For this week and next week’s blog posts, I’ve decided to write about how I keep healthy and stay/get fit at uni, both of which are achievements to celebrate.
I’m currently sitting in my (hypothermic) room, wrapped up in my big, wool blanket scarf with two lit candles on the right side of my desk and a big, piping hot mug of tea on the left. Yes, I have been infected with Freshers’ Flu. I didn’t even go out that much during Freshers Week! The irony and constant nose-blowing are very real.
Before we get started, I shall proclaim that I am not a nutritionist or life coach by any means, nor have I ever studied nutrition or health studies. Everything I’m going to talk about is just information I’ve gathered from reading articles online and regimes I’ve tried that work for me; everyone’s body is different, so your body may respond differently to my regimes than my body does.
Alright, now it’s time to take a seat. Kids, this the story of how I…came to lead a healthy lifestyle.
If you ask any of my friends, they’ll tell you that I’m all about eating healthy and being active, but before the fateful summer of 2013, it just wasn’t that important to me. Throughout high school, I did ballet and taught swimming once a week but that was the most activity I ever got in; I never joined sports teams (I’m terrible at ball sports) and I never went to the gym, so I wasn’t unfit, but I wasn’t leading an active lifestyle, per se. In the first year of my first degree, Freshman 15 was very real for me; I gained 12 lbs, which is 2 lbs shy of 1 stone. That summer, I had to re-certify my lifeguard certification, which expires every two years. This meant that I had to do a timed swim and all the lifeguard skills with an unfit and significantly heavier body that I wasn’t used to. I failed the re-cert course. The next re-cert I could take was less than a month away, so I had limited time to whip myself into shape and avoid being de-scheduled from work and lose the seniority hours I had racked up since 2009.
In those three weeks between the failed re-cert and the retake, I read up on what to eat and how to eat healthier, beginner workouts, anything related to cardio and weight training, and anything healthy-lifestyle-related. I became obsessed with being fit. I reduced the portion of my meals and changed the balance of my meals to more fruits and veggies and less everything else. I hit the gym 5 or 6 times a week doing cardio for 40 minutes, weights for 20, and swimming for another 30 minutes. I downloaded an app that counted my calories and also found a YouTube channel I liked and I would listen to the videos while doing my workouts. Before I knew it, it was time for round two of my re-cert, but this time I was ready. I ended up being the third fastest for the timed swim and beat all the guys in my heat, which is still one of my proudest moments ever. After that whole ordeal, I fell in love with my new healthy lifestyle and I’ve been doing my best to keep it up ever since.
And that, kids, is the true story of how I came to lead a healthy lifestyle. Now let’s get on with it!
Firstly, even if you aren’t really active (i.e. playing sports or working out), the most important part of staying healthy is watching what you eat. I’ve done a lot of reading on what is and what isn’t (a) healthy and (b) the healthy way of eating, so let me save you the trouble: everything is controversial. This blog post may even be controversial!
(a) There are articles claiming that ‘superfoods’ are the best foods to eat because they have the highest levels of nutrients and antioxidants, and there are articles that debunk the whole idea of superfoods. A majority of superfoods are foods that I like, so I eat them, which means I don’t eat them because they’re ‘superfoods’. It’s all about balancing your diet and not forcing yourself to eat something just for the nutritional value; you should be eating foods you enjoy eating! Eating is an experience and if you have a bad experience, you’ll have a bad relationship with food. As long as you’re getting a good amount of vegetables, protein, carbohydrates, and water in your diet, you’re good to go. Protein is found in meats or alternatives, as well as some greens (i.e. spinach and broccoli). Good carbs, or complex carbs (versus bad, or simple carbs) are found in foods like oatmeal, not-white rice, not-white bread, quinoa, and potatoes; this is a great article to read for understanding why complex carbs are better than simple carbs. You should also be having enough water throughout the day that your pee is pale yellow or clear and you don’t have any signs of dehydration.
(b) There are articles that claim you should start out your day with a big breakfast, followed by a smallish lunch, ending your day with a tiny dinner. But there are also articles that claim you should have five or six small meals throughout the day instead of having three main meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner (or breakfast, dinner, and tea, for all you Northerners out there). I find that snacking throughout the day or having a lot of small meals works better for me. My blood sugar drops quite quickly and if I don’t eat within three to four hours of the last meal, I’m suddenly on the constant verge of fainting (I’m pretty prone to fainting), so lots of small meals throughout the day is the best way to keep myself fuelled and energetic. I tried the whole big breakfast to small dinner thing, but it just didn’t work for me because I would get hungry in between meals and after dinner. Plus, I can’t eat a lot in the morning, so I usually just have a smoothie for breakfast and then lots of small meals throughout the day.
Secondly, a key to healthy eating is having portions that leave you almost full, regardless of how many meals you have a day. It takes your brain a while to realise that your stomach is full so enjoy every bite, take your time eating, and finish eating before you’re at that level where have to undo the top button of your trousers.
Lastly, another key to healthy eating is allowing yourself to indulge. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but stay with me on this one! Think of it this way: if you don’t allow yourself to indulge, your cravings are going to build up until you end up binge eating whatever it is you’re craving. If you allow yourself to indulge, you can moderate how much you’re ‘cheating’. You have to allow for a buffer zone; not everyone has the willpower or motivation to eat 100% healthy. I try to eat healthy as much as I can but I’ll still have sweets (candy) or cheesy chips (potato wedges with shredded cheese) once in a while. And whoever tells you, ‘everything in moderation, even moderation‘ is lying. Don’t moderate your moderation; otherwise, your willpower will become irreparable and you’ll end up eating junk all the time. After all, your body is a temple!
Stay tuned for next week’s blog post, which is the second part to this one. Everything I’ve written about is from my experience so you can agree with me or we can agree to disagree. If you have any questions or disagree with anything I’ve mentioned, please do comment below!
PS. If you didn’t get the How I Met Your Mother references, then you need to go watch it!