It’s the New Year, and you know what that means… the gym is so crowded that I can’t find a parking spot!! Thank goodness that won’t last for more than a few weeks. Actually, I kind of wish that it would stay crowded. I love that the new year inspires everyone to be healthier, but it’s such a bummer that many Americans’ resolutions don’t stick past January.
Like basically everyone I know, I face the constant struggle to stay in shape. And now that I’m a bride-to-be, the pressure is cranked up. Fortunately, I don’t really have any extra health-related goals for my wedding, because I’ve been working hard at it for several years now. My only goal is maintain maintain maintain! I think of myself as being in relatively good shape. But I didn’t get to my in-shape goals without a lot of work and a lot of trial and error. I am a girl who has struggled like everyone else to be healthy, and I really think I’ve finally found a lifestyle that works for me. So I thought I’d share the things that have worked for me. (Disclaimer: I’m not any kind of health professional. I’m just another girl trying to be healthy.)
I could probably just write one sentence to sum up all of my advice, and that would be “Make it work for you.” I apply this concept to basically everything. So with that in mind, here are my tips.
Back in my college days, I rarely got more than five hours of sleep on any weekday night. And I sometimes got as little as three or four hours. These days, I feel only semi-functional if I get less than eight. That’s not because I’m weak now. It’s because I finally discovered what fully-functional and fully-rested feels like! And it’s a glorious thing.
I know a lot of people (Mr. Whale included) will say, “But I can’t get more sleep!” Maybe you can’t. I don’t know. But here’s what I did to allow myself more sleep. (1) I set a bedtime for myself, and I made sure Mr. Whale knows what it is. (2) I had to give up going to bed at the same time as Mr. Whale during the week. It sucks, but it’s been worth it. (3) I have to be okay with Mr. Whale going out and doing things while I’m asleep. This last one probably isn’t relevant for those with 9-5 jobs, but as graduate students, it’s not uncommon for our friends to hang out late at night. And as much as it sucks when Mr. Whale is out having a super fun time while I’m in the bed, it’s totally worth it the next day when I’m not miserable and dragging my feet all day.
2. Eat Breakfast
I know, everyone says it. But for at least five years, I did not eat breakfast. And it did not do me any favors. I was still fairly slim, but it was a lot more work than it is now. Then I decided I might as well give the breakfast thing a try. (Why? Because I was hungry.) And at first I gained a few pounds. But then, whoosh! All of a sudden, I got all kinds of energy and fit into my old jeans again within a few weeks.
So how did I make it work for me? Well, one of the reasons I never ate breakfast was because I was always in such a rush in the morning. And if I eat when I’m nervous or in a hurry, I end up feeling like I ate nothing at all. Magazines always says something ridiculous like, “Anyone can find time to make an egg-white omelette with diced veggies.” Ummmm… no. I can’t imagine a morning where I would ever have time for something so labor-intensive.
And as for the less labor-intensive things, like cereal or oatmeal… I just don’t really like them. Cereal is an awesome late-night snack to me, but it’s not what I want for breakfast. It took a while, but I finally discovered that a good ol’ Clif bar is the perfect breakfast for me. And I also discovered that I get the most out of my breakfast if I wait until I’m comfortably at my desk at work to eat it. So for me, I made breakfast work by eating something easy to make and by eating at work instead of at home.
If you’re still reading, you’re probably thinking, “These are the most obvious tips of all time!” Yep. Really, it’s what you always hear. And yet, even though we know it’s necessary, it’s hard to make oneself exercise. That’s why you have to make it work for you.
When I was growing up, my parents were runners. (In fact, they’re still runners. They both ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler when they came to visit me this spring. I ran the 5k…) So, for some reason, I just always assumed that to exercise meant to run. When I finally realized I might need to start exercising in college, I tried running. And I hated it. I mean, to the point that all I think when I’m running is, “This hurts. When will it stop? I’m so bored. God, this hurts.” And yet, I continued to try running off and on for a while. And I continued to basically not exercise, because I assumed that I just hated exercise.
Do you see where this is going? It wasn’t until my junior year of college, when I literally lived right next to the gym, that I decided maybe I should go inside and see what’s in there. That’s right, hive. I had never set foot inside a real gym. Well, once I got in there, you know my mind was blown. I scoped it out and decided to try an aerobics class. And you know what, I’d found it. Jazzercise, zumba, bootcamp, HIIT, BodyPump… group fitness classes are where it’s at. There’s someone there who keeps me motivated for the entire class. I can’t quit, because that would be embarrassing. And it’s never boring. Cha-Ching!
4. Know that it will always require effort
I think this is probably one of the things that is said least often, but it’s something everyone should know. I’ve heard people say before, “I can’t wait to be done with this diet, so I can eat whatever I want.” Well, no wonder everyone always gains their weight back. It may seems like slim people eat whatever they want (and there are a few individuals who are blessed with ridiculously high metabolisms), but every single day is full of tough choices.
I have to make a choice every time I exercise. I’m not dying to go to the gym on the three or four days that I go. But I have to get myself in the door, and that’s hard to do. And I have have to choose every day what to eat. It would be a boldfaced lie to say that I’m not tempted every single morning by the delicious smell of McDonald’s breakfast. I have to walk right by it in the student center, and that bacon smells incredible. But I choose not to eat it. And it’s hard not to!
If you choose to live healthier, it will likely always require some effort. There will always be days when you want to pig out at the Chinese buffet. And if you’re like me, there will be days when you definitely do pig out at the Chinese buffet. But I do it by choice, knowing that it will alter my choices for the following days. Recognizing that I have to make a constant effort at being healthy has been the hardest thing for me. This is no point in the future when I can “eat whatever I want”. Because then I’d be chowing down on McDonald’s breakfast every day, and my clothes wouldn’t fit. So I try, every single day, to be aware of the choices I’m making. And I make an effort to be healthy.
What are you doing to be healthier, hive? This is what worked for me, but like my initial advice, everyone should do what works for them. What works for you?