Every Day is a New Opportunity

[avatar user=”doller” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”http://www.acppps.org/who-we-are/denisse-oller”]By: Denisse Oller[/avatar]Maria’s move to Florida was my (pathetic) excuse. She was my personal trainer for more than a year and we became besties. In July, she left New York to settle in Miami, I thought, “how could she do this to me?”. Gone were our fun, albeit grueling, workouts. Compound my disappointment with the summer heat, lots of work, travel, studies, weekend BBQs, and after-work get-togethers, and it was the perfect recipe for disaster.

I started to let myself go. My disciplined exercise routine became a summer of freedom and socializing, and the pounds were creeping on.  One morning I looked at myself in the mirror and I did not like what I saw. “No way, Jose” was I throwing away all the progress I had made in more than a year of training and eating healthily. I had to fight my inner sloth. Easier said than done once we slide down the slippery slope.

After all, we are creatures of habit, and old habits are hard to break. Our brain is so complicated! How else to explain our impulse – that urge to eat crispy French fries and a juicy double cheeseburger when we visit a McDonald’s, or to gobble down the freshly baked goods my colleagues often bring to work – despite knowing it goes against our own self-interest? Our brain is activated by these temptations because they signal reward. And we crave reward and comfort. But, stop!

I had to get back on track. Luckily, I had the tools to make it happen. No guilt trips this time around. I know the brain can be retrained. I had to change my environment, my routine, and repeat, repeat, repeat, to let the new cues do the work.

So, I made a list of the things that had to change. I needed an exercise regimen. I had to go back to my healthy eating habits – no more cocktails and unhealthy appetizers! I had to resume my meditation routine, which is so invaluable to lowering stress.

To keep it interesting, I signed up for tango lessons three times a week! It’s great fun, a great workout, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Talk about motivation, I look forward to each class. I have a new trainer who has me in a cardio-weight training routine at least twice a week plus I take a walk each morning before I savor my breakfast and morning coffee. I am planning my meals again, including packing healthy snacks for work. I also time for friends and family; it is not all about work, work, work. Of course, I am meditating again. Yes, all of this calls for discipline and structure, and it is hard work. It also demonstrates self-love and self-respect.

So I don’t forget, I put sticky notes on my refrigerator, on my mirrors, and on my door to remind myself where I want to be and the things I need to do to get there.

Old habits are hard to break, but every day is a new opportunity for a new beginning. I got back on the saddle. Feeling good about myself is the best reward, remembered long after that brownie is gone.