I am not a dietitian, fitness guru, or even a self-proclaimed health nut. I am just an ordinary 24-year old that is doing her best to not let the readiness of the American fast food industry and convenience culture get the best of me and negatively affect my lifestyle.
As an ex-college athlete with free and full access to a campus cafeteria, I had gotten used to having meal options on demand, without having to go far or pay for them. Once I graduated however, I struggled with cooking healthy meals, staying active, paying bills... well kind of everything to be honest. After taking some time to adjust to the real world, I realized that my fitness and health goals were failing because it was never about improving my health, it was about a number or a specific goal. Today, a few years post undergrad, I no longer weigh myself or count calories, but I do feel healthier and happier than ever thanks to a few simple lifestyle changes, and to a new focus on what it means to be healthy.
After several failed attempts at fitness or diet goals, I have made some subtle yet impactful changes that better fit my lifestyle, and therefore have been able to sustain these health driven changes.
1. Kombucha > diet soda
There has been a lot of discourse in the healthy living industry about water intake and hydration. But if you're anything like me, sometimes water gets (don't drag me for this), boring. Instead of opting for a sugary juice or diet/regular soda to satiate your bored taste buds, try kombucha. I started drinking this when I worked at Whole Foods, and quickly became addicted to it. Kombucha may be an acquired taste for some, but when you know how good it is for you it tastes even better. Most Kombucha contains live cultures, and evidence is mounting that friendly bacteria or probiotics aide digestion and can possibly even strengthen the immune system. My favorite is Ginger Kombucha of any brand, and it's about $3 at your local grocery store in the refrigerated section.
2. Sleep More
I have always thought of myself as most productive creatively between the hours of 11pm and 2am. Almost every college article or essay was written between those hours, and was written well. However, post-college and entering work/grad school life, this is no longer efficient. I struggled for years half-heartily attempting to go to bed earlier, and always found myself accidentally scrolling social media or in a black hole of the internet until early morning. I eventually remedied this by setting a bedtime reminder on my phone. If you have an iPhone (I can't speak for other phones) there is a heart embedded as an app that lets you track your sleep and set a bedtime. I have it set so I get 8.5 hours of sleep every night, and to get reminders so I know when I'm up too late.
3. Walk to Run Errands
It's very easy to forget that you have legs when you own a car. Instead of trying to find time to work out on top of everything else you have to get done each day, I have found it easier to incorporate exercise into my daily activities. I walk to and from my classes, about two miles each way, and I try to walk to the grocery store a couple times a week. It doesn't feel like exercise because there is no gym involved and I'm getting things done in the process. This also allows me to enjoy being outdoors, listen to a new podcast or album, and just be with myself for a while. I also deleted all of those food delivery apps, because they were making me lazy. Instead, if I absolutely must have tacos or eat out, I challenge myself to walk to get them.
**If walking longer distances is not for you, biking and public transportation are good options too.
4. Less Meat
As an adopted Texan, giving up meat was not something I thought I would ever consider. However, after giving up fast food and watching one too many documentaries about the American meat industry, I became a pescatarian (couldn't give up fish tacos!) Becoming a pescatarian was a slow process where I ate less and less meat, until I no longer desired it at all. Surprisingly, it felt very natural to give up, and I attribute my ability to stay in shape without regularly exercising greatly to my diet. It's been over a year now, and while I do still eat fish on occasion, taking meat out of my diet has helped me prioritize other food groups like vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Also, if you eat out as a vegetarian, lots of places give you the option of adding free guac or avocado as a replacement for meat-big plus for me. If you don't think giving up meat is for you, try going without it a couple days a week and experiment with other protein options. Let me know if you try it!
5. Say No
This last one isn't necessarily a fitness or diet change, but I had to include it because it has been really important for me on my journey to wellness. I have always been a people pleaser, I enjoy making others happy and am a caregiver at heart. But as with all parts of life, balance is important. Part of learning to say no, is recognizing when you do not have the time, energy, or knowledge to help someone out, and choosing to prioritize yourself when appropriate. I'm not advocating for people to be less caring and more selfish, but rather advocating for incorporating self-care into your health journey, even if that means saying no sometimes. You can't take care of others if you aren't taking care of yourself. Remember that.
What are some changes you've made that have improved your health and lifestyle? Share below!