily dose of endorphins, which makes me feel worse, so I overeat and drink an extra adult beverage to compensate. Ugh. You can see how quickly this can spin out of control.

It takes approximately twenty one days to create a habit, good or bad. So, to get back into my desired routine, I need to “force” myself to work out and eat right for twenty one days. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again, but the key here is to never fall out of a routine, to never fall out of a good habit and into a bad one. And never, ever, ever fall into several interdependent bad habits. 

And when, exactly, can I reset my twenty one day habit clock? I traveled to Idaho last week, I’m home for a week, then I’m in New York City for a week. So, mid-February?

The bigger question here, I think, is whether my lifestyle is conducive to my overall life goals of being fit, healthy and happy? This is a really big, scary question, especially as it pertains to my career. Careers can’t be easily or quickly changed. I like what I do, I don’t like what it does to me. 

My job is exciting; I travel all over the U.S., meet new people, see new cities, see some of the same amazing cities over and over again. I get to eat at nice restaurants all the time. I don’t work in the same cubicle, in the same office with the same people every day. When I don’t travel, I work from home, if I’m teaching, or from anywhere, if I’m not. I sometimes work at the coffee shop, or from a restaurant, or from a friend or family members’ house. I have all kinds of flexibility. 

But with all that excitement and flexibility comes the difficulty with maintaining consistent eating and exercising habits. Time zone travel adds another tiresome factor. I have made an effort to work out while traveling with limited success, but availability of appropriate hotel fitness facilities, or a hotel room large enough for leaping about and making considerable noise, or the proximity of a gym to which I have a membership or can obtain a trial membership all complicate things. I spend more than eight hours with my clients when onsite, add to that the travel time to and from the client location and the hotel, time required to dine out (or cook in, if available), plus the time required to follow up on emails and phone calls received from other clients during the course of the day. When I am onsite, I am usually working 10 – 12 hours each day, not counting travel and dining. Travel days are usually long and begin with an alarm set at 2:30 or 3:00 AM, depending on the destination and the flight. This all sounds like justification for not working out on the road, but I challenge you to maintain a regular fitness schedule with this kind of work schedule. Let me know how it goes.

For now, I guess I’d better make good use of what time I do have for healthful habits. I am going to write in my journal, then head to the gym, eat a good dinner, go to bed, and repeat tomorrow. The true lesson here, for all of us, is that every day we practice our good habits is a step in the right direction, whether we have twenty one consecutive days to “reset out habit clock”, or not. Just writing off a whole month because it doesn’t look like time is on our side is where we really set ourselves up for failure and enduring misery. Do what you can, when you can and you will make progress, it may be slower than we’d like, but slow progress is way better than regression. When motivated, the mind can overcome almost anything. Mind over matter means I don’t get fatter.

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