As toddlers, we outran our parents and splashed around in the backyard pool with friends. During recess and gym class, our elementary school selves played with giant rainbow-bright parachutes and climbed on jungle gyms. In high school, school sports and after-school activities made fitness a part of our everyday life. Now we’re in college, and unless we play on a varsity team or participate in club sports, fitness isn’t necessarily built in to our schedules.
At home, we are spoiled by our mom’s cooking, often for three meals a day. School lunches were not all-you-can-eat buffets, and Chick-Fil-A wasn’t within walking distance of our bedrooms. As college students, we have to feed ourselves; unfortunately, in a world where greasy pizza is much more budget-friendly than healthy Whole Foods, making good nutritional decisions is often harder than it should be.
To add insult to injury, two-thirds of Americans are overweight thanks to the convenience of fast-food, over-priced gym memberships, and excessive alcohol consumption. During the last few years, fad diets, celebrity weight-loss secrets and new “healthier” menus have appeared, promising to transform your body and your life.
But get real: salads for lunch every day is boring. Getting up at 5:00am to go for a four-mile run every morning is a bit of a stretch. And how do you expect us to make it through exam week with caffeine-free herbal tea? Wake up: we do not live in a perfect world. But there are ways to make fitness and nutrition work into our stressful, over-scheduled lives.
First and foremost: small changes, big results. Those magazine articles that promise a five-pound weight-loss in just 24 hours? Lies. Replacing all ‘bad’ foods with ‘good’ ones? Unrealistic. Getting 8 hours of sleep every night, limiting our TV time to an hour a day, and making time for daily meditation? Oh come on, this is college!
Each week, choose one thing to change about your fitness and nutrition routine: make breakfast the most important meal of the day, drink 8 glasses of water, take a walk with friends after dinner before settling into the library, try a new fitness class at the gym, fill up half of your plate with fruits and vegetables instead of French fries. We are creatures of habit. If we put our energy into establishing new, ‘good’ habits, we will find ourselves snacking on carrots and doing yoga the way we bite our nails and stay up late: without thinking.