A TOAST TO YOUR HEALTH

Can you be healthy and a he­do­nist at the same time? Sharon Stephen­son finds out.

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - IL­LUS­TRA­TION: AN­DREW LOUIS

Can you be healthy and a he­do­nist at the same time? Sharon Stephen­son finds out.

It’s 5pm on a Fri­day and, out­side Les Mills’ Brit­o­mart gym, Tony is catch­ing a few rays of weak sun­shine be­fore an RPM class.

In­side, Bey­once comes crash­ing through the speak­ers (“I don’t think you ready for this jelly”), as peo­ple in Ly­cra too tight and too bright per­suade weary limbs to bend, stretch and push harder than they re­ally want to.

Tony is a mix of ur­ban­wear and tat­toos, held to­gether by 105kg of mus­cle. He’s been into fit­ness longer than he can re­mem­ber, a hard­core gym­goer since 2013. He checks his watch: there’s an­other few hours un­til he can join the af­ter-work drinkers al­ready fill­ing the city’s bars.

“For me, it’s a bal­ance be­tween work­ing hard and play­ing hard,” says the 27-year-old. “It doesn’t have to be all or noth­ing any­more — you can go out and have a big night on the town and have a ke­bab af­ter­wards. But first you need to prime your body with ex­er­cise and green juices that leave it feeling cleansed.”

And for­get about a sausage roll and fizzy drink the next day. “That’s when you guz­zle co­conut wa­ter and do a 10am yoga class.”

The Amer­i­cans, of course, have a term for this — healthon­ism. It’s a blur­ring of health and he­do­nism, of prim­ing for — and eras­ing — the sins of the night be­fore with gym work­outs and cold-pressed juices.

Lu­cie Green, World­wide Di­rec­tor of trend fore­cast­ers JWT In­no­va­tion Group, who first iden­ti­fied the healthon­ist move­ment, refers to it as “mind­ful par­ty­ing”.

“Al­co­hol, par­ty­ing and dance are no longer seen as mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive to healthy liv­ing,” says Green. “We’re now putting healthy habits along­side fun in a have-it-all-way.”

Lily, 30, rolls her eyes at the term healthon­ism. She’s been liv­ing like this for years. “It’s pretty sim­ple re­ally — I’ve made the choice not

to give up one as­pect of my life­style for an­other, so if I eat right and ex­er­cise five times a week then it’s okay to have some drinks or a few lines of coke ev­ery now and again.”

Lily is vague about what she does for a liv­ing (“Ad­ver­tis­ing,” is all she’ll say, with a wave of her hand), but a Kings­land gym is her happy place.

“I work hard dur­ing the day and I work hard most evenings to achieve the body I have. So why shouldn’t I put on a tight dress and go out danc­ing?”

The key, it ap­pears, is bal­ance. “I know it sounds bor­ing, but it’s all about mind­ful mod­er­a­tion. If it’s go­ing to be a big night, I’ll do a box­ing class to sweat it out. I’ll also watch what I eat, stay­ing away from carbs and hav­ing lots of salmon or eggs, which are di­gested more slowly, mean­ing al­co­hol is ab­sorbed more slowly into my sys­tem.”

The for­mer model also avoids sug­ary cock­tails and al­ter­nates glasses of red wine with wa­ter. The next day, she shuns the usual parac­eta­mol, grease and long blacks, in­stead bust­ing out the green juice, lunchtime yoga class and turmeric shots, which help to fight nau­sea.

“Once, af­ter a big night, I had to run out of a Bikram yoga class to throw up. But try­ing to find the thresh­old be­tween health and he­do­nism is im­por­tant, be­cause both are im­por­tant to me.”

Tony ad­mits he’d never heard of the term healthon­ism, but agrees it shouldn’t be an ei­ther/ or de­ci­sion. “If you’re hard­core at the gym, that means you can be hard­core at the pub.”

Healthon­ists in Bri­tain have fur­ther blurred the line be­tween ex­er­cise and par­ty­ing, com­bin­ing the two. Lon­don’s House of Voga, for ex­am­ple, which com­bines yoga with the ex­pres­sive 80s vogue­ing dance style pop­u­larised by Madonna, re­cently co-hosted a party with a May­fair night­club. It started with a one-hour voga class be­fore mov­ing on to drinks and danc­ing into the wee hours.

Kens­ing­ton’s Equinox health club also hosts reg­u­lar night-time events where mem­bers are treated to a range of dif­fer­ent yoga classes, with guest in­struc­tors, DJs and cock­tails.

The drink­ing-while-ex­er­cis­ing mash-up hasn’t quite made it to th­ese shores yet, but many healthon­ists be­lieve an in­tense work­out can be re­warded with co­pi­ous amounts of al­co­hol. A 2015 study pub­lished in the jour­nal

Health Psy­chol­ogy found that peo­ple tend to drink more than usual on the days they en­gage in more phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. Re­searchers found re­spon­dents were in­clined to push them­selves harder dur­ing a work­out when the reward was a few bevvies.

Dr Toby Mun­del, Massey Univer­sity se­nior lec­turer in Science and Ex­er­cise, isn’t con­vinced we’ve got that right. “If you binge-drink af­ter a heavy ex­er­cise ses­sion, you can ac­tu­ally slow down your re­cov­ery,” he says. “Sev­eral stud­ies have shown that when you work mus­cles hard dur­ing a work­out, such as a hard re­sis­tance ses­sion where mus­cle dam­age oc­curs, and then binge-drink af­ter­wards, the force/strength you lose is greater and re­cov­ery is de­layed for more than two days.

“It’s thought that al­co­hol re­duces the neu­ral drive to the mus­cles [from the brain] and may also af­fect re­cov­ery of the dam­aged mus­cles them­selves.”

Mun­del also doesn’t buy the idea of “sweat­ing out” tox­ins the next day, say­ing the liver has a set rate at which it gets rid of things like al­co­hol and drugs. “Noth­ing you do af­ter your big night can speed that up that meta­bolic process, only time will do that. It doesn’t hurt, how­ever, to have a good meal be­fore you be­gin par­ty­ing, to line the stom­ach, which as­sists al­co­hol to be cleared.”

Healthon­ists who be­lieve a work­out the day af­ter helps them to bounce back more quickly may also be bark­ing up the wrong tread­mill.

“It’s dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one, but if you can han­dle a light work­out then it might make you feel bet­ter men­tally but it won’t help phys­i­cally be­cause your body is still un­der pres­sure to get rid of tox­ins from the night be­fore,” says Mun­del.

In fact, if you’re de­hy­drated from drink­ing, then an in­tense ex­er­cise ses­sion could make you even more de­hy­drated, which could even­tu­ally lead to an in­crease in blood pres­sure and heart prob­lems.

“The gen­eral rule of thumb is to wait 24 hours af­ter a big night be­fore you ex­er­cise, to give your body time to rest and re­cu­per­ate,” ad­vises Mun­del.

Les Mills per­sonal trainer and nu­tri­tion­ist Emma Brake is an­other who won’t ad­mit to be­ing a fan of the healthon­ist trend, say­ing she’d never ad­vise clients to prime them­selves for a night out with a tough work­out. Or to come back the next day to atone for their sins.

“Healthon­ism is be­com­ing more no­tice­able be­cause peo­ple think they can burn off as many calo­ries as they’re go­ing to con­sume that night,” says Brake, who re­cently also opened Sweet7, a Pon­sonby physio/per­sonal train­ing/nu­tri­tion stu­dio.

“But it’s much more com­plex than just ‘en­ergy in, en­ergy out’. What’s far health­ier and sus­tain­able is to stick to the 80/20 rule: go out and have a glass of wine and dessert, be­cause you’re only hu­man and deny­ing your­self is no way to live. But make sure you also move — and move ev­ery day, not just be­cause you want to try to burn off the empty calo­ries of al­co­hol and pro­cessed food that you’re go­ing to con­sume later, but be­cause you ac­tu­ally en­joy it.”

Once, af­ter a big night, I had to run out of a Bikram yoga class to throw up. But try­ing to find the thresh­old be­tween health and he­do­nism is im­por­tant, be­cause both are im­por­tant to me. LILY

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