At some point, we've all felt that feeling that's best be described as: "Ugh." As college students, we’re all guilty of one too many late nights, 2 am Dominos, way too much caffeine and overall unbalanced diets. During the school year, our bodies are caught up in this vicious cycle and our guts are left tired, weak and worn out.
Summer break is the perfect opportunity to hit the “reset” button and start making health a priority.
Besides, being healthy is so in right now. Lately, my Instagram feed has had more posts of salads than it does of sweet treats. Celebrities have traded in their sugary coffee drinks for fresh-pressed green juices.
Even Apple made health a central theme at its annual WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) – it unveiled “Health,” a new app for iOS8 billed as "an entirely new way to use your health and fitness information."
Eating bad food and not exercising is a faux-pas. Quite frankly, not taking care of your body is immature. It’s time to grow up.
Here are 14 tips – some you’ve heard before, some unconventional – for making this your healthiest summer yet.
Have the right mindset. It has been proven that a positive attitude helps build a healthier immune system and boosts overall health. Your body believes what you think, so focus on the positive.
Find what motivates you
As Millennials, we seek instant gratification. Though health has tons of benefits, most aren't tangible, which sometimes isn't enough motivation for being healthy on a daily basis.
Pick a health goal that you really care about to work towards. Even if it’s superficial, having something that you truly care about to work towards is extremely motivating.
Pick an enjoyable form of exercise
If going to the gym feels like a chore, identify and get involved in a kind of regular physical activity that you actually enjoy doing. When you’re doing something you love, it hardly feels like exercise. For me, it’s yoga. For my brother, it’s basketball. Enjoyable forms of exercise are not that hard to find.
Take a few steps each week to ensure you stay on track. Pick out your workout clothes for the week, keep a gym bag ready to go in your car, and schedule your workouts like you do your classes.
Also, prep healthy meals and snacks for the week ahead. Keep fresh, cut veggies in the fridge and a bag of nuts in your bag for on-the-go snacking. It’s these small and simple steps that really make a big difference in the long run.
Set a routine
Having a routine sets clear structure in place of everything else you do. This can be as simple as making your bed each morning. When you leave your bed undone, you muddle through the day until you fall asleep again. Wake up at the same time each morning, and sleep at the same time each night.
Get a good a night's sleep
It’s a known fact that nearly every college student struggles with sleep during the school year. It’s also a known fact that sleep is extremely important for physical and mental health – a good night’s sleep keeps our brains and bodies fit, happy and focused.
Early morning classes, paper deadlines and exams are often in the way of sleep while we’re in college, but during the summer, there’s no excuse not to get a full eight hours.
And remember, as the great Benjamin Franklin once said, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
Learn how to cook
Cooking from scratch helps you learn about what’s in your food and get to know the ingredients. Ask your mom to teach you a few simple recipes that you can master and replicate when you’re back at school.
Get inspired by following healthy food instagrammers. It takes as little as three minutes in the morning to have a healthy breakfast, such as oatmeal instead of boxed cereal or a sugary bar. This will also help you avoid packaged and processed foods.
A rule of thumb I use is to eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. If you had to peel, chop and deep fry potatoes every time you wanted french fries then you might not eat them very often.
Fall in love with healthy foods
Stop thinking that unhealthy food tastes good and healthy food tastes bad because it’s simply not true. Train yourself to obsess over foods that nourish and fuel your body. Learn to love salads, fresh fruit and colorful veggies. Find healthy foods you love and incorporate them into your diet.
Opt for healthier options
Just freeze a banana until it’s entirely solid, stick it in a blender or food processor, and voila: creamy, rich, one ingredient, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free ice cream.
For those of you with a competitive spirit, challenge yourself to always order the healthiest item on the menu when you eat out. Think of sugary foods as the “bad guy” that you’re trying to avoid. Switch things up and introduce one new vegetable to your palate each week.
It’s completely fine to fall out of your health routine every once in a while and indulge. On the same note, find ways to #TREATYOSELF other than with a treat. Buy yourself something new. Get a massage. Actually, get a massage every once in a while if something feels off – they can be incredibly cleansing.
The rule of thumb is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, drink 50 ounces of water. (A standard water bottle is 16.9 ounces.) But this is just the bare minimum. If you are engaging in physical activity, drink some more.
Keep bottles of water around or carry a reusable bottle everywhere with you as a reminder to keep drinking.
Block out toxic people
People can be toxic, too! Blocking toxic people out is hard, healthy and extremely necessary. Experience solitude this summer. Make time for even a few minutes a day to stretch, breathe, decompress, meditate, and zero in on yourself. It may be hard at first, but you will ultimately rejoice in a toxic-free life.
Above all, we have time over the summer to make healthy living a habit. Start noticing and appreciating the benefits of being healthy. All of this will go to waste if you go back to your old ways in the fall. Health and fitness is a lifestyle, and your body deserves to be healthy year round.
Photo via We Heart It