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Four Healthy Habits that are Never Too Late to Start

Healthy Habits that are Never too Late to Start

Although there are tons of different ways to lead a healthy lifestyle, there are a few common habits that the healthiest people in the world often practice. These healthy habits are neither dramatic nor difficult (no, you don’t have to do HIIT workouts every day), but instead represent greater lifestyle choices that are practiced by healthy people in every country, at every age.

The following are a few simple healthy habits that are easy to adopt, no matter what stage you’re at in life. While these healthy habits may seem obvious, they are often forgotten and are not pursued until the damaging results take place. Take care of your body with these simple tips:

1. Wear sunscreen.

Everyone needs sunscreen, regardless of age, gender or race. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lives, and the best way to prevent this is to wear sunscreen whenever you go outside (AKA every day). Wearing sunscreen not only prevents skin cancer, but also prevents the sun from damaging and aging your skin. 

habits

These days, sunscreen has evolved and become less sticky and oily, making it easy to add to your skincare regime. Many people get their protection through a daily moisturizer with SPF that they apply to their face and neck in the morning. Even if you haven’t worn sunscreen for years, start wearing it now to prevent further damage to your skin. While a tan may look good now, the effects of this sun exposure will be evident later in life. 

2. Drink water.

Everyone has heard the advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Although there’s no single number that fits all of us, The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day. This number increases if you engage in activity that makes you sweat or if you live in a hotter climate. 

Drinking water helps your kidneys remove toxins from your body, keeps your skin vibrant and moisturized, and prevents muscle fatigue. Because the effects are seen so quickly (have you ever drank water while dehydrated and immediately felt better?)this is definitely a healthy habit to adopt, no matter your age. 

habits
The best way to ensure you drink enough water is to track your intake throughout the day. Many of us carry around a reusable water bottle, so figure out how many bottles of water you need to drink to hit your goal. I try to drink a gallon of water a day, and I know that five of my bottle equals one gallon. If I haven’t refilled my bottle three times by 3 or 4 p.m., I need to speed up my drinking. If this is too intimidating, try to drink a little more each day and be aware of how much water you’re sipping (and how much you aren’t sipping). Being intuitive is the first step towards healthy behavior change, which includes staying hydrated.

3. Go to the doctor regularly.

Anyone else put off going to the doctor in college just because Mom wasn’t scheduling your appointments anymore? While it can be difficult to find a new doctor or dentist wherever you go to school, regular health exams and tests can help identify problems before they start, and dramatically increase the chances of treatment and cure.

Most university health centers offer check-ups and STD testing, and can offer recommendations for primary care physicians in the area. A yearly visit to the doctor and biannual cleaning at the dentist are a necessary check-in to ensure our bodies are functioning properly. 

4. Get quality sleep.

It may seem obvious that sleep is beneficial. Even without fully understanding what sleep does for our bodies, we know that going without sleep for too long makes us feel terrible. Sleep is vital for many bodily functions that we need throughout our lives, like our metabolism, memory, learning, and emotional well-being. 

healthy habits that are never too late to startLike you’ve probably experienced after a good (or bad) night, the effects of your sleep occur almost instantly. Therefore, by improving your sleep, you’ll feel the benefits quickly. While the amount that a person needs to sleep every night differs for every person, finding your optimal number of hours is key. Do you feel tired if you get six hours of sleep instead of seven? Or if you get ten instead of eight (yes, it is possible to get too much sleep)?

Another step is to create a good sleep environment, void of distractions like electronics, light, or sound. Additionally, reserve your bed for just sleeping (not homework or eating) so that when you get into bed at night your body knows it’s time to sleep.

The key to a healthy life is prevention. All of the above actions are investments. If we treat our bodies well and invest in our health before they start showing signs of worry, we will live happier, healthier, and longer lives.  

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I Took A Week Off From Working Out: Here’s What Happened

Nothing.

That’s exactly what happened: nothing. At the end of one week without working out, I looked in the mirror and nothing had changed. If anything, I felt more liberated. My body felt a lot better rested.

Let me back up a few weeks. 

Have you ever reached the point where you’re fed up with the gym? Where your body and mind just don’t feel like working out? Your alarm goes off and you can’t imagine getting up and dragging yourself to the gym. Or the late afternoon rolls around and your body is just begging for a nap.

A few weeks ago, I reached this point. I absolutely resented going to the gym. It was then that I asked myself: why am I forcing myself to workout if my body doesn’t want to?

So I decided to take a whole week off from the gym, and what happened was both surprising and empowering: nothing. I actually felt better rested, my mind felt clearer, and I didn’t gain or lose a single pound.

I had more time to study, do work, and hang out with my friends. My diet was a lot more balanced and I felt relieved that I didn’t have to force myself to get up and go do something I was dreading. It was in one word, freeing. 

After my week of relaxation was over, I felt rejuvenated and ready to continue with my workouts. 

I Took A Week Off From Working Out Here's What Happened

I realized that taking time off from working out isn’t the end of the world.

In fact, it can be a whole new beginning for a fresh spurt of motivation. Taking breaks from the gym not only gives your body time to rest and recover from the constant stress it’s under, but it also strengthens your mental resolve. Before that week, I would have been afraid to take more than a few days off from the gym. But realizing that it really has little effect on performance, I feel like I can practice mindfulness and balance even more.  

The Bottom Line:

If you are tired, worn down, and sick of the gym, take a break. Listen to your body. Respect your body. It is smarter and more capable than you think. 

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Next Time You Take A Study Break, Try Meditating

If you stress about stress before there’s even stress to stress about, we’ve got you covered.

College can be overwhelming at times. When school-days are jam-packed with classes, extracurricular activities, and endless assignments, it feels like there is rarely any time to do anything not school-related, let alone take a second to breathe. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our studies that we often forget about ourselves and our health. Eight-hour library sessions might be productive, but we also need to know when to take a break.

While we may take a few minutes away from our books to scroll through Instagram and Pinterest, or take a quick Snapchat, study breaks are often more effective at re-energizing our bodies and rebooting our brains when they involve something other than our screens. Studies have shown that study breaks involving socializing with others, exercise, or napping are extremely revitalizing and help to restore our energy. However, if sleeping in public is not your thing, you might want to try meditation for your next study break.

So, what is meditation? 

Meditation – stemming from the Latin word meditatum or “to ponder” – is significant in Eastern and Western Traditions. While meditation is used in religious practices in the East, it is predominantly used in Western culture as a way to alleviate stress and improve health. Meditative practices are often mistaken for a way to escape or “get away from it all”, when it is really a practice used to harness self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Although there are many forms of meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh is responsible for introducing mindfulness meditation to the West. The core principles of mindfulness are awareness and acceptance. Individuals are encouraged to be aware of their “thoughts, feelings, and [the] surrounding environment”, while simultaneously accepting or “paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.”

As college students, it is easy to continuously think about a bad grade (a past occurrence) or look forward to things (a party on the weekend or the semester being over), which can often detract from how we perceive the present – a space that we often want to escape from. However, instead of using our brain power to reminisce about that past or think about the future, mindfulness meditation embraces focusing on what is happening in the present moment.

How can I meditate during my next study break?

Mindfulness takes focus, yet has the power to transform your day through a simple shift in attitude. While you are stressing out at the library, designate a few minutes of each hour to sit in silence, be aware of what you are feeling and where you are, and accept the task at hand. You may have a mile-long to-do list, but sitting and breathing through those feelings for a short period of time will re-center you and allow you to continue crossing the items off that list.

Trying new things is scary, that is why apps such as Headspace and The Mindfulness App are available to help you learn how to practice mindfulness and meditation. Your school may even offer an introduction to meditation physical education course! If you are not yet ready to board the meditation train, including study breaks, in general, into your work schedule – that are re-energizing and refreshing – can help lower stress levels and are imperative for overall mental health.

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Why You Need to Stop Fighting Your Body, and Start Loving Yourself

Stop Fighting Your Body, Start Loving Yourself

Love yourself first.” It’s easy to say, but incredibly difficult to do.

I’m here to tell you my story– to show you that even under the strongest doubts, it is possible to practice self love and forgiveness. With nearly four years of self-improvement under my belt, I can say I’ve made immense progress in my journey to self love. But I’ll never be perfect. Even now, I sometimes struggle to love myself all the time. But that is okay. That’s part of it.

I still look in the mirror with a critical eye sometimes. I still occasionally feel guilty when I eat one too many cookies. But the difference is that now I can step back, realize what’s really going on, and forgive myself.

In the past, I would labor over that cookie or that unflattering photo and create a storm of self-hate and disrespect.

Self-love is something to be cultivated, not perfected, and it’s possible for everyone.

My story began when I was in elementary school: a happy-go-lucky, carefree kid who loved cake and pushed the limits of Abercrombie’s sizes. Soon enough, though, the beauty standards of society became a reality surrounding me, and I was forced to face the fact that I was… different. My friends were all smaller than me, I couldn’t share clothes with anyone, and I compared myself with every other girl in the room.

Fast forward to high school, when fasting and cardio became my identity. I hated my body, I hated myself, and for some reason I thought that if I was skinny, that everything wrong in my life would suddenly turn right. I was so wrong in this assumption. I found “clean eating” but took it to an extreme; my orthorexic tendencies caused me to miss out on birthday parties, get togethers, and, to be honest, life. 

After months, or really years, I got there. I was skinny.

But nothing else in my life changed. I still hated how I looked, I couldn’t stop comparing myself to other girls, and I was still incredibly unhappy. Sure, it was nice to hear the compliments, but that external validation only fed into my fears. I was so blind to the idea that there could be something other than this, that body positivity could be a reality or even attainable.

I guess I got tired. I guess I got fed up with counting every single calorie I ate and ensuring that everything I fed myself was “low-cal” or “clean”. I felt something inside of me that wanted more, that knew there was a different path for me– and that if I continued down my current one, I would just keep on searching for something that didn’t even exist.

Your body does nothing but work to keep you alive each and every day. It exists for you and cares for you in ways that nothing else can.

Each cell inside of you is there to serve a purpose, affirmed by you: either you can help your body grow and flourish, or you can hinder it. Sure, it’s easy to work against yourself, but there is absolutely no sense in fighting against the one thing that is all for you… So please don’t do it. 

We all have stretch marks, we all have rolls when we sit down, and we certainly all have that little fat pocket between our arms. But you know what? That makes us human. It means we are alive and here, and that should be enough. Nobody’s judging you as hard as yourself but, on the flip side, nobody can love you as much as yourself.

How you treat yourself is extremely telling in how much you will tolerate from others. I used to punish myself and put myself down; I had the idea that I was undeserving of any kind of love or happiness. In return, I interpreted negativity from situations that aligned with my thinking.

Body image is woven into all other aspects of life– whether it be relationships, work, school, or well being. What you put out, you will get right back.

There’s no easy way to get past a negative self-image. I’m not saying there is any one path, but it’s important to recognize that there is a path. Start listening to your body and remember that balance is the key to sanity. While you should be nurturing your health nine times out of ten, it won’t be the end of the world if you slip up. That makes you human and serves as a reminder that you are trying, and I promise, even that is enough!

Once you free yourself from negative self-talk and restriction, the world opens up to you. You’ll be amazed at the situations and opportunities that begin to arise when you stop saying no and begin to say perhaps. Really, the world is yours to take and anything you could imagine is within reach. It just starts with self-acceptance. Before others can love and accept you, you must be able to sit alone with yourself and feel comfortable. It takes work and by no means is it a quick fix, but it is accessible for each and every one of us.

So, please, stop fighting your body. Put the weapons down and trade them in for love, gratitude, and self-care. Listen to your body and make sure that your head and your heart are in balance. Release the idea that you have to restrict yourself or look a certain way to be happy, because otherwise you will be chasing an ideal that cannot be reached. Love yo self, treat yo self, cherish yo self. Life opens up when you do, so make the step towards reaching your potential today by deciding to work with your body rather than against it. 

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I Gave Up Instagram To Find Myself

Sometimes you need to turn off the notifications.

Is this article’s title dramatic? Yes.

Did it happen? Yes.

Let me start from the beginning… I decided to give up (some) social media for lent. I already knew that I needed to give up Instagram (because I honestly just REALLY love Instagram). I also decided to give up Twitter. (because who doesn’t get sucked into those threaded videos?)

At first, I would click on the app out of pure habit. I would immediately exit out. Twitter wasn’t hard for me to give up, but Instagram definitely was. I missed seeing what my friend’s posted and what the people I once was close with were up to. It’s a good way to keep up with what people are doing if you don’t get to talk to them everyday.

But man, was it nice.

I love following my favorite fitness accounts, but it was incredibly refreshing to not click on Instagram and immediately be bombarded with pictures of lean figures, booty pictures, and chiseled abs.

Don’t get me wrong, many of these people work very hard to get these incredible bodies. But I have hard time remembering that the person in the picture and myself live very different lives. I get caught up in seeing incredibly fit college students and wonder: why I don’t look the same? Really, we just live such different lives and have such different bodies – how can I even compare?

It goes beyond fitness accounts. It includes the best contour, the cutest outfits, being able to travel, etc. People read into the images on other people’s Instagram accounts and become absorbed, imagining lives much more glamorous and attractive than their own. You start to miss out on the opportunities you have and all the wonderful things your life is full of. Make a conscious effort to not read too much into the  images on these accounts. Posed photos and material goods don’t justify your happiness.

But lets say you just really look up to someone on Instagram, and you hope to live a life like theirs. Well, let me be the first to tell you that you won’t obtain their lifestyle by grazing over their Instagram account and wishing for it.

The point of this rant isn’t to diss Instagram or condemn social media. 

This is just a reminder that…

1. Your life rocks. Each and everyday you get to decide how to accomplish your dreams. Either you get up and do something about it or you can sit back hoping it magically falls into your lap.

2. Don’t forget to set the phone down or turn off the notifications and just enjoy the moment you are in.

3. Go outside, forget your phone, forget your camera. Try not taking pictures for a night. 

4. What you see is not always what you get. Photos are usually posed, don’t read too far into them.

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Why We Need To Celebrate The Beginner

Why We Need To Celebrate The Beginner

To my fellow fitness friends:

We, as a health community, fit family, or whatever you’d like to deem us, spend a lot of time applauding amazing feats. We celebrate everything from heavy weightlifting personal records to fast mile times to intricate yoga holds. However, we often overlook the fitness community’s most important asset: the beginner.

Why We Need To Celebrate The Beginner

You’re likely at some point in your “fitness journey” if you’re reading this.  Maybe you’re a seasoned athlete, or a promising powerlifter. Maybe you can run a 5-minute mile or have bikini-bodied your way to a gold medal in a bodybuilding competition.

On the other hand, it could be that you’re just getting started, or you’re just getting back into the swing of things. You are the beginner.

But guess what?

We were all a beginner at some point or another.

To the seasoned health veterans:

The fitness community is excessively guilty of indulging in narcissism, and quite frankly, it’s eating away at the fabric that holds us together: grit, effort, tenacity, empowerment, and self-love. We spend all this time chasing the next best thing and inevitably forget why we started in the first place. We forget who we were when we began. I don’t sit here pointing a finger, judging you. You should be proud of how far you’ve come. 

Why We Need To Celebrate The Beginner2But, I don’t believe its irrational to ask you to pair pride with compassion, and competitiveness with care. You can be your very best without silently wishing to look someone else, or becoming hyper-competitive. Tell the new gym-goer you like her leggings and give her substantial, patient advice instead of quietly rolling your eyes at her squat form. You were once new and confused, so think about the compassion you would have liked to receive when you were first starting.

To the beginner:

I’d like to let you know a few things-

  1. Hi!
  2. I’m proud of you.
  3. You’re a rockstar.
  4. Hang in there.

I’d give you a hug if I could. I recognize your struggle and understand your hopes. You’re here to make a change, and a change WILL come. I can promise you that. However, change is two-fold: it’s a process, and it’s an experience. The process part requires time, effort, and consistency. It requires rainy long runs and occasional impromptu in-home workouts. There will be days when motivation isn’t at its peak. Don’t be discouraged by someone else’s progress, as each and every journey is a bit different. Things won’t always be easy, but I can assure you that they’re worth it.

Why We Need To Celebrate The Beginner3You can do it. I know you have it in you.

As for the experience, I believe this may be even more important than the process. I implore you to value this experience. You won’t appreciate the end product if you can’t find joy in the journey. Celebrate a tiny bicep pump, or your first deadlift. Take pride in finally catching the beat in spin class, or holding your yoga pose for five more seconds.

Finally, please keep your goals in line. Don’t you dare begin to think that your success is defined by one less-than-perfect day, or if you have the elusive thigh-gap or not. Just like those seasoned vets, your goal should be to become the best version of you that you can be – the happiest, most holistically healthy version (mind, body, and soul).

To everyone:

We must support each other. The ins and outs of health can be tricky to navigate, and falling into self-destructive extremes is a possibility. But if we celebrate the beginner, and lift each other up every step of the way, we can slowly but surely bring light to the toughest of self-love situations, and eventually become the most balanced, positive, and supportive community of fitness fiends I know we can be. 

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Lift Like a Girl: The Benefits of Strength Training for Women

After a year of working on my own fitness, I made a breakthrough. Rather than spending hours on the treadmill or stairmaster (hating my life), I could spend thirty minutes to an hour in the weight room and get better results while, you know, not hating my life.

Crazy, I know. But let me elaborate.

It’s an extremely common belief that lifting weights (as a girl) will make you bulky. I’d like to challenge every bit of this belief and support you in your own journey towards weightlifting.

I know from my own experience and a lot of research that just doing cardio is not the answer, and success lies in a combination of cardio, preferably high-intensity, and strength training. 

While cardiorespiratory endurance exercise such as running five miles or laboring on the elliptical for an hour burns muscle and fat, weight lifting burns almost exclusively fat. Sorry ladies, that “fat-burning” zone is kind of a scam.

Plus, with more muscle mass, your resting metabolic rate increases, causing your body to burn more calories throughout the day than you would normally. That means you’ll be burning calories just by checking Instagram! On a serious note, though, it will boost your metabolism in a way that detox teas or a magic fix will never be able to. 

Lift Like a Girl: The Benefits of Strength Training in Women

To address the idea that lifting makes girls bulky, I’ll just say this: you have to try really, really hard to become bodybuilder muscular. It’s not going to happen by accident.

Believe me, I’ve been trying for three years, and I still haven’t reached that status. A goal many girls have is to “tone up,” but just cardio will never give you those muscle-building results. Building a baseline of muscular strength and building it up will give you the “toned” look, in conjunction with some cardio (which helps to shed off that extra fat).

In summary, it’s a combination of the two that will boost your results, depending on what works for your body.

Lift Like a Girl: The Benefits of Strength Training in Women

If I can do it, so can you!

Beyond sculpting a super hot bod, weightlifting has incredible effects on the mind. Once you begin to see results, it becomes an addiction and you strive to better yourself each and every time you step into that gym. You learn discipline and begin to find motivation within yourself rather than from an external source.

Confidence and self-esteem inevitably get boosted and all aspects of your life seem to fall into place.  When you learn to love your body, somehow you learn to love and appreciate all other corners of yourself and your life. If you’re skeptical about this, try it for yourself and let me know. 

If and when you do begin lifting weights, don’t expect results to come overnight. Like the 50 day squat challenges and what not, success just doesn’t happen in such a short time frame. You have to want it, be consistent, and love yourself along the way. Nothing good in life comes easy, and this applies to your own self. So get in the gym, get your head and heart in it, and lift all the things.

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How to Show Everyone You Love Them on Valentine’s Day

Growing up, Valentine’s day meant one thing: candy.

You would craft the most wonderful box you could think of. You would arrive at school and set out your box proudly, waiting for the time you could hand out the candy you oh-so-carefully picked out and receive all the wonderful, cartoon-filled valentine’s day cards your classmates made. You couldn’t wait to get back home, rip open all of the cards, and shove as much pink, heart-shaped candy into your mouth as you possibly could.

But as time continued on and you continued to grow, Valentine’s day developed a whole new meaning. It wasn’t about candy suckers and cards taped shut with heart stickers… It was about your relationship status. 

Not only was it about whether or not you were in a relationship, but it was about what you did and the gifts you got on Valentine’s Day.

You see, once you become a teenager, society begins to tell you that you “should” be in a relationship.

Society says that in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, you should be showered in jewelry, flowers, chocolate, a fancy date, etc. The constant commercials filled with romance are overwhelming.

But I am here to tell you that it does not have to be that way. 

To me, Valentine’s Day is something much deeper than that. It doesn’t have to be about a romantic relationship: it can celebrate platonic relationships, love for your family, and love for yourself.

Valentine’s Day is all about the celebration of love!

So instead of dwelling on how single you are, or how you can’t find somebody, or how everyone sucks, why not ditch all that and be positive? Spread the love to those around you and just show your appreciation for them.

It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. All you really have to do is say, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I love you and I am so grateful for you! Happy Valentine’s day!” It may not seem like much, but it means so much to the person that is receiving it.

BE A RADIANT BEAM OF LOVE AND DON’T LET ANYONE TRY AND TEAR YOU DOWN. The day can be whatever you make of it. And if you don’t feel like spreading the love and would rather just sulk, well at least let me give you some ideas for activities that incorporate loving yourself.

  1. Watch your favorite movie.
  2. Take a long, relaxing bath while listening to your most soothing playlist.
  3. Go to the gym, take a walk, go for a run outside, whatever makes you feel good.
  4. Put on some good music and dance around.
  5. Make your favorite meal.
  6. Get a manicure/pedicure.
  7. Buy yourself the Valentine’s Day essentials (chocolate and flowers). There should be no shame in this purchase.
  8. Do something with your friends!
  9. Do something creative.
  10. Go visit your family.
  11. Do something that you love to do that you haven’t had time to do lately.
  12. Sleep in.
  13. Have a lunch date with your friend.
  14. Write down a simple list of things you love.
  15. Try something new. It can be as simple as getting off campus and going to a new restaurant.

No matter what you decide to do, just make sure to spread the love. Whether that is calling an old friend, texting someone to let them know you miss them, or complimenting a random stranger, just embrace the day with open arms and keep smiling. 🙂 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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How to Take on Finals Week Like A Boss

how to take on finals week like a boss

Unfortunately, finals week is inevitable. If anyone has figured out a logistical way to avoid it, please enlighten me, enlighten all of us.

I don’t want to take anything away from it because yes finals week is a challenge, but in my opinion it has such a stigma behind it that it ends up being harder than it should. It is so talked up, kind of like Organic Chemistry– is it just my university, or is that course talked up like none other? I am not even in the course and I know when every single exam is because the world seems like it’s ending every time they come around. Yes, I know it is hard, but about 5,000 other courses are just as hard, if not harder.  I just went through a Computer Science course that took on average 40 hours per weekly project, and you don’t see me preaching that to the entire campus.

The point I am making here is that when a course, or an event, is talked up in a negative sense, our perceptions of it change and we make it harder on ourselves. We get so wrapped up in the idea that it is so “supposedly hard” that it actually becomes so. 

How many times have you seen or heard people talk about not showering, or not sleeping during finals week? I’m sorry, but come on, that’s a little ridiculous. You can easily avoid those things. 

If you’ve gotten to that point, you’re not doing something right. That’s what I want to share with you today: my tips to get through finals season feeling confident and (most importantly) without going to those extremes.

1. Make A Schedule

Right now, write down your finals schedule.  Then, go one step farther and make a loose plan on how you plan to spend your studying time. By having scheduled blocks, everything is bound to get done, and you have subject switches to look forward to.

2. Jam Out

Put together a playlist of songs that make you happy and are not distracting so you have something to look forward to and can drown out the chatter and distractions.

3. Move your booty.

Not even with a workout, which I actually do recommend, but simply by moving your studying locale. By varying up your surroundings, you are refreshing your brain and your body.

Library, bakery, Wegmans, cafe, study room… the options are endless.  If you are going to school down south, go OUTSIDE! I slightly envy you.

4. Sleep.

RE: above. I know we all know that sleep is important, but for some reason in college we tend to block out that knowledge.  I promise you that if you stay up all night studying and then attempt to take your exam the next morning, you are going to suffer.  Your brain needs sleep to function.

Also, solid time to throw in the fact that your brain needs food to function too– don’t forget to eat, and don’t forget to eat well. Get those healthy fats, that lean protein, and those occasional treats to make you happy. 

5. Breaks. Take them.

I’ve never preached that, right? Actually, pretty sure I did the other day. Breaks are great. Breaks are wonderful. Breaks refresh. Breaks rejuvenate. Breaks inspire. I don’t care what you do on your breaks, just take them please. I like to workout on mine; here is my CollegeFit workout guide with short, effective workouts.  

6. I want to end with this one: don’t psych yourself out.

You have been learning this material for months, you’ve done problem sets, you’ve had midterms and prelims, you know this material, and you GOT THIS.  Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage by convincing yourself that you aren’t ready. You Make You #amiright?

Now, go kill it!

xoxo Colby

College friends check out my CollegeFit guide, a full guide to successfully balancing heath and happiness in college, it’s only $0.99!

Namast’ay in the Library: How Yoga Helps Me Survive Finals Week

Finals week.

Even the phrases gives me a little PTSD: flashbacks of late nights in the library and spending way too much on Starbucks late night coffee. So trust me when I say I get it. We all go through it, so I wanted to share a little tip that’s helped me calm my nerves through all of the assignments, projects, presentations, and exams on the horizon.

yoga for finals

When you’re stressed, your body is working in over-drive. This can lead to poor performance on exams and even having to deal with sickness. This all makes exam time way worse. Being a double major with two science degrees, I learned this pretty quickly.

So how do I cope? Yoga. My roommate was in the nursing program and was always up late studying with me. When exam time came around, we started to get overwhelmed with the amount of work we had to do, so we would start the week off with some yoga. (As a side note, it definitely helps to have a friend to drag along with you!)

Fit University @ Glow Yoga

Settling my mind for an hour and focusing on my breath and my movements, instead of chemistry or how many chapters I still needed to outline before the exam, helped me to relax instead of hit panic mode. Yoga is not only great exercise for strengthening your body, but it’s also good for your mental health. These aspects of your overall health go hand in hand– especially during finals week, and they can help you make it through the long nights and difficult exams.

There are many different types of yoga. You can start at the beginning level, move to intermediate, take a class that is half flow and half meditation, try some aerial yoga, or maybe even glow yoga. The possibilities are endless! And most yoga studios offer free or discounts on your first class.

So when if you’re already slammed with studying, work, extracurriculars, make sure you’re finding the  time to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally.

No need to look like those girls on instagram in perfect yoga pretzels — just start with a few simple poses. You can even find great Youtube videos you can do in your room on your study breaks (my favorite is Yoga by Adrianne).

yoga-finals

Casual….

Not into yoga? No problem. Everyone is different, just make sure to find something that works for you: distract yourself and relax, break up your studying. It will help keep you sane.

Check out these articles too:

A Day in the Life of a College Student Who’s Obsessed With Fitness

obsessed

There’s a difference between dedication and obsession.

When I was 8 years old, I wrote in my journal, “I’m going on a diet tomorrow. I really need to lose some weight.” What kind of diet I was planning to go on at 8 years old, I don’t know but from that point on, I struggled with my weight.

Throughout middle and high school I tried every diet out there…Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Special K Diet, etc etc. The summer going into my sophomore year of college, I started working with a personal trainer in the bodybuilding industry. I lost 30 something pounds. I finally had become the person I wanted to become – I finally had the body I wanted to have my whole life. 

obsessive eating

During the first few months of working with my coach, I slowly started to develop obsessive behaviors towards eating and exercise  I slowly started to develop behaviors and attitudes that were crucial in helping me reach my goals. And while I was getting the results I wanted, I didn’t see the subsequent effects these physical results were having on me mentally. 

I didn’t realize how obsessive I had become because to me, I was just dedicated to the plan. I was still my happy-go-lucky self, I just had the drive and willpower to get done what I needed to get done. It took almost a year for me to see and accept my obsessiveness and start to work myself out of it – and let me tell you, it was not an easy process. It took time, practice, some more time, and some more practice to get me to where I am today, living a moderate and balanced healthy lifestyle. 

Below is an account of an average day during my sophomore year (4 years ago), the peak of my obsessive fitness behaviors. It may read a bit dramatic but everything written is something that I once thought, felt, or experienced. To some, this may read as a day in the life of someone who’s just very dedicated to fitness. And that’s true. Dedication does come with a bit of obsession. But there’s a point in time when your obsession becomes greater than your dedication, and it’s at that point when you can get hurt. 

A day in the life of a college student who’s obsessed with fitness

7AM – Wake up, immediately bring hands to stomach to feel how flat it is. Do I have abs yet? 

7:05 Get out of bed, go stand in front of a mirror, lift up shirt. Do I have abs yet?

7:07 – Head to the scale, start to feel the tension rise in your chest. Step on the scale, hold your breathe, wait for the little magic numbers to appear below your feet. If the number’s higher than yesterday, your body floods with devastation. If the number’s lower than yesterday, endorphins rush through you.

7:10 on Saturday - Have your roommate take progress photos so you can send them to your coach. Do I have abs yet, coach?

7:30 – Grab your lunchbox filled with meals for the day (which you obviously meal prepped last night) and head out the door for gym session #1: cardio.

7:45 – 45 minutes of HIIT, because coach says that burns the most fat.

9AM – Meal 1: 5 egg whites, 1/3 cup oats and depending on the day, 1/2 a grapefruit. Enjoy with a cup of coffee and handful of supplements coach told you you need.

9:30 – First class of the day. Walk into class with your giant lunchbox, liter water bottle and gym bag. These items are just as essential as – if not more than – your backpack and textbooks. 

9:30 on Saturday - Begin checking email frantically to see if coach emailed you back yet.

12PM – Second class of the day, where you enjoy meal 2: 3 oz chicken, greens, 1 tbsp of olive oil. Start thinking about meal 3 immediately upon completion of meal 2.

2:30PM – Gym session #2: weights. Like any good workout plan, you know exactly what you’re working that day. Coach has you training legs Monday & Friday, back on Tuesdays, shoulders on Thursdays, chest/bi’s/tri’s on Saturday. Wednesday and Sunday are just for cardio. Take flexing picture in the locker room and post on Insta because you just crushed your workout and DAMN you look good.

 

Don’t underestimate the pigtails #fit #biceps #fitfluential #instagramfitness #gunshow #igfitness

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

 


3:30PM – Meal 3: BEST MEAL OF THE DAY! 3 oz chicken, 3 oz sweet potato, broccoli. The last bite is so sad. Start thinking about meal 4 immediately upon completion of meal 3.

But wait, what if it's a weekend or a school break and you're with your family and they want to go out to lunch at some place where you can't get plain chicken with veggies? Freak out immediately, get mad at your family and try to explain to them how important it is that you NEED to stick exactly to your meal plan. And worse... what if these lunch plans cut into your gym time? Why doesn't your family just understand you're trying to hit your goals???

4pm – Third class of the day. Pull out your laptop and start looking at menus for your cheat meal on Saturday night.

6pm – Go to the dining hall with friends. The dining hall’s no biggie…you can make meal 4 there no problem. Grab a piece of chicken – maybe a burger patty if you’re feeling risky-  from the grill and make yourself a big ol’ salad. (On the rare occasion that you decide to go for a slice of pizza instead of sticking to your plan like you should have, your entire day just went to shit and you might as well eat everything you can. 3 slices of pizza, ice cream, cookies…eat that dining hall clean. You’ll just start fresh again tomorrow.)

6pm on Saturday - Still haven't heard back from coach? Start texting him because you have no idea if your meal plan will change tomorrow and you need to know right now. If he doesn't get back to you by the morning, consider it an extra cheat day.

7pm – Chapter, rehearsal, or some other activity you have that night. Whenever snacks or sweets are offered to you, as they are when you have a bunch of college girls together, pass them onto the next person because it’s not a cheat night (unless of course, you just went ham in the dining hall. Then it’s OK to have the snack).

7pm on Saturday - This is it! The moment you've been looking forward to all week. All of your dedication becomes worth it when you get to have your cheat night. Your friends know this is your special night and are excited to see where you've decided to go out to eat. 

You start your night with a meal that you picked out earlier in the week. Naturally, you eat the entire meal because it's just SO good and you can't put your fork down even when you're stuffed. After dinner is of course, dessert. Sometimes even a full piece of Cheesecake Factory's red velvet cheesecake all to yourself. Saturday night is also the only night you go out, since you obviously can't drink on a regular night of the week. Not that you want to go out that much, but still. 

You make sure to eat whatever snacks are available at the party you're at. Sometimes that's 8 Reeses peanut butter cups. But that's ok, this is your cheat meal night!  Any and everything is fair game until you go to sleep. Even if it's 5am and you leave a friend's apartment just to go home and eat the cupcake you bought yourself special for this night. This is your cheat...enjoy it! You'll wake up tomorrow and start fresh all over again. You know that the scale will be 3 or 4 pounds higher than usual, but it'll be back to your regular weight by Monday.

Sometimes Most of the time, you eat so much that you have to force yourself to throw up. This was never the intention - you're not bulimic or anything - but you just feel so stuffed that you have to do it to make yourself better. You text your friend "it's not a cheat meal if I don't throw up right?!" 

 

ROLO YOLO cheat! #saturdaynightcheat #cookies #baking

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

9PM – Head home and enjoy meal 5: generally some sort of protein shake, protein ice cream if you’re feeling ballsy, or greek yogurt with peanut butter. Mmmm dessert time! 

9:30 – Start to get ready for the day ahead. Cook tomorrow’s breakfast, pack your lunchbox, finish up any homework, hang with your roommates, watch TV (preferably Diners, Drive In’s & Dives because the food looks so good).

10:30 – Get into bed, close your eyes and be proud of all that you accomplished today (unless you went rogue at the dhall). You are one step closer to your goal. You feel great. You are killing it. You put your hands to your stomach…do I have abs yet?

Fitness should add value to your life, not consume it. If you or someone you know struggles with obsessive behaviors towards fitness, know that there is help out there. The National Eating Disorders Association is a wonderful resource or feel free to reach out to me. 

Check out these articles too:

I Run A Health & Fitness Company, And I’m A Fraud
There Was A Time When The Fitness Community Was Bad For Me
A Day In The Life Eating Disorder Recovery in College
“What’s Your Weight Loss Secret?” Answered Honestly By Someone With An Eating Disorder

4 Simple Tips to Stop Anxiety in its Tracks

As a college girl who struggles with anxiety on an almost daily basis, I genuinely understand how difficult it is living with anxiety. Those anxious thoughts can come with a lot of unwanted exhaustion and frustration.

Most everyone will experience anxiety at some point—some more than others. But no matter how often or severe your experience with anxiety, having a few tricks in mind for how to handle it can make the experience a lot more manageable. Although many college students struggle with anxiety, there are certainly ways to cope with it. Keep reading to find out how you can take control of your anxiety in a healthy way (and stop feeling like SpongeBob without water)… 

1. Get moving.

First and foremost, go exercise. It’s scientifically proven: that post-workout endorphin high is hard to beat.

Exercise doesn’t have to be working out in a gym—it can be any medium of exercise that feels good, or that you enjoy.

I know, it’s not easy when you’re anxious, and it’s probably not your first instinct when you start to feel some anxiety. But even when it’s difficult, just go work out. Or even just go for a bike ride around the city, or take a walk with some friends! Assess how you feel before and after exercising. There have been so many times where I think the world is coming to an end, but then I go to the gym and suddenly I am fine again.

2. Take a second to just breathe.

Another method for managing anxiety is meditation. There are plenty of apps that you can download (personally, I like Headspace but there are so many more to choose from) that will help guide your meditation. Over time, this simple ritual can help reduce anxiety.

Sure, meditation might not work for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a try. Just setting aside some time to think and connect with yourself can be comforting—knowing that you do have a moment set aside to relax when life gets stressful.

3. Reach out.

Although college can be an anxiety-provoking time, the upside of living in a dorm is that you will always have friends nearby. Whenever you feel anxious, it can help to talk it out with a friend. When I feel anxious, I often come up with worries and obsess over them to the point where I can barely think straight anymore; but talking it out with a friend helps me realize that I am actually ok. Sometimes all you need is another person’s voice to put your anxiety into perspective for you.

4. Take a step back.

Jumping off of that last point, anxiety is all about perspective. Your worries might seem huge, or might seem like nothing at all when placed side by side with your actual situation. Anxiety can blow each little worry out of proportion, but it’s so hard to see that in the moment. When you experience anxiety (again, I know it’s not easy) try to take a step back and look at your big picture situation. You might even realize that you actually have nothing to worry about at all.

If you learn anything from my article, I want it to be this: DON’T LET ANXIETY STOP YOU FROM LIVING LIFE. There are ways to manage that anxiety so that it doesn’t completely take over! I used to turn down every one of life’s opportunities because I let my anxiety get in the way. Even if you are scared, do things outside of your comfort zone. It will help you grow. Don’t live a life filled with fear; just go out and do what you set your mind to. The worst thing that can happen is that you fail, and even that isn’t so bad. Just remember – #fitufam is always there for you too. 🙂

Check out these articles too: 

8 Important Lessons on Wellness from My Freshman Year

  1. You don’t have to (nay, you are not supposed to) wash your hair every day

(even when you work out) DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH TIME AND SANITY THIS HAS SAVED ME?! It is a little weird getting used to at first, but you get over it, and your hair loves you for it.

  1. Let things go. 

I’m stressed, you’re stressed, we are all stressed. Learn when to let things go. But, at the same time know your worth and don’t let people walk all over you.. you are a strong, independent person.

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  1. Say YES!

Some of the best experiences you will have are those that you do on a whim. Don’t be afraid to break away from your routine, or perfectly penciled out schedule. You have the rest of your life to work—enjoy these college experience while they last.

Spontaneous hiking during exam week

Spontaneous hiking during exam week

  1. Don’t go HAM on the school “specialty” items.

Or in my case, the Cornell Dairy. You are in a whole new place, with a whole new atmosphere, a whole new crowd, a whole new everything—your body is in shock, take everything in stride for it to adjust. I, and a lot of people I know, develop food allergies their first year of school because of too much all at once. In my case, Cornell makes their own dairy (hi all you can eat ice cream) and because I wasn’t eating much dairy before coming here, the daily consumption was too much for my body and HELLO SEVERE LACTOSE-INTOLERANCE within 2 months. MODERATION!!!! 

Expedition sundae from Purity.

Expedition sundae from Purity.

  1. Pre-enroll! 

It’s no joke. Figure out when that biz-nitch is. Be on your computer 3 minutes before you need to register for classes. Keep your hands free. And, click your little heart out. Take no prisoners.

Overheard 2 hours after 7am pre-enroll:

“How did pre-enroll go for you?”

Wide eyed and running to the nearest computer: “Pre-enroll?!”

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DON’T LET THIS BE YOU ^^ I don’t even want to imagine what her schedule looks like.

  1. You are either going to love, or hate your roommate.

There is not much of an in-between. If it’s love, YAY!! If it is hate, it is no big deal–all you have to do is sleep there, you will have tons of other places and people to hang out and have fun.

  1. You do not need dessert every night.

Yes the freshman 15 is real. But from what I have seen it comes from 1) Alcohol and 2) Dining halls. Just because dining halls are all-you-can-eat, does not mean you have to eat more than you normally would. And, there WILL be dessert at every meal, treat yourself every once in a while, but if you were at home, would you be eating dessert all the time?!

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  1. Happiness is everywhere.

I currently have 2 roommates, and we are all COMPLETELY different people, but at the same time, we are all COMPLETELY happy. There is something for everyone and you will find it, just follow your heart and do what YOU want to do. If that isn’t partying, then DO NOT feel the need to do that. #YouMakeYou

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There Was a Time When the Healthy Living Community Was Bad for Me

The part of healthy living that can creep up on you.

You know that person who sings and dances while walking around in public with their headphones in? You’re happy for that person, sure, but you’re definitely also giving them the side eye.

Well, I’m that person.

And since I attend Boston University, I’m also this person:

ice

My name is Alison, and I dance like nobody’s watching, even if people are watching.

Me: the Sparknotes version

I am Boston’s #1 peanut butter consumer (not proven, but likely)…

pancakes

…I will do burpees over running any day…

alison yeung

…I love God a whole lot…

hallelujah

… and I’m a banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside).

I’m the little Asian on the bottom, in case you didn’t catch my “banana” drift

I’m the little Asian on the bottom, in case you didn’t catch my “banana” drift

My love for dance and movement in general inspired the name of my blog, Daily Moves and Grooves. This blog (AKA my baby) has become such a significant part of my life — it’s my life diary (for the whole world to see), my food and workout journal, and my recovery story unfolding day by day.

alison yeung

Yep, recovery. When I was in high school, I struggled with disordered eating.

Let’s rewind a bit. Throughout my childhood, I was always active, whether it was with figure skating, dance, or just being a kid. I never had problems with food, and I was pretty healthy overall.

Little mermaid, little haircut, little belly

Little mermaid, little haircut, little belly

Come high school, I started to eat more and move less and, thus, I gained weight.  People started making comments about my eating habits, and that made me feel like I had no self-control. I was still at a healthy weight, but in my self-conscious, self-criticizing eyes, I was huge compared to my friends. That freaking comparison trap, eh? (<– Fun fact: I have dual citizenship in US and Canada.)

The summer before my junior year, I decided I needed to lose weight. I’m an all or nothing kind of person, so in order to address my lack of self-control around food, I swung to the far end of what I considered self-control. Health became a matter of vanity for me, whether I admitted it or not.

Everything I did that summer paired with my predisposition for obsession and control created the perfect storm for disordered eating. I started dancing in a summer ballet intensive (involving 6+ hours of dance every day), I secretly started counting calories, and I found…the health and fitness community.

I looked to healthy living blogs for fitness and healthy eating inspiration, but for all the wrong reasons and with an unhealthy mindset. I saw image after image of so many women working out X times per week and eating 1200 calories per day (PSA: 1200 calories per day is insufficient for almost any woman, working out or not). In my contorted mindset, I started working out intensely and cutting my calories.

I don’t look too unhealthy on the outside, but inside I was.

I don’t look too unhealthy on the outside, but inside I was.

Naturally, I started losing weight. Fast. Seeing the number on the scale go down was addicting. Hearing people commenting on my thinness (whether they were just observant or actually concerned) was addicting.

I was cold all the time. I started losing my hair. According to my parents and dance teachers, I was also losing energy and becoming more irritable.

Very little carbs, almost no meat, fat free everything. Heavy guilt whenever I strayed from my “plan”. I went to bed and woke up thinking about food, because I was obsessive.

I tried to prove to others that I didn’t have a problem by saying, “I LOVE food! I’m always thinking about it, and I can never wait to eat!” The truth was that I loved being particular about my food, and I was always looking forward to my self-imposed eating times because I was starving.

I worked out as much as I could, and I would be upset and guilty if I ever missed a workout. I would work out even when my body was absolutely sore and exhausted. In my mind, I needed to burn those calories.

Did I become more fit? Yeah. Did I look fit? Sure. Did I learn about healthy foods? You bet. Was I happy with myself? Not at all. No amount of weight I lost was enough in my eyes.

 

Yeah, you could see a six pack, but my body was crying for nourishment and rest.

Yeah, you could see a six pack, but my body was crying for nourishment and rest.

Thank God for my parents, who were able to pull me out of my torment before my disordered eating turned into a full-blown eating disorder. I remember the day my dad looked at me with tearful eyes, telling me that I needed to end this.

That was the day my long recovery journey started. That day was 3.5 years ago. I am grateful to say that I am fully recovered, and with the proper professional help, rest from exercise, and nourishment, I have been able to restore a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

alison yeung

I can order a salad if I want, but I can also order a big burger with fries and a milkshake, and I don’t need to “compensate” with an ungodly amount of exercise.

alison yeung

My workout can be a sweaty HIIT session or a walk around the ‘hood (and I’ll still eat just as much).

alison yeung

It’s funny that I’m currently a blogger and that I use social media to encourage health and fitness, because blogs and social media fueled my disordered eating. However, I now know how to take care of myself and read everything with caution. I have found blogs and communities that view health and fitness from a balanced, encouraging, and holistic perspective. As the founder of Fit U says herself, “Fitness looks different for everyone.”

Playing air saxophone and laughing is a fun way to move ;)

Playing air saxophone and laughing is a fun way to move 😉

It sucks that anyone has to go through an eating disorder, but in retrospect I am thankful that it happened. Not only have I learned so much about true health and fitness, but I have learned so much about myself, and I’ve met incredible people through the recovery process.

alison yeung

Check out these articles too:

I run a health and fitness company, and I’m a fraud
What an honest fitstagram looks like
One student gets real about her fitness journey
A day in the life of eating disorder recovery in college

When Fitness Stopped Ruling My Life

It is so easy to get wrapped up in fitness, but I gained my life back (I’m about to go all engineer on you, so get ready).

Scientifically, it makes perfectly good sense. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people… don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t. (Catch my reference?) 😀

In all serious-ness though, exercise does release endorphins, and these endorphins make us feel good after we work out. And what’s wrong with feeling good, right?!

At least that’s what I thought. However, these endorphins can easily cause our brains to make the jump from thinking of exercise as a joyful pastime to developing a full-blown obsession. And that’s when it can get out of hand. No addiction is good — no matter what that addiction is.

The hard part about this particular kind of addiction is that most people (including myself) do not even realize it’s a problem.

After all, we’ve been taught over and over again that exercise is good! Any way you can get in a workout is positive. Exercise is achievement, success, a goal to consistently be striving for, more and more and more… and when we get caught up in the hype and the high, we neglect to realize:

We are REVOLVING our days around working out…

We are devoting a huge amount of energy to planning our workouts…

We get legitimately upset when something, or someone, interferes with our plans…

Missing a day is simply UNTHINKABLE …

We unknowingly cancel plans to make it to the gym…

The first thing that comes into our mind when someone asks us to do something is “Will that fit with my workout schedule?” …

If we are not working out, we are constantly thinking about our workouts and weaving it into every part of our day…

We are missing out on LIFE….

We do not realize these things. And life passes us by.

I was one of these people. I took pride in my fitness, too. I was the “girl in amazing shape,” the “girl who had the perfect body.” and the “girl who was bad-ass and confident in the gym.” But that’s only what I was on the outside. It’s what people didn’t see that counts. Nobody knew how addicted I was, how my drive for fitness was hurting me. I don’t even think I knew what was going on until I wasn’t that girl anymore. Sure, maybe I was all of those things, but what did that even mean? What did that do for me? Nothing.

I cannot even count the number of times I would look at “normal” people around me and think to myself:

“These people are not torturing themselves to make time in their hectic schedule everyday to crank out an intense session at the gym, and they look completely and utterly fine. They look so happy and at peace. Why can’t I do that? Better yet, they look HAPPY. Why can’t I live like that?”

I would ask myself this alllll of the time, but I would never change anything about what I was doing. Why not? It’s simple: I was scared. Fitness was my “thing,” it made me look good, it made me… me. I loved it, I really did. I thought that because I was training so much and so intensely, that if I slowed down… I guess I didn’t know what would happen.

Social media was also impacting my situation — you see, I’m “Instagram famous” (@colbytriolo_youmakeyou hit a sister uppp), so I felt that if I “let the fitness side of me slip” all 30k people “watching me” would be disappointed.

Fitness was me. Yes, it was stressful — but that comes along with putting your life out there.

(Side note: if anyone reading this is going through the same thing, know that you are actually more successful when you are doing the things you love, so I promise you will not lose followers and people will not think differently of you if you start following your heart).

But one day, a flip switched. Fitness had taken my life hostage, and I wanted it back. I honestly don’t know what flipped the switch in my head; maybe my threshold had finally been reached, or maybe I had just gone away to college and for the first time saw everything I had been missing out on. But really it doesn’t matter what caused it to happen. What mattered was the fact that it did.

Looking back now, I can’t even really tell you why or when it happened. All I can tell you is that whatever did happen gave me my life back. The craziest part? I didn’t even realize I’d lost it until I had it back.

The ease I feel now is unspeakably amazing. When I let go of my obsession, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

To anyone that is suffering (or maybe doesn’t know that they are) from letting fitness control his or her life, listen:

It is okay to miss a workout.

Or cut one short.

It is OKAY to say yes to dinner with a friend instead of your typical 6pm spin class.

A skipped session will NOT ruin you. In fact, it will build your heart up.

You do not HAVE to clock in an hour of uninterrupted time at the gym to consider yourself working out.

It is OKAY to laugh your heart out while eating a cone of ice cream and call that your abs workout.

It is OKAY to sub sprinting your guts out on the treadmill for going on a leisurely hike with your significant other.

Its OKAY to stay up till 4am gossiping with your friends and eating Oreos, completely disregarding how you planned on working out before classes at 8am.

It is OKAY to walk into the gym and do whatever your heart desires because, honestly, why is there even a right or wrong? Why is it SO important that you do a certain “thing?”

In fact, it is more than OKAY, it is LIFE. You weren’t put here to work out all the time, you were brought here to LIVE.

I want you to realize that.

Fitness is not about putting yourself through intense and strenuous workouts everyday. It is about keeping your body and mind happy. Once more, that’s your body and mind.

Please, next time you’re forcing yourself to go to the gym because you feel like you “have to,” realize that you really don’t!

YES — staying active is important, and I’m not saying you should never workout. What I am asking you to do is to take a step back and assess yourself. See that if your body is saying no, your mind needs to say no. Ask yourself: “What am I training for?”. If it’s not for something special, then why on earth are you putting all that negative pressure on yourself? Fitness is more than just a body game. If your mind isn’t happy as well as your body, that takes away half of the health you’re striving to attain.  

Like I have said, I’ve been working out for years, to a point where it’s more than just a habit. It wasn’t something I really looked forward to, and instead it became just something I “had to do ”.

The day that changed my life came when I said f*** it, and hopped on the treadmill, popped up ‘Friends’ on my phone, cranked up the speed to a leisurely jog (I couldn’t even tell you the mph I was jogging at, because for once I not only didn’t know but I also didn’t care), and jogged it out until I decided I felt like I was finished, cleaned off my treadmill, and walked calmly out. No abs workout to finish, no dumbbells lifted, no extra anything. I just went, did what I wanted to do, and then I left.

THAT. That right there is what I’d wanted to do at the gym for years, but just didn’t have the courage to do. And it felt amazing. It was pure joy, pure happiness, pure mind and body fitness. It might seem cliché, but I was on top of the world that day, and radiating happiness for days after. I began training to my heart, not my head. I am sharing this with you (whoever has the heart in them to read this far on my babble) because I so wish I had someone push me to try this years ago. I so wish I had broken free of the fitness prison I had put myself in sooner.

Really, what is the point of keeping yourself on such a strict regimen when you aren’t training for something? Yes, sure — you are “training for life” — I’ve told myself that, too. But why is such stress on the body, and such strict regimen in your days “training for life?”

Why should “training for life” CONSUME your life?

Even training for a race doesn’t consume your life, there are breaks built into that. More importantly, why give up your life for this “training for life?”

The day I became free is the day I started laughing for real, the day I started feeling alive again.

It was the day I started enjoying the random things in my daily life. And, most importantly, having life experiences.

Like getting dairy-free ice cream with my best friend at odd, random hours. Like laying in bed watching Netflix all day because I just wanted to. Like leisurely strolling around outside in the middle of a sunny day because I wasn’t on a time-table to make it to the gym. Like staying up way past 11pm because I didn’t care if I was well-rested for another forced morning workout. Like going out to brunch, or lunch, or ANYTHING because time wasn’t a factor.

These are the experiences that life is meant for — not for saying no to all of these things for your “fitness,” AKA just so you can make it to the gym.  

Because when I am 80 and looking back, I want important things to remember. I want to see more than a life that entirely revolved around working out.

It makes me sad to think about all the years and memories I threw away because I was so obsessed with something as simple as getting to the gym. And, writing this out for the first time makes it seem so ridiculous and controllable, but I’m writing this because it’s not.

I did not see the happiness and joy I was missing out on. I did not realize I had a problem. I did not see it in the least bit, and that’s scary to me.. That is what I want to prevent in even just one person’s life.

What I want to leave you with is this:

Let fitness be a part of your life. Not your ENTIRE life. Because that isn’t what’s really and truly healthy in the end.

Fit but empty happiness:

colby triolo colby triolo

The look of true happiness (don’t mind my friend falling behind me):

colby triolo

Project BEaUtifull: A Mission To Build Self Love

“I’m too fat.”

“I’m too thin.”

“I’m so small compared to the other guys.”

Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve made comments like these before. Maybe your friends have made comments like these before. Either way, negative comments about one’s bodies are all too common in today’s society.

It’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up in your peers’ appearances and compare yourself to them, especially in college. In fact, 91% of female college students have attempted to control their weight through dieting1. Further, “data from one college over a 13 year period shows total eating disorders increased from 23 to 32% among females and from 7.9 to 25% among males.”2

We are lucky that more and more resources are becoming available to people who suffer with eating disorders. Similarly, more and more people are coming forward to share their struggles with disordered eating in an effort to prevent others from going down the same path. Enter, Shreeya Tuladhar.

project beautifull

Shreeya is a student at Stony Brook University, and the founder of Project BEaUtifull, a non-profit organization that has one simple message: You are you. You are beautiful.

What started as a class assignment has quickly turned something much, much more. I got to talk to Shreeya about Project BEaUtifull and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty amazing. What I love most about our Fit University community is having inspiring students like Shreeya on our team, who are going out and creating their own movements towards healthy living. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a student take something that they’re passionate about and using it to help other students just like themselves. 

Read the interview with Shreeya below!

Fit U: What is Project BEaUtifull?

Project BEaUtifull is a movement that focuses on the idea that being beautiful doesn’t come with standards… being beautiful is about you. It’s a platform for people [who struggle with body image and eating disorders] that have nobody to turn to, and a place where people can help one another. With the help of social media accounts, our non-profit organization aims to spread our message (by video projects on YouTube), let other people’s voices be heard (through submissions of stories on Tumblr), and advocate self-love (with featured pictures on Instagram and positivity on Facebook Page).

Our motto is, “be true, be you.”

project beautifull

Fit U: How did you come up with the idea for it?

I never meant for Project BEaUtifull to be an organization, it just sort of happened that way!

Last spring (April 2015), the final project for my Personal Essay class was to write about something that had impacted my life the most. The one thing that came to mind was my body image issues and unhealthy habits related to it.

I grew up as a performer and dancer in Nepal and always struggled to love myself fully because of it. My choreographers would say, “this move would look good on you if you lost weight!”  It didn’t’ stop there though – being bullied about being “too skinny” when moving to the USA, the constant idea of “beauty” seen on TV, and the comparison made between friends and families made me believe that my weight was how people measured my self worth.

project beautifull

Shreeya as a performer in Nepal

As I got older, I would hide my disorder from doctors and was able to pass as being anemic. By the time I got to college (September 2014), I was in complete denial… I would eat salad three times a day and think I was eating a lot. My sophomore year (January 2015), I threw up blood after dinner one night because my body could not handle digesting any regular food. That’s when I realized I needed help. I wanted to be a doctor, and how could I preach healthy living but not be living healthy myself?

I called my therapist and together, we started working on my recovery. It was four months into therapy when I got my assignment for my Personal Essay class and so, Project BEaUtifull was born. I wrote a paper and made a video, and when I presented it to my class, my classmates all encouraged me to make it larger than just a class project. Here’s the video below.

At first, I didn’t want it to be published. The hardest thing is for a person to come out to the world and I didn’t feel comfortable sharing it beyond my classmates.

The writing office at Stony Brook University asked to feature me and I initially refused. But over the summer, I thought about it more and came back to school ready to open up to my friends. They were extremely supportive and wanted to help spread the message of Project BEaUtifull.

We created a team and have been working together on spreading Project BEaUtifull across Stony Brook’s campus and beyond that, too!

Fit U: What are you hoping to accomplish with Project BEaUtifull?

Our biggest goal is to raise awareness about body image issues. There is such a stigma against mental disorders and we want to create a supportive community for people of all ages and identities. We want to continue making positive videos to spread the love, feature stories on various struggles and overcoming them on our Tumblr, and use our Instagram and Facebook page to allow others to share their pictures!

project beautifull

The team (L to R): Kevin, Shimul, Shreeya, Kasmika, Aaron, Suson.
Not pictured: Tasfia & Yiji

We also want to educate people to love themselves. It’s so important to teach others how to have an active & healthy lifestyle [and self love is a huge aspect of that healthy lifestyle!], and by teaming up with Fit University, we hope to be able to spread the message of being fit in all aspects of your life – spiritually, mentally, and physically.

True love is great, but self-love is better.

Fit U: What issues do you see with body confidence on college campuses and how can Project BEaUtifull help?

In college, there are so many people from so many different places on campus. Everyone is chasing their own dreams and at the end of the day, chasing perfection. It’s so easy compare yourself to other people on campus and try to compete with them; but we should strive to be better than ourselves, not anyone else.

Ideas of beauty shouldn’t be based on how you look, but on what you do. Project BEaUtifull helps people realize that.

Fit U: If you could give one piece of advice to college students about their self worth, what would it be?

Beauty comes from within you. Love yourself first.

Want to learn more about Project BEaUtifull? Like them on Facebook and share this page with your friends! You can reach Shreeya and the rest of the team at teamprojectbeautifull@gmail.com. Submit your stories on Tumblr, and share a picture and personal story to be featured on Instagram and Facebook.

project beautifull

Sources:

  1. Walden Center for Education and Research
  2. Eating Disorders on the College Campus, NEDA

My Top 5 Reasons for Staying in Recovery from My Eating Disorder

There’s a lot I’m unsure of these days. To name a few, I’m unsure about how my body is supposed to feel, unsure about which of my thoughts are really me and which are fueled by my eating disorder, unsure about what real portion sizes look like, unsure if I’m eating too little, unsure if I’m eating too much, unsure which of my friends can tell that I’m struggling, unsure what to do next, unsure if I’m making any progress in recovery, unsure if I’ll ever fully recover…

In short, there are a lot of unreliable variables whipping their ferocious paths around relentless circles in my head, and they don’t really take the time to stop.

They don’t stop when I have a lot of homework.

They don’t stop when I have a huge test coming up.

They don’t stop when my neighbors throw a party the evening before said test.

They don’t stop when my roommates and I have conflicts.

And they especially don’t stop when I’m feeling down, insecure, or anxious: all of which tend to happen quite often in the daily life of a college student.

And yeah, it doesn’t feel good. Yeah, sometimes I feel like giving up. Yeah, sometimes I feel like a failure, like I should throw in the towel, like it’s too much.

But no matter how horrible that feels in recovery, no matter how overwhelming and heavy and impossible, here’s the thing: it still feels a million times better than the disorder did.

Here are my five top reasons for continuing with recovery:

  1. I like myself better without my disorder.

When I was in the worse parts of it, I was really nasty to be around—for both myself and those around me. Alone time wasn’t filled with enjoyable activities because things I used to enjoy (like reading and painting) took too much brainpower. They no longer seemed a productive use of my energy.

Self-care routines were neglected, and being alone with my thoughts was more effort than it was worth. I didn’t laugh as much, smile very often, understand many jokes, go out of my way to help others, or attend fun events.

In recovery, those things are coming back. I laugh more now, I sincerely care about the well-being of my friends and can be there for them, I can be fun every once in awhile…

Yeah, I like this girl a lot better.

  1. The longer I am away from my disorder, the more I am able to envision a future outside of it.

I remember my goals. I remember the things I enjoy. I have things I want to accomplish. I want to have a family someday. I want to have children, and be a good role model for those children.

Believe it or not, I forgot about these things in my eating disorder. Sounds crazy, but at the time, it was so much easier to fall into than I thought it would be. It snuck up on me, and before I knew it, I forgot.

Reason for recovery: I’m remembering now.

  1. I care about those around me.

Like I said before, I was really nasty to be around. I caused the people I care about a lot of pain. I was mean, I snapped at people, I was aggressive and angrily threw knee-jerk reactions at people who wanted to spend time with me. My disorder was being protective of itself, and it encouraged me to grow more and more isolated until it could take over completely. My circle of friends shrank. People I used to enjoy spending time with became burdensome and/or pissed me off, partly because they were concerned.

Like I said, I was really nasty.

And more importantly, I was causing pain to my family and friends by mistreating myself. It hurt the people who care about me to watch me be so unhappy. My eating disorder wreaked a lot of havoc; recovery puts an end to that. Recovery gives hope, positivity, and lifts us up rather than tear us down. Even though it hasn’t been easy, staying in recovery means that I won’t be causing the people I care about any more pain.

  1. I’m tired.

It was exhausting. All of my energy was going towards sustaining the eating disorder, and the rest of my life was slowly falling through the cracks while my hands shook with the effort of keeping up the destructive habits. I was mentally wiped out.

Physically, too. My body was physically so tired.

It’s time to rest.

  1. I simply don’t want to be in pain anymore.

Let me tell you a quick story.

This semester started off a little rocky. I considered skipping it altogether, but my intense desire to beat the odds (paired with a little pinch of FOMO) drove me to give it a shot, and before I knew what was happening, I was on a plane back to Boston.

Once I got off the plane, I hailed a cab back to my apartment. I had left it a mess, seeing as I’d flown home when I was in such an exhausted and drained state. I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me to prepare for classes, which had already started when I was arriving. I’d missed the first few days to tie up some loose ends in day treatment for the eating disorder.

I knew it’d be in some sort of disarray, but I didn’t know what was coming.

When I walked into my room, I dropped my suitcase and immediately started to cry. Over and over again in my head (and eventually, aloud in between sobs) all I could think was: “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

The room looked exactly as I thought it would. But being in that room—where I’d spent so many hours the last semester—reminded me of how cruel I’d been to myself throughout those months. And my past self needed an honest and heartfelt apology.

So I stood there in my doorway by myself, cried, and apologized to myself over and over again. Until I felt I was done.

Whenever I feel like quitting recovery (which I undoubtedly do), I think about that moment. I’m still sorry, and I’m still not sure I’ve entirely forgiven myself. But I don’t want to ever have to apologize like that to myself again. I don’t ever again want to be responsible for so much of my own suffering that I miss out on my own life trying to sustain it.

Watch this documentary about body image issues among college athletes

Take a look at the cover models on popular fitness magazines: Shape, Women’s Health, etc…. Are these women what we consider “healthy”?

What does it mean when we start associating these images with words meant to be body-positive, such as “health”, “fitness”, and “strength”? 

There’s no doubt that societal expectations are changing. After all, “Strong is the new sexy.” 

But how could this new, seemingly empowering ideal become harmful? Check out this documentary, featuring the Ithaca College women soccer team, to hear from the athlete’s point of view how their body image, self esteem, and overall mental health are affected in modern society. 

Original video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXsAsYBBDVk#action=share.

“What’s Your Weight Loss Secret?” Answered Honestly by Someone with an Eating Disorder

I’ve been asked this question a lot, since I did the impossible and lost the weight so quickly: “What’s your secret?” 

As if I had some magic solution to their bodily insecurities. As if somehow, I had found an easy, painless, and healthy method of changing my body in such a drastic way. 

I grew increasingly resentful of the question, especially at the time I was still entirely trapped in my disorder. I was having a harder time processing emotions and to me, comments like these were invalidating and demeaning. My eating disorder was offended. I’d put in a lot of effort, goddamn it. I felt that my hard work was being unrecognized and mitigated by these assumptions.

Now that I’m in a more sound state of mind, I realize that the people asking me this question weren’t trying to take from me my counterintuitive sense of accomplishment. They also weren’t trying to imply that what I’d done was easy. Instead, they were looking for an outlet to rid themselves of their own weight-related dramas (of which I suspect every person has at least one). 

However, despite the fact that they weren’t implying any sort of simplicity in my process, I don’t think they understood how difficult it really was. So, retroactively, I’ve compiled a list of 20 skills you should think about cultivating if you want to lose the weight as quickly and dangerously as I did. 

At the end of the list, you can tell me if you think it’s worth it. 

** IMPORTANT NOTE: None of these are meant as genuine tips, or pro-anorexia suggestions in any way. Please take note of the heavy sarcasm and understand that I am actually advising AGAINST doing any of this.

1. Be ok with constant headaches. Carry Advil in your bag for them (along with seltzer water, cough drops, mints, gum, and other expensive “necessities” that have little to no caloric value, but that you know will keep your mouth busy). 

2. Allocate large blocks of extra time in your day that you will unwittingly spend idling in grocery stores or convenience stores investigating food. You’ll stare at calorie labels. Maybe even waste away twenty to thirty minutes agonizing over which variety of “appetite control whole grain cracker” to buy.

3. Forget how it feels to be hungry. Settle instead for a ringing in your ears and general fogginess and sluggishness of the brain. Sometimes you’ll know your body wants food because you’ll get a really sharp stomach pain, or it becomes so hard to concentrate that you know something must be up. At the really bad points, I could feel my brain actually shutting down. I said a lot of things to people that didn’t make sense. I don’t remember a lot of the details from these times. 

4. Make to-do lists, lists of things to remember, lists of things to remember to pack in the morning, lists on lists on lists. You’ll start to notice— you’ll forget everything. The lists are because you don’t trust yourself to remember. Or not to get so distracted thinking about your eating plan for that day that you forget.

5. Before you go to bed each night, allocate at least 30 minutes to constructing an eating plan for the following day. It’ll help you get to sleep.

6. Oh, yeah: sleep. Become unable to fall asleep without over-the-counter assistance. Your body wants you awake and eating, and it will fight you for those 8 hours you need now more than ever. 

7. Be tired. All the time. Fight through waves of exhaustion to get to class, to walk home, to talk to a friend, to read a page of a book. Fight hard. 

8. Endure long walks home from class in which you’re not sure if your knee is going to give out or if you’ll make it over that next step, all the while listening to your brain run in never-ending circles. It’s debating whether you’re going to eat a 20 calorie cracker or a 50 calorie cup of soup when you walk in the door. Yes, this decision will take the whole walk to make. 

9. Lose trust in your body. Wonder if you’ll be able to make your muscles move the way your brain tells them to during your daily workout. Because chances are, they’ll crap out at least once. 

10. Practice a believable laugh and shrug when someone asks you why you’ve had the same gigantic bruise on your thigh for the past 2 months. 

11. Practice repairing relationships with friends and family— you’ll need to, because with the amount of plans you’ll cancel to simmer in your room and the amount of times you’ll snap at people in sudden bouts of irritation or rage, there might not be as many left as you thought there’d be. 

12. Miss out on plans with friends because they want to order food during said plans. 

13. Give up your hobbies, or at least your enjoyment of them. This is your hobby now.

14. Stomach going to your high intensity interval training class at the gym after becoming nauseous at the sight of your low weight on the scale. 

15. Practice lying to yourself. For instance, I convinced myself that eating a pecan half before working out meant that I ingested enough fat to provide mental motivation for the hour-long workout. I pretended I could feel it in my cheeks.

16. Resist cringing when you read an essay you wrote during this time; the sentences might not make sense, and your vocabulary usage will be frighteningly limited.

17. Be okay with laughing less. 

18. Allocate extra money in your budget for vitamin supplements— you’ll need them.

19. Allocate extra time in your day for your lethargy; you’ll walk slowly, and get things done slowly, too.

20. Your personality will change. Be okay with that. Practice convincing yourself that holding yourself to your imaginary high “diet” standards matters more than who you are. Practice looking in the mirror and saying, this is who I am today. I don’t know who I was anymore, or where she went… but I do know how to keep going. 

I’m not telling you these things to scare you. I’m not telling them to gain sympathy, either, or to shock you into pity. I have no interest in any of that. 

What I want is an understanding. There I was, all semester, cultivating those 20 really dangerous habits with ferocity that border lined violence. And it was overlooked (even by me: I hardly noticed these things happening until they already had).

Friends encouraged some of my behaviors. People asked my advice. Encouragement from my peers gave the disorder more and more importance, and it consumed more and more of my thoughts. With my eating disorder, I didn’t have to think about the real problems that were going on in my everyday life. It was my coping mechanism. 

That’s the other thing: it wasn’t about the weight. So many people assume that eating disorders develop because of body image alone. They think that a person goes through all the crippling effort of an eating disorder for the sole purpose of looking good. They tell people “you’re not fat! You’re so skinny!” thinking that it will make the eating disorder go away. But here’s the part that’s vitally important: that isn’t true.

The only way to beat an eating disorder is to understand it. I’m still at the very start of recovery, like I said before. But the progress I have made has come from understanding those around me and understanding myself. 

So I’ve written this not to scare you: rather, I think we could all benefit from a little understanding. Had I known what to look out for, had I known where it all was headed, maybe I could have caught myself. Maybe I could have stopped it from getting so bad. Maybe I could have asked louder for help.

Granted, no one person’s eating disorder is the same. But understanding from society doesn’t come in a day. It builds over time. Slowly, people come forward, stories are told, perspectives shared. One story at a time. And maybe, this way, one less girl in college will have to face that terrifyingly blank stare in the mirror. Maybe one less girl will have to forget who she is, or crash her car, or wreak havoc on her family in order for her illness to be noticed or treated. 

I really hope so: it’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on even the worst of people. 

So this month, give a little thought to eating disorders. You might notice, they’re more prevalent than you think. Look out for those around you. Lend an offer of support to a friend. Refrain from making “too much pizza” jokes every once in awhile. 

And if you think that a friend, or even just someone you know, might be struggling, consider reaching out and saying something. They might hate you for it in the moment, but they don’t really hate you: their disorder does. 

Take it from me. After three and a half weeks of solid meals, I’m finally done with the re-feeding transition process. I can sleep at night again and my brain is back. I made a clever joke the other day and read an entire book in a weekend. My disorder didn’t give me those things: it took them away. And now that I have them again, along with a plethora of other things life has to offer, I’m terrified of going back. And to the people who helped me get here, even this far, my eating disorder is kind of pissed off. But me? I’m filled with an endless gratitude. 

A Day In The Life Of Eating Disorder Recovery In College

You’re in recovery now. But you’ve just started. 

You’re walking through your school’s campus, on your way to class. You’re 10 minutes early: you hate being late now. You used to be late all the time, but now time is of the essence. You learned this last semester, when walking to class took twice as long because your legs didn’t have the energy to move quickly. Speed walking to class wasn’t an option, so you learned to overcompensate for your own sluggishness. So now you’re 10 minutes early. 

You’re having a good morning. After all, you’ve got the whole day planned out so that it will be okay. You’ve succeeded today in taking care of yourself: something that doesn’t always happen. But you try. And today, it seems you’ll succeed. In your bag, you have a full breakfast (complete with protein, fats, and the terrifying carbs), lunch (with dressing on your salad even), and a snack packed. Your portions are appropriate: you checked. Hell, you even measured

You’ll have appropriate amounts of food all day, and you’ll even get to eat them at normal meal times. This is important to you: your body isn’t hungry again yet, so you have to eat intuitively solely based on the clock. This makes scheduling hard sometimes, but today your classes and club meetings fit perfectly. 

It’s a great day. You even got up early and did a short yoga routine this morning. You feel rejuvenated and ready to take on a day of school. This is a rarity these days, in these early stages of recovery. You revel in it. You even smile. 

As you sit down in your favorite seat in class and take out your breakfast to chow down, your phone buzzes. A group of your friends is organizing a birthday plan for another friend, and they want to meet for lunch to plan everything. 

Panic sets in. 

Meet for lunch? 

Where? 

When? 

What time? 

What about the food I packed? 

Will the place they go to eat have food that I can keep track of? 

Will I accidentally eat too little? 

Even scarier, will I accidentally eat too much? 

You text them back that you can’t go. You haven’t touched your breakfast. You’re stressed, and the idea of stress-eating makes you disgusted with yourself. 

Your friends shame you in reply. They might be joking, but you’re not so sure. They haven’t seen you in ages, it’s true. It’s not that you haven’t wanted to: you just have to prioritize right now. And you can’t tell anyone why. 

“You can’t even make time for half an hour? We can get lunch late if it works better for you” one text reads. They’re being accommodating. They’re being nice, and you’re being inflexible. They think you’re neglectful, unreliable, uncaring. They think you want to cop out of helping them plan. They think you’re snubbing them. They think you don’t want to see them. 

These and a million other thoughts race through your brain. You can feel your stomach against your jeans, and your breakfast suddenly looks colossal in front of you. Even worse, this entire class full of people is going to see you eat it. Your chest tightens. Are they eating smaller breakfasts? Should you be eating a smaller breakfast? You’re not sure. You’re not really sure about anything you’re doing, and your next nutritionist appointment isn’t for another week. You are sure that you’re worried. 

But you know you should eat the breakfast, because you’re still losing weight. You don’t want to lose any more weight. 

You tell your friends you’ll see them another time, and you begin to feel left out. You wanted to help plan your friend’s birthday, you really did. But it just won’t work. Going to lunch with them to plan would sacrifice too much — your food, your ease of mind, your sanity for the rest of the morning… If you didn’t eat right at the lunch, you’d be sacrificing even more. So much of your progress… No, you don’t really trust yourself to make those decisions yet. 

On top of that, you’re not sure when else you will make time see these friends. With a full course load, a part-time job, weekly nutrition and therapy appointments, and food preparation time, you don’t really have a lot of free time. The time you do have is put towards your mental health. Rejuvenation time, you like to think of it. You don’t even go out on the weekends anymore. 

You look at your breakfast again, still untouched. You resolve to eat it. You don’t enjoy it — or you do, and that makes you feel guilty. Enjoying food is for fat girls. What if I’m becoming a fat girl?

This and other thoughts race through your head and you don’t take good notes in class. You’ll have to dedicate more time to studying later.

Flash forward to your next class of the day. One of your friends sits next to you in this class, and usually you love that. But today, she wants to boast about her new diet plan. She’s eating a protein bar for lunch. You ate a sandwich, side salad, and fruit. The salad even had dressing. You tense and stress about this, but calm yourself with your nutritionist’s logic replaying in your head. 

Your friend tells you that you look thin. She’s jealous. You laugh it off, but she keeps going.

This is the part you dread. She asks you that loaded question, the one you can’t help but feel is tinged with quiet suspicion: How did you do it? Do you have any weight loss tips? You feel like a fraud. You try and swallow the bile rising in your throat and laugh nervously, regurgitating healthy methods like moderation and exercise you’ve read online; but you can feel the lies choking in the back of your mouth. You’ve always been a terrible liar. Hurriedly, you change the subject and try to ignore the shame burning in your face. 

But the thoughts keep coming for hours still. You’re setting a bad example. She could totally tell. She knows, now she definitely knows. You can’t even keep your life together on the outside anymore. 

Your day is ruined, and later, it’s even harder than usual to convince yourself to eat a full dinner. Maybe you don’t make all of your exchanges. Maybe you leave out a fat, thinking you’ve beat the system. Aside from the suspicious eyes of your roommates, no one’s watching you. No one’s holding you accountable. 

Maybe you don’t want to think about the impact you had on your friend or the fact that your disorder is plastered on your chicken legs for the world to see. Maybe instead of thinking about those things, you think about food. Yes: food. What will you eat? When will you eat it? What brand will you buy? How many calories? Counting, counting, counting…you’re not thinking about your friend anymore. This is how it all started. You know this. But it’s already in your head, and it doesn’t hurt like real thoughts do right now. And anyways, it’s for your own good: you’re keeping yourself accountable. Right? 

That’s the part that’s hard to tell. It’s something I’m still working on figuring out—something that being in such an early stage of recovery makes me unsure of.

But I’m still in recovery. And that, in and of itself, is enough for now.

If you or someone you know is struggling, wondering if they might be experiencing an eating disorder, or is considering recovery, I’m asking: please do it. Give recovery a shot. Because eating disorders are strong, it’s true. But recovery is something more than that: recovery is looking it in the face and saying I’m stronger.

Fitness is About More Than Your Appearance: Here’s Why

I quickly unwrapped the last ice cream sandwich and stacked it at the top of my mountain of five others. Cutting a piece of the diabetes mountain with the side of my fork, I thought to myself “so this is what it feels like to be a king”. I swallowed my first bite, unaware of the unhealthy habit I was developing.

This was the third time this week I had eaten this 900 calorie dessert…  and it was only Tuesday. While the other kids ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, during my youth I ate chips, cookies, ice cream, and cereal (with extra sugar in the milk). Yes, I was physically active while I consumed these salivating desserts– but my caloric intake far exceeded the calories I burned during my physical activity.

I remember how embarrassed I would feel going to my pediatrician during annual checkups because I would have to step on the scale and inevitably receive a ten minute lecture about my weight. I would be told that it was a problem, and that I needed to go on some sort of a diet. When family came over, I would feel betrayed when they commented on my belly and chubby cheeks. Even worse, I felt ashamed in school, and I walked around sucking in my stomach to conceal my obvious weight problem. It wasn’t until I entered high school as a 170 pound overweight freshman when I decided to put an end to my unhealthy life choices and reinvent myself.

fitness is more than just look

I decided to try a membership at my local YMCA. I still remember my first day when I walked in and passed the weight room. I thought there must have been World War 3 going on in there from all the noise from weights dropping and men grunting. Frightened by the unwelcoming environment, I dashed upstairs to the cardio room and decided to initiate my transformation journey on the treadmill.

This soon become a habit– a healthy habit, something that I developed for the first time. Along with running on the treadmill, I decided to cut out all of the junk food out of my diet. This meant no more mindless eating of chips and popcorn while I watched a movie or stuffing my mouth with cookies like the Cookie Monster after school.

Over the course of the next couple of months, fat significantly melted off of my body. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was in control of something– something that people often neglect, something that had crushed my confidence during my early teens, something that I once felt disgusted with. I was in control of my body.

With some newly developed confidence, I decided to enter the weight room. This was primarily because my treadmill routine was becoming mundane. I was greeted with serious, focused looks of buff lifters who I thought made me look like a spaghetti noodle. Feeling awkward and like a boy among men, I picked a corner, grabbed some light dumbbells, and started doing uncoordinated weight lifting. Completely clueless, I started curling the weight and shoulder pressing it upwards. I didn’t know what I was doing or if I was doing it right but what I do know is that I woke up sore the next morning. After a couple of weeks of doing this, I decided to look go on YouTube to look up some new exercises that I could incorporate into my routine. That was when I came across video links to eminent bodybuilders and discovered the realm of bodybuilding.

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I quickly became infatuated with the notion of acquiring an aesthetically pleasing physique. I sought advice and motivation from top class bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronnie Coleman and YouTube fitness celebrities like Chris Jones from Physiques of Greatness and the Hodge Twins from Twin Muscle Workout. This was the pinnacle point in my life, when my fitness journey shaped the individual that I am today.

My body drastically changed over the course of the first two years of lifting weights. As I started to see more results, I started to take the step further by increasing my work capacity in the gym and keeping my diet even more strict that what it already was. I would go to sleep at night thinking either about my workout that I would endure the next day or if I could do something more or tweak something to put on some more muscle mass. Almost every aspect of my life revolved around bodybuilding. This meant timing meals properly so I could fit 5-6 meals in the course of one day, going to sleep early to make sure I get enough sleep to stimulate maximum muscle recovery, and spending 2-3 hours in the gym training as intense as I can. All I was aware of was the physical aspects of bodybuilding. It wasn’t until I entered college when I realized the impact that bodybuilding had on my mind.

Coming to Stony Brook University as a typical pre-med student, I was aware of the intense difficulty that I was going to face in academics from what I heard from friends already at Stony Brook or from physicians who had graduated from the university. It wasn’t until I finished my first semester of freshman year when I realized that all the hype was for nothing. Sure, pre-med can be difficult in undergrad, but armed with the mentality that I had acquired from bodybuilding, I became really successful at it.

Through working out in the gym, I learned resilience: I went to the gym on the days when I was feeling tired, fought food cravings when I was on a stricter diet, did whatever it took inside and outside the gym to get results. Not only that, but I also learned not to let other people bring me down when they would say things like I wasn’t making any progress or that I would never get bigger. I pushed past the negativity from others and did what I had to do for myself.computer

Applying these skills in college, I was able to learn to study when I didn’t feel like studying, to skip the party some nights to complete an assignment, to go to TA’s for help and look for study resources online, and to prove the people wrong when they say that it’s impossible to get an A in a seemingly difficult course.

By joining Fit U, I hope to inspire people to attain the same mental benefits I did of living a healthy lifestyle and pumping iron. The physical aesthetics of a healthy body are great, but having the mentality of a go-getter is what leaves a legacy.

Mindful Eating, and Why You Should Care

National Eating Disorder Awareness week is February 21st-27th this year, where the focus is on bringing public attention to the needs of people with eating disorders and their families.

mindful eating

Why is this important? Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder1 and 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point of their lives2.

With so much pressure to look a certain way, fitness and health can sometimes become confusing and completely consuming. In a society obsessed with diets and calorie counting, our eating behaviors may not be as healthy as they were once intended to be. Case in point, 91% of college women have attempting to control their weight through dieting3. It’s easy to go from wanting to “just cut back on calories” to becoming obsessive and meticulous about what you eat. However you like to stay fit and healthy, it’s important to consider different ways to reach your goals, while keeping your mental health and overall wellbeing in mind.

This is where the idea of eating mindfully comes in. Mindful eating is a different approach that attempts to take some of the stress, anxiety, and unhealthy behaviors out of healthy eating.

What is mindful eating?

mindful eating

Mindful eating is a practice that is aimed to resolve the love-hate relationship with food, as well as trying to combat the mindless, consuming, and guilt-inducing way that many people in our society eat today.

This is eating with a purpose—to nourish yourself and to enjoy food and its effects on your body. Mindful eating embodies the entire process of eating. This means that when you eat, you have a heightened awareness of physical and emotional cues, non-hunger triggers for eating, as well as choosing foods for both enjoyment and nourishment. It’s all about creating a balance, which ultimately is done with the goal of developing a better, healthier, relationship with food.

Why is it important?

Mindful eating can be useful for those who struggle with food, in relation to negative thoughts and feelings. If you’ve ever struggled with binge eating, overeating, or emotional eating, you may find mindful eating particular helpful. Studies show that mindful eating leads to fewer symptoms of eating disorders, like binge eating.4

Mindfulness can make you aware of certain behaviors, which allows you to identify triggers and make healthy changes. When you eat mindfully you are clear on when you are hungry or full, which allows you to create healthier eating behaviors. Overall, mindful eating increases a sense of wellbeing. That’s something that everyone can benefit from, no matter your fitness level or your personal relationship with food.

How can I do it?

Just like diet or exercise, keep in mind that mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. You can incorporate a couple simple mindfulness tips into your eating and see the differences it makes in your life. Start slow; take it one tip at a time to begin to incorporate mindful eating into your life. Like everything, it’s a process, but over time it can lead to a healthier, happier, life full of balance. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started:

Eat slower. This will give you more time to appreciate the food and reflect in all of it.

Pay attention to what you’re eating-experience all of the flavors and textures of what you’re eating. Savor and enjoy your food and embrace the good it’s doing for your body!

Find support. Talk to your friends about your desires to eat more mindfully, social support goes a long way.

If you have more serious concerns about your eating habits, reach out! There are a number of resources on each college campus, ranging from the counseling center to the student health center. Eating disorders are treatable and early intervention can increase the likelihood of preventing the onset of a full-blown eating disorder. Early intervention can save lives. 

Check these websites, too: they’re great resources for not only awareness, but intervention and support as well! 

National Eating Disorders

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Eating Disorder Hope

Sources:

  1. American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
  2. Wade, T. D., Keski-Rahkonen A., & Hudson J. Epidemiology of eating disorders. In M. Tsuang and M. Tohen (Eds.), Textbook in Psychiatric Epidemiology (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley, 2011. p. 343-360.
  3. Multi-service eating disorder association
  4. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml

An Important Letter for All Girls: Do it For You

Dear girl,

I want you to know that you’re beautiful. I want you to know that you’re strong, and I want you to be confident in the fact that you’re powerful. I know that you may not believe me no matter how many times I tell you this, but you also didn’t believe you would ever learn how to read like the other kids in your class, and you’re reading this letter like a pro right now.

Dear girl, please stop looking in the mirror with disgust. You’re too fat, you say? You’re too thin? You could never have the motivation to work out like her, so why even try? Haha, well you have quite the imagination girl— whoever said that someone emerges from the womb fit? Who decides what “fat” is or what “skinny” is? Even if they were definitive exact terms that could box people into categories as if we were supplies in a factory, do we really want to be defined by our bodies? I have a question for you, girl: would you rather be loved for your body, or for you? Because you know what? There are billions of bodies in this world, and after the age of 29 our bodies begin the slow and inevitable decline. And then what?

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: if you’re only working out and trying to eat healthy to be sexy and skinny, stop. Why are you placing your value on something so arbitrary and fleeting? Put your energy into the parts of you that last—the parts that become more and more beautiful with each passing day, memory, struggle and success. The little bits and pieces of life that only you experience, making up your unique and inimitable story—making you you.

And in this process, take care of yourself! YOU ARE AWESOME! You deserve to feel awesome by moving! By grabbing a friend and dancing away like a crazy person at a Zumba class! You deserve to feel awesome after enjoying a delicious healthy meal that you know will make you feel better- not just look better.

Because that’s what health and fitness is all about.

Stop doing it so you can be an ideal object/ decoration for people just to look at and not know, love, and respect.

Do it because exercise is one of the most underused anti-depressants out there.

Do it because exercise is known to reduce the onset of disease by over 40%.

Do it because studies show that regular exercisers are more confident and daring than non-exercisers.

Do it to challenge yourself, and I promise you the endorphins released after conquering a new goal will make your mood shoot through the roof!

But most of all, do it for you, girl! You deserve nothing but the best.

Take care of yourself.

With love from your friend,

Jess

Dear College Freshman…It’s OK That You’re Lonely

college freshman

Dear College Freshmen

The Silent Predator of New Year’s Resolutions That Nobody Talks About

new years resolution

Consider these 3 things when making your resolutions.

Well, guys, it’s a new year.

Another year has come and gone, and I’m sure you’re all doing a lot of worthy reflecting: you’re probably looking back on achievements, feeling thankful for the good things, and feeling hopeful that the not-so-good things will get better.

It’s during this annual reflection that a lot of really valuable conclusions are made. You take a step back, look at your life, and strengthen your resolve to enact positive change. But the New Year is also a time when a lot of really invaluable conclusions are made—though these kinds of conclusions can be much harder to see. Reflecting can be overdone. It can also be done in a way that becomes negative.

When people think about resolutions, they tend to think about things they can do better. This could be really great! I mean, who doesn’t want to improve? Life is a constant tumult of learned improvement, a slow and hefty upward climb through to the end. Learning how and trying to do better is the only real constant life has to offer.

But I’d be willing to bet this sounds familiar to you, too:

This year, I didn’t do ________.

This year, I sucked at _________.

Wow, I really fell through on my resolution from last year.

We beat ourselves up for the things we wish we’d done. We imbibe a sense of lacking to our concepts of ourselves and insert disappointment where there formerly was none. We look at the past year and find the loopholes in our accomplishments, the blemishes on our timelines, the mix-ups, the mistakes, and the blotches of failure on an otherwise dazzling portrait of a year.

Then, we hone in on them. The bad things become our conception of the entire year instead, and we forget to give ourselves credit for the things we did do well.

This, unfortunately, is especially true with regards to fitness and body image. Physical fitness is a great aspiration; but it can also be a slippery slope. It’s easy to get caught up in the mentality that nothing is ever enough, that you always could have done more: eaten “better”, done more pushups, ran an extra mile on the treadmill.

That kind of slope? It can be really dangerous. And it often enacts itself in our New Year’s resolutions. How many times have you heard someone make a resolution about his or her weight? How many times have you heard someone crack a joke or make a passing remark about his or her failure at the last year’s weight loss-centered goal?

Saying these things is not only dangerous for yourself, but it can affect those around you. It seeps into our culture and creates a festering wound of bitter comparison and self-criticism.

Let’s keep it #noregrets, am I right?

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So, when you’re making your New Year’s resolution this year, I challenge you to take a step back and do a good and honest search for these three harmful aspects of New Year’s resolution goals.

1) Making absolutes

These are the all-or-nothing goals, the ones that set rigid rules on our lives and set an impossibly high standard. In reality, these are just set-ups for feelings of failure. This can look innocent, like: I’m going to go to the gym five times a week! or I’m going to get straight A’s! Yeah, that’d be nice, but here’s the thing: life happens. It gets in the way and you need to make room for the other things that matter, too. You might have a really crazy week and not make it to the gym 5 times, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that you failed at your goal (at least not if you absolve the absolute). 🙂 

2) Negatively comparing yourself to others

These are the “I’m going to do better than last year” goals. Not only are they extremely non-specific and totally subjective (who’s to decide what constitutes “better than last year”, anyway?) but they also paint a negative view on yourself from the year prior. No good. Not productive, and also not good for your self-esteem or self-image. Why bring yourself down? Keep your goals positive, and you’ll give them the power to do positive things. Negativity breeds negativity: stay looking up.

3) Setting overly high expectations

But not too far up! These are the goals that are way too far-reaching to ever really be accomplished while maintaining a sense of balance. For example, I’m going to read 100 books, even though last year I read 5! or I’m going to lift 400 pounds by next month! Again, sure that’d be cool. But you’re really setting yourself up for failure by setting the bar too high. If you read 10 books, that’d still be an accomplishment: you don’t need to be logic-defyingly amazing to still be amazing. You can do well at something without doing the best.

So…now that we’ve cleansed ourselves of the bad: what does a positive goal look like?

I think it totally depends on the individual. For me, I’m trying to make my goals for this year mindset-based. Instead of making up some steadfast rule or creating an accomplishment-based external goal, I’m going to try and set internal goals that are much more flexible. 

For instance, I want to enter the new semester while maintaining an open mind. That’s going to be hard for me, since I love conjuring expectations and standards for myself for the future. However, I think that adding a little wiggle room will be good for me. After all, it’s impossible to know what lies ahead in the coming months, anyway.

Well, fit readers, thanks for listening. I’m sure you’re all headed towards a wonderful 2016 just stuffed full of accomplishments and if you need some more guidance, check out our 5-step plan to actually keep your resolutions. And now:

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Check out these articles too:

Why You Should Set Non-Fitness Resolutions Too
New Years Resolutions: A New Perspective
How To Actually Keep Your New Years Resolutions
Food Trends To Get You Excited for 2017

10 Tips to Maintaining Your Sanity During Finals

How to make it through finals frenzy

I know what you’re thinking: sanity?! During finals?? Well that’s impossible.

Okay, guys. Deep breath…
 
Finals are starting. Your planner is blowing up with frantic scrawls written with the only pen you have yet to lose this semester, professors all appear to be forgetting that you’re enrolled in four classes for God’s sake, and due dates are approaching faster than you’re mentally prepared for. Don’t panic.
 
Now, I do feel like a little bit of a hypocrite saying that, because I definitely am panicking. But, to help make it through this week of essay edits and last-minute memorization, I’ve devised 10 tactics I plan to use to make it through relatively unscathed (or at least with minimal mental scarring).

1. Prioritize you. 

That’s right: be selfish. Remember what’s most important here. For me, it’s my grades. This week, I’ve got a lot on my plate. However, I know that keeping up my GPA is the most important. That, and my mental health. Know what you need to do to make each day a success and make sure you do those things. So, when your friend asks you for that extraneous favor that will take 30 minutes out of your study time, say no. If you think you can swing it, then by all means go ahead. But if helping out your friend will stress you out and risk you getting done what you need to, don’t feel obligated. Your friend will be ok.

Also, here’s a secret: they’re prioritizing themselves, too. It’s a stressful time. So be a little selfish this week, and do what you gotta do to make it through.

2. Make a running to-do list. 

When you have so much on your plate, it can be easy to let things fall through the cracks. As great as the “I can just remember everything I have to do” method is, it’s not. And once things start slipping, it can feel like the whole universe is crashing down. Cue stress attack. However, you can prevent this before it happens! Keep a running to-do list of every little thing you need to get done. As the list shrinks throughout the week, you’ll feel like a badass, accomplished member of society.

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3. Make a daily to-do list. 

Yes. More to-do lists. Don’t knock it till you try it— because that running to-do list is probably going to be a lengthy one. It might get a little overwhelming. Again: cue stress attack. However, you can make smaller, more manageable to-do lists at the start of each day. When you wake up, sit down for 3 minutes and think: what do I absolutely, non-negotiably need to get done today? Write those things down. Then start with accomplishing those things first.

It can be easy to clog up your to-do list with things that would be ok to leave undone, like your laundry or cleaning your room. Keep these things on that longer to-do list, and preserve this one for the things you 100% NEED to finish today. 10000% more manageable amount of tasks, I promise.

4. Schedule in study time. 

It’ll keep you accountable. It also can help you visualize how much free time you really have at your disposal, and will make sure you don’t waste it.

5. Limit study time with friends. 

Friends make great study partners from time to time, but if you find yourself continually spending hours in the library chatting instead of getting anything done, take note of that. Prioritize you, make changes accordingly. Friends and social sanity are important, yes, but limiting this time can make the time you do spend with them more valuable and the time you spend studying more effective.

6. Work out. 

This may seem counter-intuitive, cause of the time commitment. However: endorphins. Stress release. Productive jump to your day. Beating the mid-day slump. Need I go on?

mike crespo

7. Take productivity breaks that are still, well… productive. 

Some examples of activities that are productive but give your brain a break include laundry, making your bed, prepping your meals for the next day, etc. You can make these tasks more fun, too! For example, I like to blast some music while I do my laundry, and maybe dance a little in my room. Or try out a new recipe for your lunch the next day.

8. Meal plan.

This may sound like an odd suggestion, because it’s time consuming. But you know what won’t make you feel better this week? Not eating healthily. The sugary or processed foods you’ll most likely find in the library vending machine will probably make you feel sluggish, tired and unproductive. Hence, more stress. To prevent this, before the barrage of assignments really start, plan and prep a few healthy meals for the week, even if it’s just one or two. But here are 10 healthy snacks to get you through finals.

You can store them in your freezer or fridge and pack them in to-go containers for easy access to meals you can bring with you to the library or class. That way, when you’re inevitably too busy to have time to cook during the week, you’ll have some healthy options. You’ll thank your past self, and get quality, wholesome meals instead of losing out on money and nutrition by buying something on campus when you’re pressed for time.

what's the big deal with oatmeal

9. Reward yourself. 

Buy yourself an extra coffee, make some tea and watch an episode or two of Netflix, finally buy yourself that shirt or new sneakers you’ve been eyeing… The rewards will help balance out the workload, and help keep your spirits from plummeting. Plus, TREAT YO SELF. You deserve it.

10. Take one day at a time. 

Remember those daily to-do lists? You can absolutely accomplish them. You are a strong, equipped, adult and you can kick this final’s week’s ass 🙂

Check out these articles too:

10 Healthy Study Snacks To Get You Through Finals
Namast’ay in the Library: How Yoga Helps Me Survive Finals Week
The Ultimate Comfort Food Recipe For Finals
Take a Study Break With This Short Workout

How To Stay Fit While Studying Abroad

study abroad

Don’t let your fitness fall by the wayside when you’re studying abroad.

how to stay fit while studying abroadWhether you decide to study in Spain, Italy, China, Australia, or Peru, its obvious that a semester abroad is the experience of a lifetime. Where else can you completely immerse yourself in another culture in another part of the world? Studying abroad has been one of the most fun and rewarding parts of my college career so far, and I’m only a month in to the experience! One of my biggest concerns heading to Barcelona was how I was going to stay fit while studying abroad. At my home university in Boston (shout out to Northeastern), I’m a regular at the gym and follow a pretty healthy diet, but since I decided to live with a host mom I,

     A) have very little control over what I eat
     B) didn’t think I had easy access to a gym when I got here

However, I’ve found that it’s actually super easy to stay healthy here in Spain! I walk everywhere I get the chance – to class, from class, to different events around the city, shopping, sightseeing… you get the idea. That alone has helped me feel not as sluggish. Plus, living with a host mom means that she knows all about the neighborhood. It turns out there’s a gym about 3 blocks down the road from my apartment! It’s small but cheap, and going regularly has really helped me feel both fit and less homesick. Yes, I said less homesick. There’s a good chance you may get homesick at some point during your stay abroad and that’s okay! For me, there’s no better way to deal with this than hitting the gym and getting a great workout in. Lastly, the food here isn’t as processed as it is in the states. It’s been really easy to eat mostly fresh fruits, veggies, and protein.

how to stay fit while studying abroadNow obviously you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out on some of the amazing foods that your host country has (paella anyone?), and I’m not saying you should ONLY eat health food while abroad. Balance is key! So yes, have that salad for lunch, but also have gelato while you’re in Italy or chocolate when you’re in Belgium.If you don’t make it to the gym one day, try to go the next.

My favorite exercise rule is to never go more than 2 days without working out, as long as you’re not injured or sick. And remember that working out doesn’t have to be done in a gym! If you enjoy running, run around your neighborhood. It’s a great way to explore the city and get to know the area. Lots of major cities and universities have green space that would be perfect for bodyweight workouts. Yoga and Pilates videos are all over Youtube, and as long as you have some sort of surface to do them on, you’re all set!

how to stay fit while studying abroadI think one of the most challenging experiences health-wise while abroad can be alcohol. In most countries besides the US, the legal drinking age is around 18. Everyone has heard about the dangers of binge drinking, etc. so I’m not going to talk about that. However, if you choose to drink, try to avoid sugary mixers like juice and soda, and drink water in between every alcoholic drink you have.

Your time abroad should be a time of adventure and self-discovery. Making healthy choices along the way will not only make you feel better, but you may find a new routine or way of doing things that improves your overall health!

Does the Freshman 15 really exist?

freshman 15

Setting the facts straight about the Freshman 15.

The Freshman 15 is a common expression that recent high schools grad often hear about and fear. There’s a constant debate about whether or not the freshman 15 really exists so we’re here to set the record straight.

What is the Freshman 15?

The Freshman 15 refers to incoming college freshmen gaining 15 pounds during their first year of college. As Urban Dictionary explains…

does the freshmen 15 really exist?

It’s easy to see how this could happen… dorms definitely don’t make it easy to cook healthy meals three times a day. We have to rely on the dining hall or restaurants close to campus for sustenance, and let’s be real – it can be hard to find healthy options at these places. To make things worse, the transition from having a home cooked dinner every night, or lunch packed every day, to having to fend for yourself is much harder than expected. Fit University ambassador Ali shares,

I definitely experienced the Freshman 15. I gained it the first semester and lost it the second. My biggest adjustment was dining hall food and learning to negotiate all the options. In Jamaica, we’re taught to eat what’s on our plate/what’s given to us so I would always finish what I was served (which was a lot more than I was used to) and I had to start asking for less or being okay with leaving a little on my plate.  

The majority of us have a meal plan, so we’re mostly limited to what the dining hall is serving that day (can you eat healthy in the dining hall, anyway?). Add in the stress that comes with the first year of college and giving up time to exercise for time to study or hang with new friends, and it makes the Freshman 15 seem like a real possibility.

does the freshman 15 really exist

So, Does the Freshman 15 Really Exist?

The debate continues, but a study published in Social Science Quarterly in December of 2011, says…..drumroll please…. the Freshman 15 is a myth. They say that freshman tend to gain around 2.5 – 3.5 pounds during their first year of college, but not 15. Of course, this doesn’t mean that some students won’t gain more than that, but it ultimately depends on the student’s lifestyle. 

Here’s the kicker…

While students might not gain the dreaded Freshman 15, the same study revealed that after freshman year, students continued to gain weight at a steady rate throughout college and after they graduated…shit. To back that claim up, researchers at Auburn University conducted a study to examine not only weight gain during freshman year, but weight gain throughout all four years of college. 

Sareen Gropper, a co-author of the study and professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management, explains,

While dozens of studies have investigated weight gain during the freshman year of college and have reported on the so-called ‘Freshman 15,’ our study is the first to examine changes in weight, body mass index (BMI), body composition and body shape over the four-year college period.” In our opinion, BMI, body comp and body shape are much more important to examine overall, rather than weight alone since factors like muscle growth can affect weight gain.

According to the study that examined 131 college students from the beginning of freshman year to the end of senior year…

  • 70% of students gained an average of 11.7 pounds during their four years of college
  • The percentage of students that were underweight-normal weight decreased from 82% at the start of freshman year, to 69% at the end of senior year
  • The percentage of students that were overweight–obese increased from 18% at the start of freshman year, to 31% at the end of senior year
  • Overall, there was an average increase of weight, BMI, fat-free mass, fat mass, and body fat amongst students throughout college

does the freshman 15 really exist

Should you be worried?

NO! These facts aren’t meant to scare you, but to let you know what the realities of the Freshman 15 and college weight gain are. Late night pizza and unhealthy dining hall food can be tempting, but it’s important to be smart about your health. After all, you were smart enough to get into college so you should be smart enough to take care of yourself now that you’re here. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise that you enjoy doing (because why do something you don’t like doing…amiright?). 

In terms of exercise, get physical at least three to four days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Not only will exercise improve your health and keep you fit, but it will also help you to blow off college-related steam. Case in point, if you have a class stressing you out, going for a run, hitting the gym, or working out with Fit University on campus can help to lower your stress levels and mellow you out. If you’re new to exercise, start taking walks around campus to ease into exercise. Better yet, join your school’s Fit University chapter – open to all levels of fitness. 

So there ya have it. No, the Freshman 15 may not necessarily ring true to its name but weight gain throughout college is as real as ever. By adopting healthy habits during your freshman year, you can be sure to beat the statistics and maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout college and after you graduate. There is no reason to fear the Freshman 15. Have fun and focus on the great aspects of the next four years of your life.

Sources

Gropper SS, Simmons KP, Connell LJ, Ulrich PV. Changes in body weight, composition, and shape: A 4-year study of college students. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, andMetabolism 2012;
37: 1118 – 1123.

Zagorsky, J. L. and Smith, P. K. (2011), The Freshman 15: A Critical Time for Obesity Intervention or Media Myth?. Social Science Quarterly, 92: 1389–1407. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00823.x

13 Easy Tips To Stay Fit In College

stay fit in college

Can you really stay fit in college? Hint: YES.

One of the biggest misconceptions around is that it’s impossible to stay fit in college. At Fit University, we have one thing to say to that… BULL. SHIT. To give you a little boost of motivation, we asked some of our Fit University ambassadors from schools across the country to give their #1 tip on how to stay fit in college. Here’s what they had to say:

1. It is 100% possible.

Believe in yourself, eat good healthy foods, exercise regularly, and be kind to yourself. You’ll be amazed at how well you’ll respond to the positive changes in your life–your body will thank you! – Charlotte K.

2. Watch the alcohol intake.

Also…eat your veggies, have fun and love what you do. – Kristen W.

3. Find the time.

Plan your day before you get to it, and stop making excuses. If you’re like me, you can be pretty good at persuading yourself out of commitments. But it’s important to hold yourself accountable. You wouldn’t skip an appointment with your professor or your doctor — treat your workouts as an appointment with yourself. Honor yourself and don’t be rude… show up! – Colleen O.

4. Get enough sleep.

You’re gonna need it. How much you sleep and the freshman 15 could be related..read more here. – Joe B.

5. Maintain balance.

A fit and healthy lifestyle is all about balance in all aspects – diet, exercise, studying, working, and relaxing. Being healthy is more than always perfectly hitting your macros (shout out to IIFYM), and exercising every day. It’s listening to how your body feels and giving it what it needs. If you’re tired, rest, if you’re hungry, eat, and if you’re stressed out, take a little break for yourself. So go ahead, treat yourself to a cookie every now and then, lift heavy things, run outside, and never underestimate the part your mental health plays in your overall health. – Marisa L.

6. Have fun with it!

Staying fit can be achieved through countless activities that all take varying amounts of time. Being fit can be as little as 20 or 30 minutes a day. Making the commitment to staying fit depends on doing something that is enjoyable. For some, it could be running. For others, it might be team sports or lifting. It is difficult to stay committed if it isn’t fun. – Cam R.

7. Don’t let a rough patch get you down.

You’re going to have weeks where it seems like you have literally no time to do anything, not even sleep. Try your best to fit in a quick workout, whether its lifting, cardio, yoga or something else you enjoy. It will help you reset your mind and prevent you from letting a rough week become a rough month or even a rough semester. – Amanda G.

8. Start small, think big.

If it’s hard for someone to make big health changes, start small. Small change adds up over time and will eventually lead to big success! – Nick C.

9. Find yo’ peeps.

Surround yourself with people that share the same goals as you. Having all my friends and boyfriend be so supportive and into fitness as me makes it so much easier to push myself. It’s also so much more fun to go to the gym with your BFF and prepare healthy meals and share each other’s journey! – Halie S.

10. Be mindful.

Making conscious decisions about the food you put into your body is hugely important to staying fit. And also knowing how often you should be exercising and following through with it. – Sarah K.

11. Stay away from the crappy food…

And stay in the gym 😉 – Marie L.

12. Don’t stop moving.

If you have class far away you can always ride your bike and even in between classes you can ride around. If you don’t know the people you are living with, make friends with them and maybe ask if they want to go to the gym some time. Just stay active! – Mike C.

13. Find a workout buddy!!

The hardest part about going to the gym is actually GOING. If you have a friend pushing you and reminding you of workout plans, it is much easier. It makes you accountable to another person! (PS: you can easily find a workout buddy at your school’s Fit University chapter. Don’t have one on campus? Start one!) – Nellie T.

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Inspire Yourself

Fit University | Inspire Yourself

I woke up this morning and immediately knew something was up. My stomach felt tight and I felt light as if I were about to fly off the mattress. Do I sound crazy? Maybe… but it’s true! With a little over 8 weeks to go in my prep, this morning was the first morning where I thought “wow, I’m really started to feel a difference in my body.” I’ve been seeing the changes but haven’t necessarily been feeling them. It’s kind of a weird concept to explain. But anyway, I got out of bed, looked in the mirror and thought “Damn, I look good. Check out those abs!”

Fit University - Inspire Yourself

That’s right, I said. I like the way I’m looking right now. Does that make me cocky or conceited? No way. You are allowed to acknowledge your accomplishments and honor your body. In fact, you should be doing those things on a daily basis. It’s important to inspire yourself. Point out something great and take a second to really recognize it.

“Damn, my hair looks good to today.” 

“Look at dat booty in these jeans!”

Here’s an idea. Write all of those things down. Have a little notebook to keep track in, email yourself, keep a list on the fridge. Not so much of a writer? Keep a folder on your computer of really awesome pictures of yourself. Label the folder “Inspire Yourself.” When you’re feeling down and not so hot, take a look back at that list or those pictures to get back into a proper mindset. You are your own motivation, you are your own inspiration. Find the way to inspire yourself.

Fit University | Inspire Yourself

How do you inspire yourself?

 

Get Up And Do Something

get up and do something

How many hours do we spend scrolling and re-scrolling through our Facebooks, our Twitters, our Instagrams? No status is particularly eye-catching yet we can’t seem to stray away from the screen. You know you do it way too often. I know I do it way too often.

Nemo’s snow is coming down hard. It’s 10AM on Saturday morning. I realize that I’ve been sitting in the exact same position since 4PM yesterday. Discounting my sleep, I’ve spent roughly 9 hours with my legs crossed, laptop open, and TV playing in the background. 9 HOURS! Have I done anything useful with that time? Maybe an hour or two were productive but aside from that, what have I accomplished?

Now, I have two options. (1) I could use Nemo as an excuse and continue to be a couch potato all day. (2) I could use this time to my advantage and get up and do something. Clean the kitchen, organize my closet, make Valentine’s Day cards, start studying for my upcoming exam. Anything is better than wasting the day away scrolling through that girl-from-high-school-that-I-sort-of know’s Facebook.

Get up and do something. Even if your trapped in your apartment, there are better things for you do be doing than staring at your computer screen. There are great things you could be doing. Read a book, get an early start to spring cleaning, catch up with an old friend. Be creative. Be productive. Get up and do something.