How I Kept My Head Above Water This Semester

College. The best four years of your life? Maybe. Maybe not.

The most unhealthy four years of your life. Probably.

The college experience is typified by binge drinking, crappy food, stress that could make the hulk cry, late nights, and less sleep than new parents.

Last year I lived the life of an average college student, and I’m not proud of it. I try to avoid mediocrity, especially when it comes to my health. As my twitter description reads, “I relish the role of that healthy guy.” And I really do.

This year though, I grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns. Here’s how:

I stayed consistent with my diet

  • A diet is only good when it is adhered to.
  • To stay on track I let myself consume chicken breast, eggs, green vegetables, olive oil, coconut oil, and almond butter to my heart’s content. I have found that it is very hard to put on unwanted weight eating foods of such high quality.
  • The foods I eat are not calorie dense which allows me to eat a large volume of food. The fat boy in me likes that.

I eat way more vegetables than I used to

  •  Now I have never not eaten vegetables, except in my awkward pudgy grade school years.
  • Currently I consume about 5-6 cups of vegetables every day.
  • Typical veggie choices include: bell pepper, green beans, mixed greens, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts
  • I think the increased vegetable content of my diet has helped with satiety, micronutrient intake, and maintaining pH (I think that is huge and underappreciated, but need to research it more…Yes that’s an article teaser. Deal with it)

I stopped tracking my calories

  • I always thought tracking my food was a safeguard for me, keeping me from indulging by knowing I would have to write it down. Turns out, tracking my food subconsciously pushed me lower my energy intake until I would break and finally indulge.
  • I still believe writing down what you eat is a great way to start getting on track, but if you think you can handle it, go without the constant attention to dietary minutia.
  • Be confident in your ability to make sound nutritional choices, and then make those choices. Don’t waver in the face of temptation just because you don’t have to write anything down.

I stopped weighing myself on a regular basis

  • I was once obsessed with the scale. I was also obsessed with calorie restriction at the same time. The combination led me to do some stupid stuff which I am pretty sure did some serious damage to my metabolism.
  • I have kept tabs on my progress/regression mainly by using the mirror test, looking for growth, definition, etc. Often I can be found giving myself a cursory caliper assessment using some very finely tuned instruments. My fingers.
  • On the rare occasions I have weighed myself in the past 4 months (I can count them on my hands), the number on the scale is always lower than I would have guessed. Not something I was ever too upset about.

I reduced my training volume…a lot

  • This summer Randy Huntington, famous track and field coach, talked about responders and non-responders, in relation to certain types of training protocols
  • After about 3 years of serious training I have figured out I respond very well to high intensity training (strength, power), but no so much to hypertrophy training. So I didn’t fight it.
  • Also, knowing that my time would be at a premium this year (school ugh) and my recovery would be diminished, reducing the volume allowed me a better chance to adapt to the training sessions.

I broke the emotion-food tie

  • Stress isn’t good for mental health or physical health for that matter
  • Last year I admittedly used food to help cope with stressful emotions such as loneliness and anxiety. It affected me negatively both mentally and physically
  • This year my relationship with food is much healthier both literally and figuratively
  • I use food as fuel and building blocks. That’s it.

I stopped stressing about slip ups

  • Okay I’m not perfect, but now I know that I don’t have to be to maintain the body comp and performance I want
  • Over the past 4 months I have gone off plan about 5 times. That’s a big victory for me.
  • The bigger victory though is dealing with the misstep in a healthy way. I accept the immediate reality and understand that the following meal has to get me back on track. And it always does.
  • 1-2 days post gluttony I am back to normal and my mind can rest knowing that Penn State ice cream is still the food of the gods.

I found a source of deep play

  • I have found that play, and semi-frivolous activity is a great way to deal with stress and occupy time that could be spent pondering the next cheat meal or what route would be best to take to the pizza place.
  • Playing the guitar gives me an outlet for frustration, for emptiness, for happiness too. It allows me to be creative, and productive, in a completely self determined way. It is very rewarding.
  • I encourage everyone to find a source of meaningful play in their lives and use that meaning to replace any that you once found in food.

 The common thread through all of those steps, which has lead to me to a more consistent health reality, is the tremendous benefit of developing a better relationship/connection with your body.

I think listening, talking to, fighting with, and reconciling with your entire being is a must if a happy and healthy lifestyle is the desire.

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