Diploma Diaries: Staying Healthy as a Post-Grad
By Emily Roseman, Alumna of American University
It’s 9 p.m. on a Thursday, and I should really be out celebrating my final week at college, but instead I’m finishing up a final project. The clock is slowly ticking away, and I’ve yet to eat. Noticing the stacks of takeout boxes at the door, I heave a heavy sigh and track down my next late-night feast online.
We’ve all been there, desperate for a hot meal that involves little to no cooking and quick enough to shovel down to get on with your next assignment. Unfortunately, my bad habits didn’t hit me until I moved back home following graduation. I looked at my photos from the ceremony and couldn’t recognize the girl looking back at me. Who is that? Is that really what I look like?
It was that smack with reality that kicked my butt into gear to truly get healthy — physically and mentally. Whether it’s your last moments as a college student or burning the midnight oil at the office, eating right is just one part to maintain a healthy lifestyle as a post-grad.
Set Attainable Goals
One of my biggest challenges was accepting that I had let myself really go sometime around scarfing down baguettes during study abroad, to that time I had ordered the same Chinese food takeout four days in a row. I knew once I moved home I had to get back on the right track, but dropping 30 pounds in a week was not going to happen.
By seeing your diet as a “lifestyle change” instead of a week-long deprivation, you are able to naturally ease into a healthier lifestyle and feel the change physically and mentally. While some people may lose 5 pounds easier than some, chart your successes daily to give you that extra confidence to lose just one!
Set some milestones on your path to better health by giving yourself one goal a week, whether it is in pounds lost or amount of exercise you did that week. I always like to give myself “kudos off the scale,” which is achieving a milestone that didn’t exactly mean weight lost or gained. See every healthy choice you’re making in a day as an inch closer to your goal health.
Treat Yo Self
I live and breathe by the TV show "Parks and Recreation" in the mentality that sometimes, “You gotta treat yo self girl!” Treating yourself doesn’t mean gorging on a Big Mac and fries for losing 2 pounds, it means rewarding yourself for the small and big goals you meet. I love to shop as much as the next fashionista, but I made it a reward for myself if I maintained a healthier lifestyle for a month. The shopping trip gave me a visual reward to keep in my mind as I made better choices in my new healthy lifestyle. Treating yourself should act as a catalyst to reach your goals, not ruin them entirely.
I grew up in a relatively healthy home. My mom had amazing success using the Weight Watchers program and I would always attend weekly meetings with her, even as a baby! Even if you are the only person in your home on a new lifestyle path toward health, don’t let that keep you from revitalizing your humble abode.
Introducing smarter options in your snack pantry or new choices with low-calorie or low-fat content that everyone in the house would enjoy gives you the feeling you aren’t alone. Explain to those around you what you’re trying to achieve in your health quest and see if they would like to join, too! Stocking up on new food is an easy change to make with wider health options at supermarkets becoming available, but try to make subtle changes like always having water readily available to stay hydrated and boost your metabolism.
Make Fitness Fun
I am the last person to ever dole out workout tips, as I see the gym as a house of doom and not a way to exercise. But upon entering post-grad life, I made it a mission to find an outlet for exercise that didn’t mean falling off a Stairmaster or panting like a dog on a treadmill. My outlet that fit my attention span and my busy and random work schedule was yoga. The basic stretches would kick my butt and told my body you are in for a treat tomorrow. What I love about yoga was the ability to work areas I needed help on most, and it also gave me an outlet to truly breathe and quiet my mind.
Post-grad life can have its ups and downs, mostly downs at first, and having 30 minutes to truly breathe and feel at peace is not just a healthy mentality to keep, it’s a Godsend! For those like me who don’t subscribe to the “gym rat” mentality, find something that’s fun for you and look at it as an outlet not a chore. Try biking around the neighborhood for an hour and discover a new trail. Or rock those rollerblades 80s style and cruise into town.
As summer approaches and clothing seems to consist of only bathing suit tops and shorts, eating right and feeling healthy kind of feels like impending doom. But just looking good is only one of the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Finally achieving a healthy mind and spirit feels far better than a smaller size of jeans!
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