I’ve never really considered myself to be a “health freak,” but I suppose I might come off that way to some people. I start everyday with a perfectly balanced meal of whole grains and fruit, consume specific multivitamins, drink green tea three times a day, stretch every morning, work out every night, read every label on every food product, make sure I have vegetables and fruits every day, walk to the grocery store, run regularly. Every action I take, every food I consume, I’m thinking about what it will do to my body, and if it’s worth it. Ok, when it’s all written out like that, I kind of sound like a psychopath with no life and a twistedly ‘unhealthy’ obsession. But really, I’m a pretty normal college student (at least in every other aspect). I love hanging out with my friends and going out at night, need to pull the occasional all-nighter. It sounds crazy, but for me, it all comes down to one word: routine.
Think about your week. There are some things you do every day, at the exact same time. You wake up, go to class, study, maybe throw in a gym workout, a few trips to the dining hall. Maybe every Friday you go to Happy Hour at your favorite bar with friends or go grocery shopping every Monday. My point is that structure, routine, is naturally wired into our brains. Start a routine and, more than likely, it’s going to stick. So in terms of your health, why not start a routine?
Start small; starting with too much, too fast is a recipe for failure. For me, all through high school, I had been an athlete, so I was used to lots of physical activity- it was wired into my brain. So when the sports’ seasons finally ended, my body still craved the activity it was used to, and it was easy for me to transition into a nightly workout. Pick a simple exercise- a nightly walk, twenty pushups, morning stretches- and commit to doing them every day, every other day, every week, etc. Pick something that you know will be possible to accomplish everyday at that time, no matter what, (i.e. don’t promise yourself a 2 miles run every day, if you know some days you might not have the time to do so). Then do it, consistently, and wait. Building a routine takes time. I’m not saying that, instantly, your body will crave the lifestyle changes that you’ve made, but after a couple of months or even weeks, you’ll start to notice a difference.
The same tactic can be applied to food. I actually read an article a few months ago in a magazine that explained the science of routine and what we consume. Did you know in as little as a week, your body can adjust to a high fat, high sugar diet? Once your body has adjusted, it will crave exactly that- fatty, unhealthy calories that are doing you no good for your health. To switch back, it takes a little longer, but the same theory applies. Start eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and you, literally, will crave fruits and vegetables. By consciously eating and paying attention to the routine you set for yourself, you’ll even start to notice the effects that certain types of foods have on your body. For me, I can tell when I need carbs, proteins, fruits, even sugars, depending on how my body feels and what my plans are for the remainder of the day.
Basically, if you make small changes now, but commit to them consistently, you’ll wire yourself for health. You may not become a crazy health-freak all at once, but before you know it, you’ll be addicted to the amazing feeling that follows when you treat your body right. Start small, but expect great things. Add in more as it becomes easier. Before you know it, you’ll be working out and eating better without even having to think about it! And it all will have started with your simple, daily routine.