Two months later, are you sticking to your resolutions?

Two months later, are you sticking to your resolutions?

It’s not difficult to imagine the great results you could get from making an ambitious New Year’s Resolution.  As we approach springtime, many of us may end up changing those initial resolutions or straying from them altogether.

Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Whether you’re looking to drop a few pounds, save more of your money, or finally change up your unhealthy eating habits, it’s bound to be a challenging feat.  New Year’s resolutions may not typically be long-term for everyone, but there are a few tips and tricks to remember when trying to stick to a new and possibly drastic lifestyle change.

Start Small

More often than not, our New Year’s resolutions can seem so appealing that we jump into them headfirst without much planning.  If you’re truly serious about wanting a change, you should assess your own situation and be honest about what little choices have to be made along the way.

University of Michigan graduate Karie Whitman said she struggled less after college when trying to make lifestyle changes.

“After college, I started eating healthier and drinking less alcohol.  Out of that environment, it was much easier to get away from takeout, bar food, and going out with friends ‘for just a few drinks,’” Whitman said.

Whitman offers a piece of advice to “pick small goals you can deal with.” Being able to set small goals to reach and celebrate will keep you motivated and able to continue with your big change.

“I’ve learned that if you drastically change your fitness and health with some giant goal, it’s not going to be a lasting change.  You’re going to end up reverting,” she said.

Know The Difference between Healthy and Skinny

For those of us trying to fit into those skintight jeans and thin tank tops this spring, it won’t always be an easy transition—there is a difference between trying to get healthier and simply trying to get skinnier.  Crash diets, cleanses, and severely reducing calories won’t help in the long run.  If you’re looking to be a better version of yourself, be sure you’re aware of the distinction between the goals of healthy versus skinny.

MSU student Kate Bailey has struggled with that distinction in the past.

“I was so focused on ‘being skinny’—whatever that was—that I lost sight of what was most important: being healthy,” Bailey said.

She recently started working out last fall at the Spartan CrossFit gym and instantly fell in love.

“After spending a few weeks at CrossFit and being forced to set goals for myself, my mindset began to change,” she said.  “I eat foods that support my health and avoid those that don’t. I no longer focus on the superficial things, such as weight.”

Over her journey, she found that the best combination for success with a healthy lifestyle change is “pairing fitness that you really love with eating to better your health.”  These changes take time to become permanent, and you have the mental capacity to make them happen.

Willpower is a Muscle

Your willpower will get stronger with time as you learn to exercise it just like any other muscle in your body.  When you’re focused on a goal, remind yourself of it daily in order to make appropriate decisions.  Once you’ve learned to say “no” to that unnecessary purchase or double cheeseburger, you’ll feel stronger and less prone to those dreaded spending or eating binges.

At a certain point, we all feel powerless in our own lives when we go through those inevitable setbacks.  A study by Vanessa M. Patrick of the University of Houston and Henrik Hagtvedt of Boston College suggests that the way you talk to yourself or others about your goals will influence your ability to stay on course.

By using terms like “I don’t” rather than “I can’t,” you let yourself regain the power.  Saying “I don’t eat pizza” is different than “I can’t eat pizza.”  When you reinforce your choices like this, you’ll be more likely to stay determined and encouraged.

Change is a Present Activity, Not a Future Destination

You’re making choices with every single action in every second of the day.  Do you have homework to be doing right now? Are you on Facebook when you should be going to the gym? Not making that call is a choice.  You are the only person who can change yourself, and you are much stronger than you may give yourself credit for.

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How to get fit and stay fit in college

How to get fit and stay fit in college

You have three exams, two quizzes and four excruciatingly long work shifts before the weekend.  Your friends want to hang out, your parents are nagging you to come visit them and you’re trying to figure out just when you’re going to have time to work off all those quesadillas you scarfed down during “Mexican Day” at the cafeteria.

Getting fit is easier with the facilities provided at MSU, like IM West. Photo credit: Cayden Royce

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.  Being a student and juggling multiple responsibilities sometimes leaves little time to dedicate to maintaining that ideal healthy lifestyle.  The good news is, no matter how little time you have to commit to working out, the effort you’re able to put in each day will help you reach all of your fitness and academic goals in the future.

Fitness experts agree that even 10 minutes a day can lead to a better tomorrow for your physical and mental wellbeing.  And let’s face it—we all have at least 10 minutes to dedicate to some vigorous exercise in order to get healthier.

The first step of any good fitness routine is to decide that you’re willing to work toward progress, not perfection. MSU kinesiology instructor Keri Morrison is a Certified Personal Trainer and has many years of experience dealing with the various struggles people face when trying to fit fitness into a busy schedule. Her advice is to plan ahead as much as possible.

Get Fit

“Let’s face it, life doesn’t always go as planned. Have a plan A and a plan B,” Morrison said. “If you planned on going for a walk and it is raining out, then stay inside and do a body workout of squats, lunges, push-ups and planks.”

Another struggle college students face is trying to find space to workout in our ridiculously small dorm rooms or tiny, off-campus, shared apartments.

Morrison suggests using body weight, tubing, air balls and dumbbells for those frigid Michigan days when you just can’t bear to be outside for anything other than commuting to classes.

But when the weather is tolerable and you could use a breath of fresh air to get your head out of the books and your roommate’s nose out of your business, it may be a good time to go for a walk or ride around campus. That bike ride, walk or jog around campus is much more enjoyable when you’re not focused on how late you’re going to show up to that 8 a.m. class from hell.

Eat Healthy

Another thing to remember while trying to get fit is that nutrition is important, too.  Even if you’re committed to an intense workout routine, if you’re doing keg stands and eating pizza every Thursday through Sunday, you’re not going to see great results.  Consider eating healthier and you will easily see improvements in your fitness progress and exercise endurance.

For many of us busy students with classes, jobs, and social lives, it may be hard to plan meals.  Instead of giving into vending machine temptation, certified yoga instructor Katie Clark recommends bringing healthy snacks for the long days away from home.

“Snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, apples, bananas, low fat popcorn, protein or fruit bars, breakfast bars, oatmeal packets, slices of green pepper–these are all quick and easy foods to eat on the go and they’re not too heavy to carry around,” Clark explains.

Make a Schedule

Clark also mentions that getting into a fitness routine is easiest when you can be consistent and avoid skipping days just because the timing doesn’t seem totally feasible.  For example, Clark points out “a half hour would be ideal, but I’ve learned not to skip it, even if you just have a few minutes.” She especially encourages students to try yoga in our small apartments or dorms.

“[Yoga] works awesome in small spaces. You only need the size of a yoga mat,” Clark said.

If you’re like me and have a pretty limited knowledge base of yoga poses and techniques, Clark recommends checking out a website called Yoga Tune Up. 

“Some poses can be done on a wall, so even a hallway works.  Also, seriously, some yoga poses can be done before you roll out of bed in the morning,” Clark added.

Exercising in bed? Why not! If you’re looking for some new positions to try (ahem…I’m still talking about yoga), Clark recommends ‘child’s pose,’ a lying down spinal twist, or a bound angle pose.  Luckily, all of these can be found online at the Yoga Tune Up website or at YogaJournal.com, in case you’re not familiar.

If you’re more concerned with using exercise as a form of stress relief or as a tool for maintaining your sanity during the semester, yoga with meditation is also beneficial.  Including meditation into your workout routine can be awesome for your mental health.

Clark explains that even if it’s only 2-5 minutes before walking out the door to sit in silence and focus on breath, meditation can really help calm you down and prepare for the day.  You may also be interested to know that regular exercise can improve your grades.

So we can get in shape AND get a 4.0! That’s the dream. A study by Saginaw Valley State University in 2010 reported that students who exercised vigorously seven days a week had G.P.A.’s that were, on average, 0.4 points higher than those who didn’t exercise.  That’s quite the incentive to change up your routine, right?

Living a healthy lifestyle can help you look fab in those party dresses and help you land on the Dean’s list.  Of course, it won’t happen overnight, but we’re all capable of positive change. Every single one of us has the drive to make a positive change in the world and with themselves. After all, we are Spartans.

But if you’re too focused on the lack of time you can dedicate to working out, Morrison reminds us: “If you only have 10 minutes per day, that is better than nothing! It all adds up to a healthier you!”

 

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The Quest for Gluten Understanding

The Quest for Gluten Understanding

As I sat in a dining hall picking at my blueberry muffin, I was staring directly at the gluten-free pastries located not far from where I was seated. Out of curiosity, I ditched my poor little muffin and tried one of that pastries, I had heard, could help with weight loss. While I was chewing the sugary dough, I thought about all the ways I’ve attempted to eat healthier, and maybe even lost some weight, when it occurred to me: I’ve never really understood the diet fads that come and go.

Photo credit: Julia Grippe

Why did I decide I wanted to try the gluten-free diet now?  My obsession with the next, best, healthiest diet is something I haven’t exactly pursued with total commitment. I slammed that little ball of carbs and sugar into the closest trashcan and decided I needed to do some research.

Why the hell am I already trying to rid my diet of gluten when I barely know why it’s supposed to be so bad for us?

First things first, what is gluten? According to Olin Health Center’s nutritional specialist Ronda Bokram, gluten really isn’t all that bad for people who are not allergic.  Bokram described gluten as a type of protein found in products such as wheat, rye, barley and common grains that we eat every day.  That doesn’t sound so scary now, does it? I was also reassured that there’s no reason to eliminate it.

“There is no health benefit from eliminating gluten if you don’t have a gluten intolerance,” she said. “The only disadvantage of having gluten in your diet would be if you had Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity—you wouldn’t feel very good if you consumed it!”

Now, just because there’s a logical explanation for a gluten-free lifestyle doesn’t mean that the uninformed will stop following the trends of celebrity dieting.  Surely I wasn’t the only impressionable college-aged girl to see those photos of Miley Cyrus’ new bod and exclaim an audible “Daa-aa-amn!” After finding out she had given up gluten, there was no need to find out why—I was following this trend even if I didn’t know why.

MSU cafeterias offer gluten-free products. Photo credit: Andrea Raby

Many experts agree with the senselessness of this diet. In fact, back in April when this trend was brought to my attention, USA Today reported about the message this diet was sending to teens.

Registered dietitian Heather Mangieri said, “Though Cyrus did not explicitly say the gluten-free diet helped her lose weight, that is the message fans are likely to take away—and it’s bogus…We actually see people gaining weight on gluten-free diets.”

Why is that? Mangieri went on to explain that to make up for loss of taste, many gluten-free cookies and breads add more fat and sugar. Gaining weight certainly wasn’t my plan, but I fell right into the trap when I traded my blueberry muffin for a gluten-free one.

But giving up gluten may not be the real reason this diet works so well for some.  It may be the addition of fruits, veggies and lean proteins into their diet to compensate for the lack of wheat products they’re replacing. Janice Harte from the MSU’s department of Food Science and Human Nutrition agrees.

“If you avoid gluten, you might decrease your consumption of some foods that are carbohydrate-based and may contain a lot of sugar and/or fat. So that may be a secondary benefit,” she said.  “However, these products […] do not taste as good and are usually more expensive.”

So, my feeble attempt to switch one brand of junk for another was not going to get me very far with any of my health goals. In fact, it may have even set me back!

Fad diets have come and gone, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve tried my fair share.  I’ve tried many, even the ridiculously unenjoyable lemonade cleanses that promote body detoxification and weight loss (a.k.a. starvation).

But one thing that is starting to become clearer to me is that you’ll never truly gain any health benefits from “dieting” a certain way for a short period of time.  These changes have to be permanent and truly reflective of a healthy, balanced and nutritional diet.

So instead of thinking about gluten as an unknown unhealthy substance, maybe those of us without a gluten intolerance should simply be happy we can eat it without getting sick.

As Bokram put it, “Those who truly are celiac, for example, would probably love to have the option to eat regular pasta.”

So if you don’t need to eliminate gluten, instead pursue the classic nutrition plan we’ve been taught since we were little: moderation, balance and FINISH YOUR VEGETABLES!

 

 

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