Raising the Bar: My 30 Day Challenge

This is our bar.

Isn’t it pretty?  All those lovely, shiny bottles all lined up in a row.

Problem is, my husband and I have been spending a lot of time here lately.  Ever since my father-in-law passed away, we’ve found ourselves indulging in comfort food and comfort beverages a little too often for my liking.

My family has a strong history of alcoholism.  My grandfather died of liver disease; my mom has had a lifetime of struggles of her own.  Sometimes I’ve even wondered if I have the addictive personality of an alcoholic.  (There, I said it.)  If so, I’d certainly be what you call a “functioning alcoholic,” but I’ve always had a little fear in the back of my mind that I’m genetically destined to have a problem controlling my limits.

It’s just that, usually when I have a drink, it leads to consuming more than what I intended.  Like I’m a college kid that drinks with the purpose of getting drunk (or really buzzed), rather than a mature adult that can enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner and that’s it.

Truth be told, the longest time I’ve gone without consuming alcohol since I was seventeen years old is about 4 weeks.  When I trained for my bikini competition, I imbibed right up until the end when my coach said, “no mas.”  So I’ve been drinking, on the regular, for 15 years.  Holy fuckin’ shit.

And today I’m dealing with a crushing bout of post-drinking depression.  I’m feeling really, really stupid and just generally bad about myself.  “Why?” you might ask. Well, it has to do with the fact that I acted like a college kid again last night.  We got together with some good friends and stayed up waaaay too late.  And I felt like a pile of dog poo this morning.  And all day.  That’s just great.

But because I’m trying not to get too down about it, I’ve decided to turn this into a blog-worthy learning experience. And confess my sins to the universe, because that’s how I roll 😉

Here is a really interesting post on accomplishing goals and keeping new good habits by implementing a “30-day trial.”  In other words, if you can spend 30 days doing something consistently, it is more likely to become a habit, and will be less daunting to accomplish than if you think it’s going to be something you have to continue doing that “something” every day for the rest of your life.  For instance, if you decide to start working out every day….forever….you might lose your motivation after a week and quit.  It just seems so hard!  However, if your goal has a defined start and end date, like 30 days, you are more likely to achieve your goal and keep your motivation up.

So, I’m ready for a little reset.  Well, a big reset.  30 days, no alcohol.  

I mentioned to my hubs that I wanted to lay off the booze for a while, and he kind of laughed.  And said, “that’s fine, but don’t be disappointed in yourself if you don’t achieve it.”  Which, my friends, officially makes this a challenge 😉

Here are a few things I think would be a benefit of my 30-day trial of no alcohol:

  • Better sleep (I sleep like crap when I drink!)
  • Wiser food choices
  • Losing some of my belly “fluff”
  • Better workouts
  • More energy
  • Higher productivity
  • Regaining a more normal level of alcohol tolerance (meaning, not being able to drink everyone under the table like I usually can)

And here is the downside:

  • Dang, I love a good glass of wine.

I’m already talking myself out of this.  We’re going camping in two weeks, and the entire point of the camping trip is to sit around and drink all weekend.  However, at that point, I’d be almost halfway through the 30 days already!  Can I do this?  I can do it.  And I will do it.  Day 1 is almost complete (LOL!).

And I wonder if this 30-day trial may lead to other 30-day trials in the future?   Could I journal, or workout, or meditate, or draw, or organize something every day for 30 days?  Who knows where this may lead?

And please let me know if you’d like to play along!  It doesn’t have to be the no alcohol challenge – but what is one thing you could do for 30 days to improve your life?  

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I was a smart girl with a bad habit

A couple of weeks ago I indulged in a mani / pedi at my local nail salon and picked up the February issue of Marie Claire to peruse while having my toes painted.

I came across an article that really left an impression on me – weeks later, I just keep thinking about how much I could relate to the story and how true I’ve found the points in the article to be.

The article is by Stephanie Young and is titled, Smart Girls, Bad Habits: Stop drunk-texting your ex, snacking late-night, and skipping the gym! New research into how the brain really works may help you get into a positive groove — once and for all.  I loved this article so much that I actually took pictures of it with my iPhone so I could remember what I read (LOL…they didn’t turn out so well), but fortunately I found the article here on the Marie Claire website if you’d like to read it in its entirety.

So – here’s the story:  a young woman is having problems managing her health, relationships, and financial situation.  She drinks too much, smokes like a chimney, and eats crappy food.

Much like the girl you see pictured here:

Yep, that’s me – around 2004 – 2005?  Ever-present cigarette in hand.

ALWAYS drinking.

Like whoa, skinny.

Always smiling…

But truthfully not that happy on the inside.

Why in the world would I want to show these pics of myself from so long ago, you ask?  Because I can hardly believe it’s me in those photos.   Because I have changed so much over the years that I feel sorry for that girl – and I’m not that girl anymore.  And because it all started with changing one bad habit.

OK – back to the article.  So, our protagonist decided to plan a trip to Egypt and knew she had to get in shape before such an active vacation.  Because of this plan, she started working out.  Then she started paying attention to what she ate and drank and quit smoking.  Over time, she started taking care of herself.  Next thing you know, girlfriend is running a marathon and is happily engaged to the man of her dreams!  Nice!

Again, this is where I can relate to the story.  You see, in the pictures above, I can see the unhappiness behind that empty smile.  I see a girl who is wasting away and not taking care of herself.  I see a girl who desperately needs to get her shit together.

I was living in a super small town, surrounded by some really great friends as well as some really bad influences.  I had no money, and any money I spent went to booze and cigarettes (and obviously not to groceries).  I basically could care less about anything, but knew that I wanted more for my life.  That’s when I was offered a job in Pennsylvania and took the plunge -I hauled all my crap up north of the Mason Dixon line and I started over in a new place.

Along with that move, I decided to change one bad habit:  smoking.  Now, this didn’t happen overnight.  But when I moved to PA, I decided that I was no longer going to take smoke breaks at work.  That’s it!  A small but manageable change…I really didn’t want to quit smoking, but I wanted to come across as more professional at my new job and thought that would help me appear so.

Then I met my future husband Trever (that’s a whole ‘nother story!).  I still smoked when we started dating, but for some reason, the more I hung around him,  the more I started to become interested in “health.”  Maybe it was because I was finally in a good, positive relationship?  I joined the local gym (but rarely went, HA!) and started reading Oxygen magazine.

And then about a year later, it hit me:  SMOKING SUCKS.  I mean, standing outside in the cold, freezing my little hiney off, and stinking to high heaven?  I was over it!  So I smoked my last cigarette, stubbed that bad boy out, and never looked back.

And that was the tipping point – changing one bad habit had a domino effect on my life!  I started to work out in earnest.  I started to EAT (novel idea).  I felt great!  My goals started to fall into place professionally, and I began to achieve successes in my career that I hadn’t dreamed possible.  My man and I grew closer to each other and eventually married.  My financial situation improved.  And now I’m happy, healthy, and full of energy:

BOO-ya!

So let’s face it:  I’m a work in progress.  But I truly believe that eliminating one bad habit was a catalyst for so many good things to happen in my life.

As our article explains:

 According to the latest studies, the brain clings to old routines — they’re  easy and conserve our decision-making neurons so we can save them for  problem-solving at work or figuring out what to wear in the morning. Habits become encoded — everything from brushing your teeth in the morning to buying a  new pair of shoes you don’t need to falling for the wrong guy over and over. We do them without thinking. “Without our habits, our brains would be overwhelmed  with details,” explains Duhigg. At best, habits are our brains’ way of  simplifying our lives and saving us stress and energy. At worst, they’re our  brains being lazy. But because habits are hardwired, the strategy is not to undo them. According to Duhigg, the trick is to replace a bad behavior with a better one.

So – question is:  what is one bad habit you can replace today with a good one?  What will you commit your energy to so that the positive domino effect can happen in your life?  Please share it with the world and make it happen today!!