Sunday, August 7, 2011

Opposite Day: Follow Seinfeld's lead for healthy lifestyle changes

The other day I suddenly realized that I was living in a Seinfeld episode. In "The Opposite", a waitress assumes that George will be ordering his usual lunch - tuna on toast with a cup of coffee. George's reply seems to come from a moment of spontaneous inspiration: "I always have tuna on toast. Nothing's ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted ... and a cup of tea." By the end of the episode, his character has undergone an amazing metamorphosis, simply by doing the complete opposite of every instinct he has.

There are a lot of days that I feel like George. In any given week, 80% of what I eat is the same as the week before. And I could definitely say "Nothing's ever worked out for me with a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast." If I'm always eating the same things, exercising the same way and making the same excuses  - how is my body supposed to change?

My "Opposite Day" began as I pulled into the parking lot of  my local warehouse club and accidentally drove to a section that I normally never use. That's right, I'm one of those crazy people who tend to park in approximately the same place. I always enter through the same doors and shop the aisles in the same order. It's borderline OCD.

Yet on this day, a quiet voice in the back of my head whispered "I wonder what it would feel like if I parked on the other side today?" It was an odd sensation, yet it somehow felt good to shake things up.  As I entered the store, I laughed to myself and thought, "Since I parked in the wrong spot,  I might as well go through the store in reverse order too."  As I made my way down the aisles, I realized that I actually felt more awake and aware. Typically I sleepwalk through the aisles, mindlessly grabbing the same items that I always buy, but on this "Opposite Day" I found myself consciously deciding to skip the snack aisles and try some new produce.

Later that same day I realized that I was starving and running late for my next appointment. Normally, this would have meant that I'd hit the drive thru for something that I could eat quickly and neatly in my car on the way to my next stop. But since I'd now remembered the infamous Seinfeld episode, I'd mentally declared today "Opposite Day." It took a bit of arguing with myself, but I eventually drove to a fresh salad place that I rarely go to. My excuses are usually that the parking lot is a pain to navigate, the menu is unfamiliar and I don't have enough time. But on Opposite Day,  as I sat and ate my salad, I was so happy and proud of myself. The food was delicious, I made it to my next appointment on time and I felt like a whole new world was opening up before me. The best part was that I felt happy instead of guilty and sluggish. 

That afternoon I had 20 minutes to spare before picking my kids up from school. Normally I would  have sat in the school parking lot reading a magazine. But since today was rolling on as an Opposite Day success story, I parked my car in an unfamiliar neighborhood and went for an impromptu walk instead. Instead of feeling stiff and lethargic, I felt energized.

For 40 years I've eaten the same things and exercised (or not) in the same way, made the same excuses and had the same lack of results. The Seinfeld line "If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right" truly hits home for me.  My Opposite Day started off quite by accident but, like George, by the end of the day I felt like a new person. As I find myself tempted by old, bad habits I try to remind myself of how good it felt to try something new. I hope you find inspiration in it too!