When I was in college, I was a typical stressed-out, over-worked student who didn't prioritize health as one of my main concerns.
I didn't take a healthy diet into consideration and I figured that since I was young, I could get away with it.
Unfortunately, as you get older, your body changes and you start noticing the physical effects of your poor eating habits.
I can attest, from personal experience, to the fact that diet trumps exercise. As a long-distance runner, I always used the excuse of, “I’ll burn it off when I run.”
Well, I've run several half marathons and full marathons, and I've realized that doing half the work only gets you half the results.
I continued my poor eating habits into my early 20s. Once I began noticing the (literal) weight of my decisions, I finally decided I needed a change. So, I cut back on food delivery, started reading food labels, buying groceries and cooking my own meals.
I found was that doing this actually does make a significant difference both internally and externally. Here are five major changes that I noticed:
1. My skin cleared up
I never had bad skin or acne when I was younger. It wasn't until college that I started seeing the effects of poor diet choices in my skin, specifically my face.
My skin would randomly break out with acne. I blamed it on stress, but, if I'm being honest, I just had terrible eating habits.
I was skipping breakfast, eating a cheeseburger for lunch, ramen at midnight and let’s not forget the unnecessary consumption of alcohol on the weekends.
I’d like to thank my college self for teaching me the errors of my ways. Once I ate healthier, my skin started clearing up, and I was smiling a whole lot more about it.
2. My “muffin-top” went away
After I started noticing signs of every girl’s worst nightmare, I had to put my foot down.
I was the kind of person who would eat a lot of unhealthy food, but overcompensate by running six miles the next day, thinking that exercising would cancel out my poor food choices.
Unfortunately, diet and exercise go hand in hand. Elite athletes don’t win gold medals by working out hard and then getting fast food every night.
3. My workouts were more effective
The nutrients that you consume fuel you for your everyday activities. It’s been scientifically proven that our bodies crave certain foods based on the proteins or vitamins we lack.
And, if we don’t provide our bodies with the proper proteins or vitamins we need, our muscles won’t work how we want them to work.
When I started eating healthier, I felt my capacity for hard workouts improve significantly. I could run longer without getting tired, and my muscles recovered faster, too.
4. My internal clock aligned
I know this isn't the prettiest picture to paint, but I was experiencing more regular bowel movements (which is a really big deal for some people).
Additionally, I wasn't getting midnight cravings anymore because I got myself on a regular eating schedule. Once you get into a routine, your internal mechanics also sync up.
And, when you are happy on the inside, it shows on the outside, which brings me to my next point.
5. I actually felt happier
You are what you eat, right? So, if you eat garbage, you will most likely feel like garbage. I’m not saying I don’t have a cheat meal every now and then — I most definitely do.
Everyone needs to go a little wild, but not to the extreme. In life, balance is key and that applies to foods you eat, too.
When you start making smarter decisions about your health, your body will thank you for it. Even if it is just one tiny decision a day, like swapping out an apple for a bag of chips, you will eventually begin to notice those tiny decisions in the way you look and feel.
Change is hard, but you have to start somewhere. After all, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”