Statistically speaking, the most common New Year’s resolution is to get fit and live a healthier lifestyle. Magazines are littered with articles telling us how to make the best weight loss smoothie with at least three ingredients you’ve never heard of and five you don’t have on hand, or what workout is going to earn you the posterior of a Kardashian. I, for one, have attempted to integrate some of these ‘hot tips’ in my lifestyle but, overwhelmingly, I have found them to be unrealistic.
As far as I know, very few college students have the time or money to devote to weird dieting fads that may or may not (and, as the case stands, probably not) make you healthier. Nor do they have the dedication or self-directed humor to do the 15 minute “Build A Booty” celebrity workout which again, may or may not work the miracles it promises. This of course begs the question: how am I supposed to make myself healthier, more fit, and (personally) more comfortable with my body?
Kelly Johnson, a lifelong basketball player and first-year here at St. Kate’s, is an example of healthy and active living in the extreme. On a typical day she teaches an elementary school gym class before and after school, and occasionally substitutes for the official gym teacher. Then she goes through her own school day, taking a total of five classes this semester. Three nights a week she teaches children’s swim classes. On top of all of this she trains with her team for at least three hours every day, followed by another three hours of working out! When I asked her, incredulous, what she did on the weekends she smiled. “Oh, weekends are easy” she said. “I just train and work out all day!”
As incredibly motivated as she is, she does have a clear head about her limits. Having recently had issues with an old knee injury, she took a break from her extremely active lifestyle to give herself some time to rest and recover.
“It [takes] a while,” she advises those who may be held by similar physical constraints. “You might not be able to do the things you did. Just [work] hard and keep pushing forward.”
In general, for those looking to get more involved in physical fitness she recommends getting involved in some sort of recreational sport. “If you participate in a sport, it motivates you” she says. “It holds you to a standard.” Even in the case of individuals not looking to get seriously involved in a sports team, what she says is still applicable. Even if it’s just playing kickball with your friends every other weekend, you’re still putting yourself in a position to push yourself physically. She also emphasizes the benefits of well balanced meals instead of limiting food consumption, as well as the necessity of a good night’s sleep.
Speaking as a non-athlete with an ongoing concern with my own health, here is my advice for becoming more health conscious. First of all, stop trying to hold yourself to a weight standard. Humans come in all different shapes and sizes, and so long as you are not at risk for health issues, your weight is pretty much irrelevant when it comes to fitness. Not only is weight extremely variant for most people (I, for instance, can gain and drop 10 pounds in a span of 24 hours), it does not account for your body type, your muscle mass, or what you ate for dinner.
Secondly, stop trying to force-feed yourself food that you do not enjoy. Not everyone can get down with a Caesar salad and be happy about it. For example, maybe make yourself a nice bowl of chicken broth and rice noodles instead of eating ramen for the fifth time in a given week. If you’re like me and have a horrendous snacking problem, try keeping fruit, small vegetables, nuts, and maybe some cheese around. When it comes to eating healthier, keep in mind that it’s about YOU. Your happiness and comfort should take precedence; don’t shame yourself into ordering that low calorie meal if you’re craving a cheeseburger. Just make sure that you are being conscious (not obsessive) of the decisions you are making regarding what you eat. Try to keep your food groups relatively balanced, and pay attention to your body and your cravings: they’re trying to tell you something.
Speaking of paying attention to your body, it might help for you to stop and appreciate what your body can do. Remember, above all your body is a tool; not a decoration. It gives you the ability to travel from place to place, to create things and to express love towards the people you care about. It also can serve as a means of personal expression and communication: whether that be through the clothes you wear, piercings, tattoos, or even something as simple as a facial expression; a smile or a quizzical look made perfect by a raised eyebrow.
In the end, getting fit and being healthy does not generally have to be as complicated as a lot of us make it out to be. It comes from self awareness and a place of self-love: if you’re trying to beat yourself into making better health decisions you won’t be able to enjoy it when you do reach your goals. Start from there, and make decisions as they come up.