Eat healthy, but don’t be obsessive. Strive for thin, but not dangerously thin. Enjoy sweets, but don’t overindulge. Exercise, but don’t plan your life around your workouts. Obesity is a growing epidemic, but so are eating disorders.
With all these mixed messages, how can we ever win? It’s hard to find a balance when it comes to diet and exercise. Nobody wants to be the girl who has sworn off cheese, butter, and sweets, and it’s impossible to maintain a flawless exercise regime. Strive for any sort of perfection, and you are guaranteed failure. On the contrary, if you completely fall off the band wagon, live off junk food, and rarely get any sort of exercise, you’re putting yourself at enormous risk of health problems including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Where is the happy medium? Here are some tips for walking the “moderation” tight rope:
Concentrate on what to eat, rather than what not to eat
If you constantly try to avoid foods that you love, you’re going to end up irritable and frustrated. If you put all your effort into staying away from “bad” foods, then you won’t be able to enjoy anything you eat. Instead, focus on what kind of foods you need to factor into your diet. Go to the grocery store and try to fill up your diet with health foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low fat dairy products. If you have fruit and oatmeal for breakfast, you probably won’t have much of an appetite for a sugary latte or pastry. Eat a turkey sandwich and soup for lunch, and you’re less likely to squeeze in a brownie as well. Have chicken with rice and vegetables for dinner, and probably you won’t be hungry for pizza. When you start replacing sugary, processed, and fattening foods with healthy meals, you won’t have much room left in your diet for junk. If your diet is 80% healthy, it’s okay to be 20% “unhealthy.” If you have a good diet and treat your body well, don’t worry about indulging here and there. Also, you’ll save money by preparing meals at home, not to mention your body will thank you!
Know the difference between lazy and tired
After a long day of classes, it can be hard to motivate yourself to hit the gym or the running trails. Sometimes the best thing to do is to lace up your shoes and get going. Other times, it’s best to skip your workout and do something else. Perhaps you were up late studying for an exam and are awake only because of caffeine. Maybe you’re getting sick and need to go rest and take vitamins. Other times you might be exhausted simply from school stress and it’s better to spend the afternoon studying. Listen to your body, not your mind. If your body is exhausted and needs a break, it probably deserves one! If your inner couch potato is telling you to skip the gym, silence it by walking in the front doors of the rec center. Know the difference between laziness and exhaustion.
Find ways to enjoy healthy food and exercise
Learn how to cook a meal that you love. Treat yourself to a fancy fruit parfait that is both healthy and delicious. Drink herbal tea out of the mug your favorite Aunt Gertrude gave you as a gift for eighth grade graduation. Sweets taste better and come with less guilt when you put in the work of baking them, so turn on the oven and put on your chef hat and get to it. Go jogging with a fit friend who will motivate you. Take a hike and bring your camera. Register for a yoga class next semester. There are lots of fun ways to keep yourself healthy. The first step is to surround yourself with people who will enhance your health and support positive habits.
Don’t compare your diet or workout with someone else
There is always going to be room for improvement. While you should set goals for yourself in fitness and in health, don’t forget to acknowledge what you have already achieved. It’s good to have a friend that pushes you to better yourself, but it’s not good to constantly compare yourself to everyone. You and your friends can support, but the minute you start defining yourself in relation to other’s achievements is the minute the habit becomes unhealthy. Push yourself, support others, and celebrate your health and well being.