I remember it like it was yesterday. Freshmen year of college.
People talk a lot about the Freshmen 15. Maybe it does exist. It didn’t happen to me, but I came very close to it. I remember starting college and trying to deal with all the trials and tribulations that came with it. Getting overpriced textbooks, trying to get my technological needs in order, getting settled into on-campus living, getting involved on campus, and so on. It’s a lot for anyone to handle; I was no exception.
Needless to say, taking care of myself was an afterthought. I would decline invitations to go work out with my residence hall mates, because what did that even mean? Oh, and can we talk about the dining hall for a second? No, I’m not interested in that particular entrée they have this evening. Ah, but look! There’s pizza, and look at all those soda fountains they have!
It soon became clear my lifestyle of binging on fried foods, soda, and cookies wasn’t going to cut it. My habits, along with stress, sent me to student health services more than once. Dealing with indigestion and eventually chest pains (which turned out to be heartburn) meant a lifestyle change was in order. But where to start?
I took a weight lifting class, which helped somewhat. The notion of it was essentially to jump on a machine (cardio or weights) for x amount of time, then move on. That was my routine for several years. It wasn’t bad. It was better than nothing, but it wasn’t an ideal way to transform myself.
I finally got tired of what I was doing and taught myself the proper way to exercise (and eat). One day during grad school, I woke up, looked at myself in the mirror, and said “enough!” It was my own research, along with trial and error, that got me to where I am today. Since then, I’ve met people who share similar experiences to mine but have no idea how to get started. That’s why I’m writing this—in hopes it can make someone take that all important first step to become a better version of himself (or herself).
There’s lots of advice out there (some good, some not) on how to get started. If nothing else, it’s important to follow these tips to make a lifestyle change:
1) Diet is everything
People often flip out when they hear the word “diet” and for good reason. I get it. Ice cream and cheeseburgers are delicious. You don’t necessarily have to give those up, but what do you think will keep you full longer… those, or, say baked chicken and broccoli?
A site like ACalorieCounter.com will help break down what you need to do as far a diet lifestyle change is concerned (if you don’t already know the term “macros,” for starters, get to reading!). It’s your body. What you put into it matters. And if you haven’t already, download MyFitnessPal for your smartphone. Log what you eat. Educate yourself on what’s beneficial for you and what’s not.
2) For exercise, it’s important to start somewhere.
When most people think of exercise, they probably think of those big box gyms where muscular guys stare at and intimidate the beginners. But it’s so much more than that. Small steps are important.
Walking is better than standing. Standing is better than sitting. You get the idea. Getting active, no matter how you do it (whether it’s lifting weights, swimming, biking, or walking) is so important. If you want to join a (non-intimidating) gym, Planet Fitness caters to beginners and promotes a great atmosphere for them. And for the record, no one is judging you, regardless of what gym you go to. Don’t forget your school’s rec center as well; memberships are often cheaper, and it sometimes comes with great networking opportunities!
You can get a great workout plan at bodybuilding.com if you are interested in weight lifting. You can download their app to sync workout plans straight to your smartphone, along with exercise guides and videos. It’s a great tool to have. Word of caution: always, always start out light when lifting weights. Get a personal trainer if you can. I can speak from experience: bad form is dangerous. Please be careful!
3) Read, read. read.
We’re Student Affairs professionals, after all. There should be a desire to learn. I recommend three great books. The first is The Abs Diet by former Men’s Health editor David Zinczenko. It’s a great book that helped me change my lifestyle. I also recommend Bigger Leaner Stronger (men) or Thinner Leaner Stronger (women); Mike Matthews is one of the best in the industry. His books can also motivate you to make great lifestyle choices.
As I said, it’s your body. It’s up to you to decide how you want to treat it. Never be afraid to take that first step and celebrate small wins.
This post is part of our #SAfit series for May. With the constant hustle and bustle of our profession, we can’t forget to put ourselves at the top of our to-do list sometimes. It is essential that we remember to take time for self care and this series highlights how our colleagues work #SAfit into their lifestyles. This can look different for each of us and your journey is your own. For more info, please see Mandi Stewart’s intro post. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series too!