Lately, I’ve been struggling with this idea. I’m someone who has always tried hard to live a healthy lifestyle. I rarely eat fast food, work out when I can and would much rather snack on hummus or fruit than on popcorn or cookies. I would classify myself as healthyish. I’m not the type who would turn down pizza on a Saturday night, but it’s not something I like to do on the regular.
As someone who will soon be going abroad to the Castle, I’ve been trying to dedicate the rest of my summer to losing a few pounds and slimming down. I started off by going on a “diet,” which consisted of limiting my carb intake to one meal; a banana or yogurt for breakfast, salads with fruit and nuts for lunch, and typically stir-fried chicken and veggies with multigrain rice for dinner. I felt that, if I didn’t title it as a “diet,” I would be lazy and give up easily. This turned into a competition with myself; every time I was hungry, but opted to go to the gym over snacking unnecessarily, I was washed over with immense pride. I could do this! But when the scale was stubbornly unmoving, I got frustrated. What was the point of eating so little and healthy and going to the gym multiple times a week if it wasn’t going to do anything?
This is where I started recognizing the difference between healthy eating and dieting. For me, the problem with dieting is that it puts too much pressure on an individual. “Carbs for just dinner” sounds so easy, but then when you break that even once, you lose hope and confidence. You think, I already failed, why bother continuing? In a lot of the diets in which we partake, from guided ones like Weight Watchers to self-guided ones like paleo diets, our daily routine revolves around never wavering. We have to be perfect, never giving into cravings and keeping our eyes on the prize at all times. That is a recipe for implosion. And even when we allow for cheat days, those days sometimes lead us to eating way more and much unhealthier than we might have had we been eating more balanced meals every day.
The idea of balance is the key to differentiating between healthy eating and dieting. Healthy eating is so much more effective because it’s all about balance; maybe you ate a lot of protein and fruit for breakfast. Well, then maybe some veggies and grains for lunch. And if you ended up eating a lighter dinner, maybe you can have some frozen yogurt for dessert. You aren’t controlling the quantity or quality of what you’re eating. No more calorie-counting or food-deductions, just balanced eating that leaves room for some cravings, but incorporation of all important food groups. Even if you have a “bad day,” you can always balance it out the next day with healthier meals and a trip to the gym. Healthy eating is a lifestyle, whereas dieting is a temporary phase. It puts less pressure on you to abide by self-proclaimed rules and recognizes that we’re all humans with cravings. Life truly isn’t worth it if we never allow ourselves to eat the foods we really love, even on occasion. And it’s not fair to reprimand ourselves for giving in to a gooey plate of nachos or a moist slice of chocolate fudge cake.
In my new version of “getting my body ready for Europe,” I’m not going to force myself to not eat when I’m hungry and say no to something if I really really want it. I’m still going to try my best to eat beautiful foods that are good for my body, drink as much water as I can, and work out a few times a week. But, on the weekends, I’m going to treat myself to breakfast sandwiches, Rocky Road ice cream, and late-night Maria’s because life is too full of delicious eats to say no.
Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Will eating a can of spinach a day make you instantly strong like Popeye?
It is no secret that one should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables in order to stay at their healthiest, but how is that even possible? We have three meals everyday: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each of these meals depends on your eating habits. Do you usually eat healthy? Unhealthy? A combination of the two?
According to MyPlate, the USDA nutrition website, the exact servings of fruit and vegetables depends on your age, physical state and gender. A girl who is 14 to 18-years-old is expected to eat 1 1/2 cups of fruit a day and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables. A boy of the same age, on the other hand, needs 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables daily. Therefore, as a 20-year-old woman, I am expected to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day. While this website gives a general idea of servings, be aware that the servings are based on a regular 2,000 calorie diet and a person who gets 30 minutes or less of exercise a day.
Both groups, fruits and vegetables, contain subgroups within them that help give variety in one’s diet. For fruits there are berries, melons, fruit juices and citrus. Vegetables include dark-green, starchy, red and orange and beans and peas.
Between all of these groups, it is more than possible to keep your palette colorful and interesting throughout your healthy eating adventures!
So then what does eating fruits and vegetables do for your body? For one, they help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, but they also help to provide nutrients that assist your body in functioning on a regular basis. For example, Vitamin A is a nutrient that is present in many vegetables. By eating the vegetables that provide this specific nutrient, we are helping to keep our eyes and skin healthy against infections. Sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A, and are only one out of the many examples that one can make in order to fulfill those nutrients. Overall, replacing higher calorie snacks with vegetables or fruit can also help to contribute to a lower calorie intake per day, and therefore, benefit your healthy living lifestyle.
Personally, I tend to go back and forth between healthy and unhealthy. One week I’m eating a ton of fruit and vegetables throughout the day and staying thoroughly hydrated, the next I’m downing chocolate milkshakes and mozzarella sticks. In other words, I get it. It is so hard to stay permanently healthy all the time. Through this understanding, however, I have found ways to stay almost permanently healthy by sneaking in vegetables and fruits into my snacks and meals, and then of course exercising (but that part is up to you.)
On most days, I manage to get in about 3-4 servings of vegetables and fruits. On my healthiest days: 4-5 and on my worst days: 1-2. As you can see, on a regular basis I am usually getting almost all of my vegetable and fruit servings. But how? It was pretty hard, but I cancelled out most of my “junky” snacks, leaving them for special occasions or when I really just need something sweet or salty. After about a week, my cravings for the junky foods went away and were happily replaced by the natural sugars of fruit and the flavor of steamed, broiled or baked veggies.
This is not without saying that I do not have my occasional downfalls. I am not perfect, no one is. For instance, I am currently eating dark chocolate M&M’s. Not too healthy for the body, but at the moment, they just seem perfect. The difference between eating these chocolates now, however, and before, is that I do not feel the need to give myself a second serving. One small handful does the trick and then I’m back on track (usually.)
I have to say, living a healthy lifestyle comes much easier. It’s just the journey that starts out a little rocky. We are so used to living our busy, rushed lives, that our meals are usually effected by it as well. We are much less inclined to make a healthy dinner after a long exhausting day at work or go grocery shopping on a hot and humid day.
There is a saying that my yoga studio uses at the beginning of every practice. First, they congratulate us and then state that “getting onto our mats was the hardest part.” Although this applies to yoga, it can also relate to everyday life activities, especially being healthy. The hardest part about being healthy is starting and then continuing until our bodies are able to confidently do it on their own. So begin your journey and remember that just deciding to commit yourself to being healthy is the hardest part. Take risks and try new things, and then render the old eating habits that you just can’t let go of around the new healthy ones. Create a new lifestyle and help yourself become a better feeling, happier YOU.
I’ve been lucky for most of my college career to not be the stereotypical “broke college student,” because I worked a lot more than I wished I had, looking back. However, after I spent all my money in Europe last spring, I was met with more bills, my sometimes impulsive spending habits, and no savings. Thankfully, I lived at home, but I was paying hundreds of dollars a month for school without any help.
My organizational skills are awful, and that includes budgeting. I decided the best way to save money was on food. Done right, this would have been a great idea, except I didn’t limit the food I bought at restaurants going out, I limited what I ate for my daily meals. I rarely packed a lunch, and between work and school, I’d be out of the house more than 12 hours most days. I think I lived an entire semester on yogurt and bananas from my office and muffins or bagels from Dunkin Donuts.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
I felt fine at first. I finally lost weight, so I was really happy about that. But then, I started feeling worse. The first thing that hit me was the exhaustion. I was so tired all the time, and sometimes I even found it hard to stand. I was dizzy and lightheaded often, especially when I stood up. My heart would suddenly start beating fast and sometimes I had unexplained chest pain. I was rarely hungry, and when I was, the thought of eating made me nauseous. I was short of breath for no reason at all, and was beginning to be horrified at just how out of shape I thought I was. (I’m sitting on my couch writing this now and I still can’t seem to get enough oxygen breathing regularly.) It took a long time for me to make a doctor’s appointment, because I never thought to put all those symptoms together. I didn’t think I was sick enough to go to the doctor’s and I thought I’d be wasting everyone’s time.
My mom finally forced me to go and even the doctor was puzzled. She told me she couldn’t see anything wrong, but there must be something. After a bunch of blood tests, we finally figured out that I have iron deficiency anemia. I didn’t even know that was a thing. It’s not serious, and I’m so glad for that, but even after taking iron pills for a month, I don’t feel much better. Apparently, it takes a long time for your body to recover from such a severe lack of iron.
Eating Well in College is Important
Now that my senior year is coming and I need to get an internship, I will be even shorter on cash and anemia is the last thing I have the time or attention to worry about. We’ve all seen those news stories on Facebook telling us that we can’t eat right on a minimum wage budget. Even though this is sort of true, health problems down the road can cost even more than you could imagine. Eating right is so important, especially in college, when we are pushing our bodies to the max with work, schoolwork, partying, extra curriculars and all-nighters.
There are other ways aside from expensive take out to eat well and be a responsible adult.. My sister (somehow) wakes up early every morning to give herself enough time to pack a lunch and eat breakfast. I’m lucky If I can wake up early enough to put on makeup before rushing out to catch my bus. However, I can’t just take my health for granted even in college, because it could affect me for the rest of my life. I’m so thankful that my anemia is nothing serious and it won’t be so long-term, but I realize now the freshman fifteen isn’t the only unhealthy side effect I need to worry about when eating in college.
In high school all I did was diet. I restricted myself to a very specific diet until my senior year, despite the fact that I played two varsity sports all four years. I only ate one helping of food per meal. No seconds, no matter how delicious, and by no means whatsoever was I allowed to eat sugar. The fattiest thing that I ever allowed myself to eat was mozzarella sticks at lunch. Anytime that I would slip, I would quickly go to the gym and run for thirty or more minutes on the treadmill and then do twenty minutes of abs. I was obsessed and definitely not healthy. Skinny, yes, but not healthy.
By my senior year, I was pretty much over the whole dieting idea. I wanted to eat whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and without any reason. For the first time in forever, I was actually confident in myself, in my body, and in what I ate. In this confidence, and a sudden need to be healthy for the first time in my life, I did research. And through the research, I found different ways and methods to be healthy and stay my normal weight without excessive dieting.
Because of my past experience, I am not the biggest fan of strict diets. Maybe small ones that focus on eliminating one thing from your diet, but large strict ones that are being done specifically for weight loss I do not believe in. This is not saying that I do not believe that there are ways to lose weight before the summer. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that. It’s just that there are so many more ways to stay healthy than torturing yourself, and your body through routine diets planned out by a corporate company.
Exercise. As an athlete, the first thing that I did to stay healthy was exercise. In high school, exercising was a normal part of my day every fall and spring season. In college, this changed. Sure, I still played softball, but there was a full two months where I had to account for exercising on a regular basis by myself. In this new routine, I decided that as long as I did something everyday, I could remain healthy and happy. Besides lifting for softball, and playing during the regular season, I made sure to run at least a mile a day or go on the elliptical. Of course, you have to mix up your exercise. Sometimes I would run outside to the Charles, while other times I would be in the gym. Even more frequently, I became completely obsessed with yoga. I had always practiced it, but during college it became a part of my regular routine. I loved the way it made me feel and look. To this day, I regularly go to the gym and practice yoga. Occasionally, I add in something new and fun like bike riding or rock climbing.
Hydration. Drinking water does a lot more than just hydrate. According to Top 10 Home Remedies, drinking water can relieve fatigue, treat headaches, help with digestion, aid weight loss and flush out toxins. In other words, staying hydrated can make your day a lot better than it might be now. On average, a person is supposed to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day. Of course, life gets busy, so 8-10 can sometimes seem like a lot. On days that I am busy at work, I make sure to drink water every chance I get, but by no means do I get to 8-10 glasses. Because of this, on days that I have off, I make sure to carry a water bottle with me everywhere so that I can drink the average recommendation, and make up for the days that I do not meet the expectation. When I played field hockey, coaches used to warn us that “the first sign of dehydration is thirst.” Therefore, you should not wait until you are thirsty to drink water. You should just drink it. At first, it is hard to get used to, but after awhile it just becomes a regular part of your day.
Drinking water throughout your day can help get rid of cravings. If you really want a piece of chocolate, taking a bite and then chugging water actually helps to satisfy the craving. This way, you do not eat the whole chocolate bar and also become happier. I like to think of this as tricking my brain. By drinking the water, I am tricking my brain into thinking that I ate so much more than just a couple of bites. In the long run, more water can equal less candy and less candy equals less fat. Drinking water also helps suppress hunger, which helps you to eat smaller meals. So rather than eating two large helpings at dinner, it might make you only hungry enough to eat one helping. This does not mean that you can’t snack later, but it can help you to stay in your average daily intake for calories and food categories.
Eating what I want, but being aware of it. This leads me to one of my larger points. Making a commitment to stay healthy means that you are also committing to food awareness. You don’t need to keep a food journal unless you feel inclined to, but I usually don’t recommend it because it gets a bit obsessive. Just be conscious of what you are eating. For instance, if I eat a cinnamon roll for breakfast, then I make the conscious note to try and eat healthier throughout the day. I am aware that I need to eat more vegetables, protein, and fruit during the rest of the day rather than stuffing up on carbs and sugars. In other words, I am being conscious and knowledgeable about all food groups and what they do to help my body stay happy and healthy. If you are unaware of the food groups and their responsibilities, sign up for Choose My Plate. There are different tabs and categories that help you to see what and why these certain foods need to go into your body. There is even a page on your profile that allows you to keep track of what you eat for three days. It is very specific, but is nice for people who are beginning to eat healthier as it measures how much of what food category you eat over the three days. This way you can see what your lacking and what you are over consuming. Like I said, I’m not a huge fan of food journaling, but if you feel off track, this is a good way to see where you are missing nutrients.
Juicing. In my opinion, juicing is a pretty controversial topic. It can be expensive if bought through a company and also may be prolonged for too much time. Personally, I only do juice cleanses for up to five days. Even then, I do not solely drink the juice, but also consume healthy solids. A lot of companies enforce this idea of only drinking a juice filled with fruits and vegetables, and sometimes protein, for five days and up. This may work for some people, but for me, I prefer to juice cleanse with solid foods. It makes me feel safer, as I am very active and would never be able to just survive on juice while at the gym. For me, it’s unrealistic. For others, it may work. It really depends on what you are the most comfortable with.
I pretty much do juice cleanses everyday since I eat solid foods along with it. I enjoy a fresh, homemade, fruit smoothie in the morning with or for my breakfast, and then sometimes make one at night. I have never bought a juice cleanse from a company. I always make my own. Honestly, you can use a blender, but the NutriBullet and NutriNinja were the best products I ever invested in. Ever. They are super easy to use, and make great, fast smoothies. All you have to do is put the desired fruit and vegetables in the cup and put it on the blade and then blend it. Done. The company home websites even have recipes to try, which are actually pretty good. Juicing will, overall, help you to get more nutrients by providing another way to get in an extra serving of fruits and veggies during your day. As I’ve found through my experience, eating more fruits and vegetables also help to get rid of sugar cravings because of the natural sugars found in the fruits that make your smoothies sweet. In all, a great and easy way to stay healthy during the summer.