When I graduated from UCLA in 2007, I found myself setting - and falling short of - the same goals I had set for myself throughout college: get in shape, eat healthier, sleep more, etc., only to set the same ones a year later. I realized this pattern needed a more substantial fix.
One problem was that I was viewing health with a deadline or as a specific target. For example, I always wanted to “get back on track” after the holidays. Well, after I was “back on track,” naturally, I’d fall off track again. So finally I started looking at my habits in order to become a healthier person as a way of life, not just for certain events or time periods.
The changes I made, though gradual at first, have become second nature. I started with food. My then-boyfriend (now-husband) Terry and I had just moved in together and ate giant pots of spaghetti for dinner with nary a vegetable in sight. I learned how to cook vegetables a few different ways and found some new, healthy foods that I actually liked, rather than tolerated. Slowly we made other diet changes, too. We stopped buying boxed cereal and now make hot breakfasts every morning. We cut out processed foods and tried more and more homemade recipes. Once I started making a few favorite meals at home, I became fast and efficient at them, and now those are our go-to meals on busy nights.
I also needed to find a way to motivate myself to stay active and make time to work out. So I started walking, and Terry joined me. We made it part of our daily routine, like brushing our teeth; it was non-negotiable. We used the time to catch up on our days and chat about our future. Terry even proposed to me on a walk! Eventually, walking gave way to jogging and signing up for a half marathon (I’ll never do that again, but that’s another story). I found consistency in strength training and even became a certified personal trainer. Now I work out not to look a certain way for a specific event but to feel good all the time.
I found other ways to improve my health over the years: drinking more water throughout the day, sleeping more, keeping up with a hobby (writing my blog). These changes all came gradually, but they are a way of life instead of short-term goals that I have to set again year after year.
Now, five years, three moves, one wedding, and a baby later, I continue to find ways to make positive changes that are realistic for the long run. Terry and I can’t enjoy a leisurely stroll after work every day anymore because we need to get our little guy to bed, but we want to continue living a healthy lifestyle to set a positive example for Marshall. So we have shifted our exercise to short, at-home workouts during the week (a pair of dumbbells goes a long way) and long walks or jogs on the weekend with the stroller. I have slowly expanded my repertoire in the kitchen to include a wide variety of quick, healthy meals, and I now enjoy cooking as a way of unwinding at the end of the day.