So a couple of months before moving on campus, I went to the doctor’s office for my yearly check-up. And my doctor told me some not so great news. I’ve gained weight. A lot of weight. As in, my BMI is officially considered obese. Yup, not so good. In fact, that basically means my health was headed for the toilet. But good news! Over the course of the past 3 months, I’ve lost 8 pounds! I know this may not seem like a lot, but I’m trying to do this as healthily as possible while still enjoying all the foods on campus. So let me show you how to be a healthy student, even when you live on campus.
Go to the Doctor
Before you decide you’re going to do anything crazy. Go see your doctor about what you need to do. You need to be sure that you’re healthy enough to start any kind of physical activity. And they can also provide valuable insight into what they think you should be doing.
Your Starting Point
You need to know healthy, or not healthy, you are realistically. For a whole week record what types of food you eat and how often, what drinks you’re drinking and the amount and the type of exercise you get in a day. Also record how many hours of sleep you get a night.
Then you need to weigh yourself. I realize that this isn’t always the most fun thing to do but it’s important to know where you’re starting out. So get on a scale and read that number. Then write it down. And calculate your BMI which you’re also going to write down.
I’m also going to ask you to do a feelings check every day too. I know, I know, you’re probably asking what your feelings have to do with your health. My answer: your mental health is part of your overall health. Get in touch with yourself and write down how you feel every day. And don’t lie. No one is seeing this but you, unless you want other people to see it, so don’t worry about writing down that you were stressed or anxious or sad or elated. It doesn’t have to be much but write it down any way.
Keep track of all of this for at least one week. Then move on to the next step.
Your End Goal
Now here’s the fun part: setting a target weight. For this, think longer than a couple days. Think 5 or 6 months at the minimum and a single year at the max. Where would you like to see yourself? How healthy do you want to be? For me, I wanted to lose and keep off 15 pounds by the end of my freshman year rather than gain the Freshman 15.
Write your goal down. Make it specific. Make it “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time- based. Seriously, make sure it checks off all of these boxes.
Then you also want set a mental health goal. This one is more difficult to make SMART but still doable. You want to focus on a specific aspect of your emotions or mental state that you dislike the most and then think of ways to combat this problem.
When I was doing this, the problem I focused on was stress. In high school I was constantly stressed out about every little thing. I won’t deny that the stress got me fantastic grades but it made me miserable. So my goal was to be less stressed throughout freshman year by doing yoga every day.
That last bit about yoga is the key thing here. You have to find something that can help you deal with that emotion or mental state that you want to change. That may mean taking up yoga or running or seeing a therapist or letting go of some activities. Whatever it is, write it down and be clear with your goals.
Your Mini Goals
So you’ve set up an End Goal, which is great but it’s ultimately useless without these Mini Goals. Mini Goals are month long goals that have a specific plan to help you reach your End Goal.
Let’s focus on weight first.
If you’re goal is to lose weight and keep the weight off, there are two things you really need to know. The first: lose 1-2 pounds a week is the healthy way to lose weight. This means you can lose a grand total of about 4-8 pounds a month. Any other way usually isn’t healthy. The second thing you need to know is: keeping off weight means making life style changes.
This means that your weight loss goals should be things that you’re willing to do every single day for the rest of your life. Remember that when you write down your goals. Keep them realistic.
My first Mini Goal for the month of July was to “Lose 5 LBS by August 6th, 2016”. That’s about a 1 pound a week weight loss but I haven’t answered an important question. How will I lose those pounds? By exercising and eating right of course. Now you get to plan what exercises you’ll be doing over your set amount of time.
I highly recommend doing some form of a 30 Day Challenge. Lucky for you, I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to collecting 30 Day Challenges that you can check out. Pick one to start out with and stick with it for a whole month. It almost completely eliminates the need to think about what exercise you’re going to do.
But wait! You’re not done. You also need some great cardio to stay healthy.
Cardio is great but you need to start small. Don’t dive right into running if you’ve never run before. If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend following some cardio videos first. I really like the newer ones over at Fitness Blender. They’re awesome because they have different difficultly levels you can choose from to help you get started on being the healthy version of you.
And you also really have to adjust your eating habits. Some people seem to think this means dieting and I wholeheartedly disagree. Eat all of the foods that you enjoy but eat smaller amounts. And if you know that the food you’re eating isn’t healthy, make the change to eating better foods. This may be that you’ll eat fruit at breakfast or swapping out potato chips for carrots or nuts. The idea here is that you want to eat healthy foods and make the portions smaller overall. You’ll see some pretty quick weight loss here.
Now for the mental health goals.
This one may be a little more difficult and will definitely involve a lot of trial and error. For some people, myself included, working out is a way to relieve a lot of the mental stress from the day.
Another great idea is to practice some yoga so that you can take dedicated time for yourself. If you don’t have a lot of time like most college students, the 30 Days of Yoga Challenge by Do You Yoga is a perfect way to get in some yoga every day. These videos are short, about 10 to 15 minutes, and are free! If for whatever reason you have more time on your hands (how?), then I recommend doing 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene which are also free but are anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes long.
If yoga isn’t your thing, that’s cool too. You’ll just need to figure out what is and make sure to incorporate it into your life on a weekly basis. That may be talking to a therapist or reading for 30 minutes every day. Whatever it is, make sure you can do it for a whole month.
Stick With It
Sticking to your goals is the hardest part about becoming healthier. So track yourself. See how many days you can follow the 30 Day Challenges and the other cool things you’ve set up. Be honest with yourself about whether or not you’ve actually done some cardio that made you break into a sweat and got your heart rate up.
Have a system to record what exercises you’ve done for that day and maybe even how intense they were for you. It’s a great motivator to see the longest stretch of time you can go while consistently working out.
At the end of the month, check to see how well you did at sticking to your monthly plans. Write down what things worked out for you and what things you really want to change. Check to see whether you met your mini goals. If you did congratulations! What sort of things do you think made that happen? If you didn’t meet your mini goal, why not? What can you do differently so that you reach your goal next month?
Also check in with yourself – both mentally and physically. How does your body feel after making it work out consistently over the past month?
New Month, New Goal
At the start of each month, create a new mini goal based around new things you want to try and things that you want to see change. Use your evaluation from the month before to create the new goal of this month.
Make sure to keep up a variety of things so that you and your body don’t get bored with working out. If you continue doing 30 Day Challenges like I do, try choosing a different muscle group to focus on. One month do arms and the next do legs or torso. Try out new classes that interest you, if that’s your thing. Or maybe pick up a new hobby like walking a few miles every week or cycling to places. Change things up to keep yourself excited and motivated to be the healthy version of you.
Well that’s that. On paper it sounds pretty easy but, let’s be honest, it’s hard work. But it can be done. If you’re someone who doesn’t have the time to go to the gym or is afraid to go (aka me), I hope this has been helpful.
What types of things are you doing to be healthy versions of yourselves? Is there anything you would at to this list?