The priority of creating better habits: health and wellness
Every time I go home, my younger siblings like to point out that my big 30 is right around the corner. I recently had an honest and realistic conversation with myself about longevity and sustainability. Growing up I was extremely physically active, I ran track and participated in swim camp during the summer but regardless of those activities, I didn’t always eat the healthiest foods available. Especially, after starting college -- where my love for pizza became well acquainted with my hips. Gaining that freshmen 15... I mean 20 pounds was my first indication that I wasn't taken the best care of myself but instead of doing something about it, I just pretended it was normal.
I even started using the fact that I was "busy" as my excuse not to take better care of what I was putting into my body and eventually, that bled into not working out either. Or when I did exercise, it was for all the wrong reasons, for short term results. Which after accomplished, I would go back to my old habits. All of that came to head, when two people very close to me became extremely physically ill. All three of us shared many things in common, age, race, lack of physical activity and exercise the habit of preaching self-care but never personally practicing it (which for me, I later learned was centered on the guilt I felt for taking time for myself).
So at the start of the new year, I wanted to make wellness a priority that wasn't "just" superficially related to my looks but also something that would allow me to feel good. Where I didn't feel like I was going to pass out after running to the bus or walking up a few flights of stairs. It's been a little over five months since I implemented many of these changes and the results have exceeded my expectations both physically and mentally. I should highlight, that by no means are these habits new and innovative but what I've learned, is that it's all about long-term consistency.
- Replaced stress eating with high active workouts: Since as long I can remember, I have always equated my love for junk food to my unhappiness at the moment. When I was stressed, or sad, I would always have an appetite that never seemed to end. Now when possible, I run two miles in the morning and then workout in the afternoon for about 1.5 hours, mostly doing free weights. I know, most people don't have that kind of time but trust, when you make something a priority you find the time... space and opportunity to do so (its not easy but worth it). Which means, I'm not a morning person but now I find myself getting up early in the morning to run because I've learned overtime, I'm actually more productive for the rest of the day when I do so. Also, as someone who travels at least once or twice a month and for days at a time, I now travel with a portable yoga mat and resistance bands for those occasions when I don't have access to a gym.
- Meal Prep is your friend: If we're being honest with ourselves, who wants to stand over a stove every night to cook... not me. Especially, after working all day and sweating my life away at the gym, so what has been extremely helpful in preventing me from ordering takeout or stuffing my face with potato chips, is meal prepping for the week. Every Sunday, I spend about 1.5 making dinner and lunch for the next five days. All of my meals, consist of a seafood and veggies and quinoa but don't take that as confirmation that I'm Pescetarian ... because I love chicken and beef and I allow myself to have it, on the rare occasions I eat out. When I'm traveling I try to avoid fried and processed foods.
- If there is no record, it didn't happen (Track your progress): After doing weeks of research and watching dozens of youtube videos, I finally purchased an apple watch. Not just because it's sexy as hell but also it enabled me to track my efforts without it becoming an additional burden. I track my process not because I'm addicted to watching weight fall off (especially since I mostly use free weights and one normally gains more weight with lifting vs with just cardio alone, so in that case numbers can lie) but rather because I want to make sure I'm moving throughout the day, taking time to stand and tracking the impact of doing workouts.
It's not easy and there are still days that I struggle with keeping up but I remind myself of the progress I've made and why its so important. Working in the social impact space, I often forget that my survival, my health is just as important as the people that I'm fighting for and I can't expect to fight affectively for them -- if I'm not in top condition. Hopefully this information was helpful and as I continue on this journey of seeking a more healthy life style, I'll be sure to share my tips and tricks.