22 August 2016

Drinks and deserts bring me a kick of happiness. I like the rush and excitement I get after a good Old Fashioned, and I like the content that I feel after eating a Tiramisu. For a while, I feel happier. I smile, and I forgive, and I relax.

Yet, whenever I have a drink or a desert - it takes from my health. Just like the damage an avatar would sustain in a 3D shooter game, I lose a few precious percent of health. And I’m not speaking about my eventual health condition after twenty years. Within a day or two of boozing and eating sweets I can already notice that I have a headache and a little bit more fat on my belly. Even if feel good, the damage has been done, and I’m running at a lower percent. Over time, a lot of small invisible damages will accumulate to a more serious damage.

Another way to think about it is that I’ve taken on some health debt. Not a monetary debt, where I owe money, but health and fitness debt where I’m at a lower percentage. I’ve done something a little bit bad and damaging to my body. And the full payment is due on the next day. I can pay by getting in worse shape, with a small portion of my health, but instead, I’d like to pay it differently.

I’d like to pay it by reversing the damage. I pay it with exercise.

Here is the idea. By doing enough push ups and sit ups on the next day, I keep my body in good shape and I provide a feedback loop to prevent me from abusing alcohol and sugar too much.

I think an important task is to determine how many push ups are enough. If I had to do ten push ups to repair the damage from a cocktail, this means that I can drink five drinks and only do fifty push ups on the next day. This is not enough. If I were to do a thousand push ups per drink, that would’ve been too many. A hundred push ups, on the other hand, are not too many, just like a single drink is not too bad for the health.

So I’ll settle for about a 100 push ups per normal sized drink. I don’t care if that’s an accurate number, I care mainly care about the feedback signal and about approximately compensating my health. While the push ups won’t reverse all damage, they can still address most of it.

I’ve got a little bit more involved and made up numbers for a variety of damaging activities.

  • A morsel sized desert - 10 push ups. A small desert is as a block from a bar of chocolate, or a single small biscotti from a pack. Something that’s morsel-sized, that I can eat in a single bite without straining.
  • A single serving of desert - 100 push ups. This is the most general case and it involves an ice-cream cone, a slice of cake, a bowl of creme brule.
  • Juices - 100 push ups. A glass of fruit juice, even if it is fresh squeezed has a bunch of sugar and no fiber to balance it.
  • Fruits - no push ups! Fruits usually pack their fiber, to balance out the sugar, and are a great alternative.
  • A large desert - 200 push ups. Examples contain a cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, or a huge-ass ice cream.
  • A large drink - 200 push ups. For example a long island ice tea.

Have been doing this for a week and the numbers above are easy to keep track of during the day.

Since it would be obnoxious and not fun to do push ups in a cafe or bakery or a night club, I give myself twenty four hours to pay up. To keep things simple, I have a tad tougher rule, which is easier to justify. The rule is that within twenty four hours of gathering any push up debt I need to pay all push up debt. Kind of saying that I need to get to zero push up debt every day. So if I eat an ice-cream by lunch and then two more ice creams at dinner, I need to complete 300 push ups by noon the next day. This kind of rule is similar to saying that all push ups are due in twenty four hours, but is easier to enforce and keep track of.

And since I am not a masochist, I give myself a little break. If I am due more than a hundred push ups, I can substitute them for sit ups. For example, yesterday I did two hundred push ups and three hundred sit ups by this rule.

Again, as a reminder, the “Pay it with exercise” (PIE) system is not meant to be perfect. It just automates some thinking about health, in order to keep me in a slightly better shape on average, and make me more mindful of consuming the sweets and booze. I’ve been at it for a week and it has been easy to keep it up. I just complete all due push ups and sit ups in the morning. This gets my day started and while five hundred push ups sounds scary, it is not really thaaat bad. These drills become easier with time.

I’m excited to see the longer term effects and to report back!

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I write these posts to clarify my thoughts and improve my communication. They are mainly written for myself, and my future self, but I'd love to hear any comments you might have, especially if you disagree with what I've written, or if you've found it valuable in any way. Message me on Twitter @themitak or email me at comments@dimitarsimeonov.com.