The 5 healthy lifestyle lessons we can learn from the boiling frog

Whether we are familiar with the sad frog tale or not, most of us readily understand the important lesson. Yet many of us choose to ignore the parallel of the frog’s unfortunate death to our own lives – specifically the many ways in which we ignore our health.

To borrow another phrase, if I had a nickel for every time someone said – “oh, I’d eat better but I don’t have time to prepare my food”, or “it’s too expensive to eat healthy”. Before someone calls me out for being a hypocrite, I need to admit that I have a cookie problem. I was raised with plenty of sugar in my diet; no one ever talked about the evils of sugar back in the day. If I asked for a box of Oreo’s, it would magically appear after my mother’s weekly shopping trip. Many a day I would eat an entire row of Oreo’s by myself. It’s been years since that has happened, but just yesterday, I was alone in my sister’s house, laser-focused on her not well-hidden cookie jar. I ate cookies – yes I did. I am a recovering cookie addict and must actively manage the 12 steps of cookie recovery in my life. But I digress…..

The water temperature slowly rises. The frog relaxes and begins to sleep. Like the frog, our health is slowly deteriorating. We continue to choose the wrong foods no matter how crummy they make us feel. Millions of us suffer from IBS, constipation, heartburn, fatigue, lethargy, depression, and addiction. Because we did not prepare a nourishing breakfast, we shove a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin in our pie hole. Then off to the doctor’s office to beg for a prescription to alleviate our symptoms. We have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, adult on-set diabetes, obesity, and a plethora of diseases that with just a little exercise and improved nutrition would reverse. We are stressed out and depressed. But it’s a slow process and like the frog in water, we don’t feel the heat.

The water is nearing boiling stage. Little time is left to save herself. Poor frog. All she needs to do is muster the strength to hop out of the hot water. Unlike the frog, our reflexes are well intact and we have control over the decisions we make. For us, it’s not an immediate hop or die situation. We make tiny adjustments to our diets and move our bodies just a little with profound results.

The problem so many of us have with change is that we “bite off more than we can chew” (let’s see how cliché I can make this post! I’m on a roll). Habit evolution takes time, energy, will-power and incremental change. Too bad the poor relaxed frog does not enjoy the same advantages.

Consider making tiny changes. Try these 5 simple things to help make change and better health happen for you:

  1. Keep it simple. Identify one or two things and begin there. For me – it’s the cookie thing. I understand that occasionally cookie-mistakes will happen, but I can easily go a full week without eating a cookie. Good for me. That’s change. Next time, I’ll shoot for two weeks, then three, and so-on.
  2. Dial it down to zero. Say no to the things that fill your life with distraction and concentrate on what matters. Do I really need to schedule an appointment 3 hours away for 9:00 a.m. – eliminating any hope of a morning workout? I do not. A noon appointment works just fine and I can still do an hour of yoga or run a few miles before I begin my day.
  3. Purge your life – your kitchen, your closet, your thought patterns, your habits, toxic people. Just pick a few and get rid of them.
  4. Find the fire in your belly. Decide what exercise will make you happy and commit to doing it 3 days next week. Allow yourself to be hungry and make friends with the digestive fire happening within you. In the beginning it might be difficult. But after just a few days, you’ll make friends with the fire. Hunger is Agni (the Ayurvedic term for digestive fire). Let your digestive fire do its work. Feel into it.
  5. Grow your personal integrity. What does your body need? Get to know what you need not what you want. Once you allow yourself to feel the fire in your belly, you’ll begin feeling more physical integrity. Act on it.  Do you really need the 2-day old donut you just found in the breakroom? Is the Girl Scout cookie really that good? Does it taste better than your personal integrity feels?

Back to our poor friend, the frog. It’s too late for her. She dies in the boiling water. But unlike the frog, we can see our poor health. We can notice the muffin-top around our mid-line. We recognize that we are out of breath after jogging to the mailbox. Our gut is gassy and bloated because we ate half of a pizza last night. Our internal water is beginning to heat up.

We have no good reason to let the water boil. Spring is the perfect time to begin making change – the rain, the buds, the flowers, the birds, and yes, the frogs. She really didn’t boil to death – it’s just a fable with a lesson. Take the frog-lesson and grow into your physical integrity – make a few changes this spring and change the course of your health.

(This blog post was inspired by my health guru mentor – Cate Stillman – author of Body Thrive and my coach at Yoga Health Coaching.  Many of these ideas came directly from her quite brilliant book, Body Thrive).

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