A Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go — Part 3: Accountability

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If you missed part 1 or part 2 – head on over there first – this post will be here when you get back.

Part 3: Accountability

Once you’ve mastered planning and variety, it’s time to establish some sort of accountability. While plans do help stay on track, you will need another way to monitor your progress and keep you motivated.

First, it is essential to keep track of what you put into your body. I use the Weight Watchers app to count points, but you can use a food journal, a calorie counter app, the Nike FuelBand – whatever works for you! By entering what I eat into Weight Watchers, I make myself accountable for my actions.

This is also a great way to see how bad your current habits are if you’re having trouble sticking to a plan. If you count your calories for one week – you may shock yourself into making a change for the better.

You also have to establish accountability for daily exercise. For me, the schedule in my planner is enough. I am a list maker, and the satisfaction of crossing off my workout for the day is enough to get me there.

If you’re not as neurotic as me about to-do lists, you might want to try a gym buddy, a personal trainer, or attending regularly scheduled gym classes. By making specific appointments to go to the gym, you’re less likely to skip out.

You could even blog or post about your progress online. No one likes an obnoxious gym selfie, but social media can be a great place for finding a support network. If you publicly announce your goals it makes you more accountable.

You can also try talking with loved ones about your health goals. Saying it out loud will make it more real and sharing it with people who care about you will give you someone to be accountable for.

For instance, my boyfriend is so used to my evening work out sessions that if I come home still in work clothes the first thing out of his mouth is “You didn’t go to the gym?” He’s supportive of my lifestyle change and never judgmental. Find someone who can play this role for you and ignore the haters. If you have friends who judge you for making healthy decisions, they aren’t friends at all.

How do you maintain accountability for your health?

A Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Living on the Go — Part 1: Planning

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I don’t have time to cook. I’m too busy to go to the gym. I can’t fit being healthy into my schedule.

Sound familiar? If you’ve fallen into the trap of these excuses — this series is for you.

When you’re constantly on the go, it’s difficult to stick to a nutrition plan and a workout schedule. But It’s not impossible. Getting your health in order will make you feel better both inside and out. You’ll feel more confident, have more energy and be able to do more of the things you think you don’t have time for. 

The truth is — you don’t have time NOT to be healthy. Older relatives are always telling us to enjoy our metabolism while it lasts. But if you develop bad habits now they are more likely to follow you through life.

About a year ago, just six months after graduation, my freshman 15 had become a permanent fixture. My self-esteem was at an all time low and my energy was dwindling. I decided to make a change and signed up for Weight Watchers as a method of keeping track of what I was putting into my body and a resource for healthy recipes and support. After a few short months, I had dropped the weight and a year later, I’m happy to report it’s still off, and I feel great.

Throughout my journey, I’ve learned a few things that I believe are the keys to healthy living for millennials on the go, and I hope they’ll inspire you to make a lifestyle change too.  In this weekly series, I will identify the factors that I found most helpful as a busy young professional trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s up to you how you plan to get healthy, and the method you choose should also depend on your goals and your individual needs, but these tips will help you select a plan that you can stick to. 

Part 1: Planning

The first step to any lifestyle change is making plans. When creating a new habit, you should start out by planning for every detail. Although it may seem like overkill, planning makes healthy decisions easier and with practice, your planning will just become a force of habit.

One of my favorite blogs — A Life Less Bullshit — talks about decision making overload in her Goal Setting Formula. When you have to make too many decisions in the day — what to wear and what’s for breakfast, let alone making work decisions — you start to get overwhelmed and you shut down.

That’s when cookies become your dinner or you end up crying on the floor in a pile of the contents of your closet. Or is that just me?

The result of decision-making overload

The result of decision-making overload

If you allow yourself to “decide” what to do at the end of the work day — its a slim to none chance that you’ll select an intense cardio workout over your bed, the couch or the dinner table. However, if you set a workout schedule and make yourself accountable to it, you’re more apt to follow through.

Planning meals is more difficult. When you first get started you have to try out new recipes and learn how to cook and eat healthily. You have to train your body to stop when it’s full and not start up again when it’s bored. Once you have your go-to recipes and basic knowledge of healthy cooking, the time it takes you to plan your weekly menu will decrease.

Planning meals also means… dun dun dun… weekly food shopping. UGH. This is one of my least favorite chores. It’s hard for me to put into works how much I hate going to the grocery store, but this GIF sums it up pretty well.

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However, when you make the switch to healthy eating, it’s important to always have fresh fruits and vegetables and this requires more frequent trips to the grocery store. On Weight Watchers, most fruits and vegetables are ZERO points, so I try to eat as many as I can to get the nutrients my body needs and feel more full. And if you’re like me and you hate food shopping — try to avoid the busiest times, go to the store on a full stomach and make sure you have enough time to browse.

Along with planning what you’re eating, you should plan when you eat. I try to eat 6 meals a day, roughly every 2-3 hours. Plan out your meals and snacks to keep yourself within a healthy range — whether you count in WW points, calories, or some other system, planning is the key to staying within your limits. For example, I always save a few WW points for an evening snack because I’ve found that no matter how late I eat dinner, my sweet tooth kicks in around 9 p.m. This way, I’m less likely to go over my points for the day.

Over time, healthy eating and daily exercise will become intuitive. Now, I don’t think about whether or not I want to exercise each day, I just do. Healthy eating hasn’t quite become a habit yet, but I’m on the right track. After a few days of poor eating my body will let me know that it needs nutrients, and I get back on my plan.

It’s not about being perfect — it’s about making a lifestyle change one step at a time. If you’re committed to becoming a better, healthier you, you have to make a commitment to yourself and find the time.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week!

Losing Control

Yesterday…

I lost control.

I let my anxiety get the best of me like I have so many times before. I let it wrap itself around me and smother me.

Like a chain reaction, one bad event led to another and another until I felt completely helpless and out of control.

Any trigger of stress or anxiety, big or small, can start me on the downward spiral.

Just one cookie. I deserve it.

I really should have eaten that cookie. It wasn’t even that good.I wonder how many weight watchers points that was?

At this point I might search for chocolate chip cookie in the weight watchers system, but then give up when I decide there are two large a range of points values for cookies, and I have no way of knowing how many points it actually was.

I guess I won’t count points today.

God, I’m going to get fat.

But, what’s one day!? I’m going to have another cookie.

I can’t believe I had two cookies already — it’s not even lunch time yet. Maybe I’ll skip lunch.

As I try not to think about food, I don’t realize that I’m chewing on my nails in place of a third cookie.

In 10 minutes, all of my nail polish is in a pile on my desk and some of my nails are so short they hurt.

Is my pinkie bleeding? Gross. 

All of my hard work to grow out my nails — gone in a matter of a few minutes.

This makes me feel worse.

Now I’ve classified today as a “bad day”

Co-Worker: “Want to get lunch?”

Me: “Sure” My day’s already ruined anyway

After lunch I have another cookie or whatever else I can get my hands on. And by the end of the day I’m feeling so lethargic and sad for myself the thought of going to the gym is about as appealing as getting a cavity filled.

And at the rate of my cookie consumption that might be in my future, too.

I make all kinds of jokes about it. But the truth is, at the end of the day like this I feel… well, awful.

I feel out of control. I feel fat. I feel unattractive. I feel sick. I feel small (and I don’t mean skinny).

And yet I do this to myself over and over again. I allow one stressful situation to take control of my entire day. I let it derail my health, my mood and my self control

My anxiety causes me to lose control sending me into a spiral of bad habits that cause even more anxiety and stress.

Once I’ve had three cookies, what’s another? Once I’ve bitten four nails, why not bite them all — make them even.

It’s a never-ending, vicious cycle.

I don’t think this is normal. I’m even a little hesitant to post something so personal on the internet, but my hope is that someone who feels the same might see this and not feel alone, and that they might share with me some way to deal with this constant battle against myself.

What I want is to be able to treat myself to the foods I love once in a while without allowing my emotions to fuel those choices and cause me to overeat.

But I’ve always been an all or nothing girl, and learning to do anything in moderation is easier said than done with me.

I don’t know how to fix it, but what I do know is that I can’t keep feeling like this.

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Mid Year Check-In on my New Year’s Resolutions

Everyone sets them. No one keeps up with them.

I don’t know about you — but 2013 has been FLYING by for me!

We’re already half way through the year, and 2012 seems like ages ago. I feel like I’ve grown a ton since then, and I’ve accomplished a lot. However, I haven’t stuck to all of my New Year’s Resolutions that I set for myself.

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My first goal was to “Get Healthy.” I have been doing Weight Watchers since November, and I’ve found it to be a really great system for me.

I haven’t talked about my weight loss a lot outside of my immediate circle of friends and family, but overall I lost about 17 pounds, and I am back to my pre-college weight.

I work out 5 times a week and cook with much healthier ingredients, tracking what I eat and how much.But the key to keeping the weight off for me has been in not depriving myself of the foods I love.

I have a serious sweet tooth. I know everyone says this. But seriously… my boyfriend has to hide his Oreos from me.

I’ve found that if I follow the Weight Watchers point system during the week and go to the gym, I can splurge a little on the weekends.

If I’m invited out for lunch or frozen yogurt during the week I don’t say no — I just make up for it by eating less at dinner time or cutting back on my typical weekend cheatfest — or is it cheatfeast? 

But the great thing about WeightWatchers is that eating what you want a few times a week isn’t cheating.

The system gives you a daily allotment of points (I get 26). Point values are based on the fat, carbs, protein and fiber content in your food.

Then you are also given 49 extra points for the week. Some people spread their 49 points throughout the week — because they like to eat a little extra each day — while others, like myself, save them for weekend getaways and nights out.

I’ve also found that because food is my weakness it’s incredibly important for me to get to the gym every day. I have a weekly schedule and a different workout for every day of the week so I don’t get bored and I can’t skip a day when I don’t feel like going.

And as a result of this routine, I’ve found myself actually enjoying gym time for the first time in my life. I like how strong I feel and I like seeing how hard I can push myself

My second goal was to travel. And I have to admit I haven’t done as much as I would have liked. Chris and I just got back from an AMAZING trip to Mexico and that has really been our only big trip.

PlayaDelCarmen-Mexico

But we have been exploring the Jersey Shore while we can — getting to as many different beaches as we can. And getting back to the city is also on our list. We’re always waiting for the perfect time, but I think unplanned excursions can sometimes be the most fun. But for me — and even for Chris — this is no small feat.

My third goal has been a miserable failure. As sad as I am to admit this, I haven’t called my grandparents once a month like I promised myself. I kept up with this probably for three months, but then I got busy, I was tired, INSERT third lame excuse here.

Grandparents are a blessing and when I have the patience and the time, I love hearing their stories of growing up and of my parents as children. Grandparents have so much wisdom to share if you only take the time to listen.

Last time I was home, I went to say goodbye to my grandma and found myself in an hour long conversation about my Mom and Dad and the early stages of their relationship, my grandma’s childhood growing up in New York City and her Mom’s tenacity as a single working mother in a time when most Mother’s didn’t work at all.

She worked on the railroad — yes, really — all the live long day. She was a true bad-ass chick.

But in order to hear more stories like this and to make memories of my own with my grandparents while I have the time — I have to call.

Overall, I think I’ve done fairly well with my New Year’s Resolutions but I have six more months to keep my promises to myself.

I’d like to keep exploring. Even if my trips don’t take me out of the country — my goal of traveling was really about increasing my spontaneity, and I am slowly but surely breaking down those walls of worry and anxiety that keep me from living on the edge.

I hope to keep the weight I’ve lost off and continue with the healthy lifestyle I’ve created for myself. I feel more confident, happy, and I have more energy than ever before.

And finally, I have to make time to call my grandparents. This is a pretty simple goal that I allow to slip through my fingers — but it may be one of the most important.

Where are you with your New Year’s Resolutions?

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Did you accomplish any of the goals you set out for yourself at the beginning of the year? Did you stick to the changes you promised yourself you’d make? It’s time to remind yourself of your yearly goals and make things happen. Happy Half New Year!