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Realistic ways to be healthy and happy

We all know them.  The out of shape people who commit to a 6 days a week workout schedule and quit after two days.  The students who sign up for 21 credits and end up sleeping through the semester.  The people with bad diets who try to cut out meals instead of changing what they eat…

Get real!  Don’t choose a plan that sets you up for failure.  After one strong run it might seem like you’re going to run give miles a day, and after skipping a meal it might seem like it’s not so hard to cut calories, but in the long run these plans aren’t realistic and they can even be unhealthy.  Here are a few realistic tips to help you balance some important areas of your life.

  1. Take your time planning out your semester schedule.

Know what your next semester is going to look like before priority registration begins.  How often will you be working?  What other commitments do you have?  How many credits will you be taking?  Be realistic.  It might seem like you can handle a semester of 22 credits and it will be worth being ahead (or catching up), but lots of people who take on this mentality crash and burn.  I haven’t met very many students who can handle more than 18 credits, especially if they want to get good grades in their courses.  If you aren’t working and have a lot of free time, you might be able to take a few extra classes.  If you work part time or full time, your credit load probably needs to be lower in order for you to do well.  Talk with an advisor.  The Undergraduate Advising Center is a great place to get professional advice and help with planning a schedule that meets your needs.  Do it right, or you’ll probably have to do it over!

  1. Exercise plans are not “one size fits all.”

Has it been years since you’ve worked out, or do you hit the weights and cardio regularly?  If you can’t remember the last time you exercised, you probably shouldn’t commit to a schedule that has you running three days a week and lifting two days a week.  That’s a hard place to start cold turkey.  Pick a realistic starting point.  Walking three days a week is a lot better than nothing.  Start at a place that’s not so extreme.  You can change things up and add intensity and workouts as you progress.  If you hit the gym four to five days a week and you find yourself at a plateau, maybe you should add an extra day or mix up your workouts.  Exercise should be challenging, but the challenge should be a realistic.  There’s no sense trying to run five miles when you couldn’t finish your last two miler.  You should push yourself, but you should do so slowly, safely, and realistically.

  1. Don’t try to drastically change your diet in a day.

“My diet starts tomorrow.”

You’ve heard it, and you know it’s probably BS.  If you eat fast food, drink soda, and indulge in ice cream regularly, you’re probably not going to be on the organic, fresh food diet by tomorrow.  Small changes must come first, and small changes eventually lead to big changes.  Cut out soda.  If you drink a lot, it will make a big difference.  If you eat fast food twice a week, cut it back to once, or quit ordering fries.  Maybe you eat healthy, but you’d like to make a few tweaks in your diet.  It’s to go from 16-ounce double shot vanilla lattes to black drip coffee.  Try substituting your latte for a plain coffee with cream every now and then.  When you’re ready, trade in the cream for milk and you’ve made a big difference.  (I don’t think I’ll ever really get away from my Coffeemate, but I support you if your journey is to switch to black.)  Make tiny tweaks in your diet and give yourself a break.  You’re not a failure if you slip up.  Improving diet is difficult, so be patient and expect it to take time!

These tips are just a few ideas to keep your life as a busy college student as balanced as possible when it comes to health and success.  Make up some tips of your own, and write them down.  Support yourself, but don’t forget to be nice too!  We can only make improvements in our lives if we’re realistic and are willing to be patient and work hard.

“Change is vital, improvement the logical form of change.”
James Cash Penney

Change is necessary, but improvement comes first! Good luck to you!

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