Taking on a Healthier Lifestyle

Image Source: naturalsociety.com

Like many freshmen in college, I gained some weight this year. Kind of a lot of weight, actually. I’ve always been on the heavier side, but I’d never gained so much so fast, and to be honest, it was a little scary. Now, at this point in the article I want to make it clear that I considered my weight gain a problem because of certain health/medical concerns that I have which gaining weight could exacerbate, not necessarily because I was unhappy with the way my body looked, and that I don’t condone fat-shaming or concern-trolling of any sort. Anyway, I was not at all pleased with my situation, so I decided to take the reins and actually do something about it instead of just trying not to think about it and/or sitting around feeling bad about it, because that just takes a person down a negative body image rabbit hole and makes exactly zero progress towards better health.

I had tried dieting before, and I was not very good at it. By that, I mean I didn’t really have the motivation to make myself stick to a good nutritional plan or an exercise regime, which led to periods of eating only 1000ish calories a day (which is generally not enough for an adult-sized person) to make up for not exercising, interspersed with short bursts of eating a lot and then feeling bad about myself for it. It wasn’t healthy, and I think the emphasis I put on weight loss rather than overall well-being contributed to that. Besides my lack of motivation and fitness expertise (gym machines still intimidate and confuse me), I found some other obstacles specifically on campus that stood between me and my future healthy self: a busy schedule (or the excuse thereof), the social snacking between meals that is so commonplace on college campuses (shout out to snack bar), and not being able to rely on my mom to help me push myself to make healthy choices (the downside to “college, no parents!”).

So I had a lot of changes to make and not much of an idea where to start. I talked to my mom about wanting to work on my health, since she’s always been one of my biggest supporters, and we decided that we’d both use the same fitness/nutrition app so we could encourage each other. The app we use is called Lose It!, and basically you set a goal for yourself, the app generates a daily net calorie target for you, and you log your eating and exercise to make sure you’re on track to meet your goal. It emphasizes weight loss more than I’d like, but it’s been a valuable tool for being mindful of my eating and exercise patterns, and it has definitely helped me make better dietary choices.

That leaves exercise. Ugh. Before coming here, I got some exercise, but it really wasn’t enough. During the first quarter of the school year, I took a yoga PE class, but I kind of forgot to sign up for PE the quarter after that, the quarter after that, and yeah, the quarter after that. So for most of the year I wasn’t getting any physical activity, which was not good. Then, the week before spring break, a few friends and I decided to start going to the gym, and let me tell you, having gym buddies helps so, so much when it comes to actually pushing yourself to go work out. We started spending about an hour on the elliptical a couple days a week, and now we also do core work and boxing, plus a little jogging from time to time. These days I’ve been going to the gym at least four times a week, which is way better than before, and I’ve discovered that even though exercise may kind of suck while it’s happening, I physically feel really good afterwards, which is a reward in and of itself.

I haven’t actually weighed myself since I was home for spring break (although I will check in every month just to make sure I’m making progress towards where my doctor wants me to be). That’s because I’m trying to focus on how I feel in my body (and somewhat on how I look, if I’m being honest) instead of obsessing over the number on the scale. For me, it’s not just about losing weight, although that is a part of it for me personally—it’s about improving my overall health and forming positive habits. So even though I don’t actually know what I weigh right now, I do feel a heck of a lot better since I started eating right and exercising, and even though it hasn’t been long enough to see any dramatic change, I know I’m healthier now than when I started. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, and I still despise jogging and crave dessert, but I’ve made good changes in my life, and I plan to keep up my new habits as long as it takes to get me where I need to be and maintain the progress I’ll have made. It’s definitely hard to start from nowhere, but it is possible if you push yourself to do what it takes and get the support you need.