Photo by José Ignacio Pompé on Unsplash

It’s the weekend, and like clockwork my willpower drops and my ability to justify poorer habits peaks. I had a long stressful week at the office (not really), and I’ve earned some pizza… Plus some ice cream… Plus some poutine… Plus, since I’ve already eaten all that, whatever else I want until Monday rolls around again. You get the picture.

To help combat this endless cycle of binging and restricting from weekend to weekday, I’ve started to reframe some of my weekend activities and meals in an effort to appreciate healthier choices more.

Pizza is a favourite of mine. When I’m not careful, it starts appearing in my diet more frequently than it should. And Friday evenings, when energy can be zapped from the work week, a large pepperoni and cheese pizza from Danby’s Roadhouse is just so damn tempting.

So I’ve flipped it. There’s plenty of healthy meals I love. Maybe they don’t elicit quite the level of salivation as pizza, but they come pretty close.

Let’s take a steak dinner, for example. In order to enjoy the experience more, my wife and I would plan to visit our local butcher, Christoper, and pick up two delicious looking ribeyes. We might also pop over to the grocery store to grab some fresh greens, and if we want more of a treat, perhaps some sweet potato fries for the side. When we get home, we immediately turn on some fun music, start the barbecue, and pour ourselves a drink. Personally I don’t stray far from a typical lager, but my wife will try and make slightly better alcoholic choices, perhaps a glass of red, or even just some white wine cut with carbonated water (a spritzer of sorts). When we package our Friday evening like this, it’s actually something we start getting excited about in the day’s leading up to it. Perfect!

Default thinking: Take out pizza is delicious, easy, and satisfying.

Reframed thinking: Eating out is more expensive than cooking at home. And at home we can dance to our favourite tunes while we prepare our steaks and salad. Moreover, we get to enjoy quality nutrition that will benefit our body, and we won’t feel bloated and regretful following the meal.

Now I’m not saying this meal is the healthiest choice we could make. Far from it. If it were, at the very least alcohol would be excluded. No, the idea is to create an experience that we look forward to, and that includes reasonably healthy choices that we won’t regret. This particular steak, salad, and sweet potato fries combo serves this purpose. It’s not a perfect choice, but it’s reasonable. The same can’t be said for the pepperoni pizza option.

For the past year or so I’ve been diligently stretching most evenings. Typically, if my wife and I were to go to our basement to watch an episode of say, Narcos, I’d make sure to spend a brief 5-10 minutes moving through a number of stretches before getting too comfortable on the couch. A small additional win for the day. Not much more than that.

I’m not here to tout the benefits of stretching, because honestly, I’m still not sure if there are any. In fact, some folks would tell you stretching should be avoided all together, and may even hamper strength gains, as an example. Regardless, I find there are certain positions where I wish I had greater ranges of motion and flexibility, so I engage in light work towards this goal. I’m not trying to become Gumby here.

I also take a minute after getting warmed up in the shower to perform some light stretches, and even while brushing my teeth. Actually, as I write this, I realize I’m stretching quite a bit, maybe too much? The point I’m trying to make is, you can layer in these healthy (depending on who you ask) habits to your day, without any significant disruption. I can now easily work through a five minute routine at the start of a Netflix show with little effort. While I had to consciously force myself for a number of weeks in the beginning, now it takes little to no willpower. It’s a just a given. Head downstairs, fire up Netflix, get into position. Easy.

The same is true when taking a shower or brushing my teeth. I have specific stretches I work on that lend themselves better to one area or another (I’m not trying to work on the splits in the shower, for example).

These are just small windows of time throughout the day where I can layer on additional, positive activities. Stretching is just one example. The activity doesn’t take any additional time over and above what I was going to do anyway. This fact alone makes the act much more likely to happen on a frequent basis. Nice.