BULNES: Healthy lifestyles can only come from repeated actions
Opinions Column: Mind Body Scarlet
It is easy to sign up for a gym membership, it is easy to eat clean for a day and it is easy to say you are going to start working out. Commitment and forming new behaviors are the hard part — but that is what will bring results and satisfaction. As humans, it seems like it is in our nature to want visual proof of our efforts. We work out once and check the mirror for new muscle. We eat a healthy meal and wonder if we are thin yet. Many people want to live healthy lifestyles, but there is one characteristic that sets those people apart from those who actually do: consistency. In order to improve your health, you need to create healthy habits and practice them consistently if you expect change.
Everyone should have their own variation of healthy lifestyle goals. Nobody is exempt from this. Being naturally thin, not liking cardio, not wanting muscles, not liking vegetables are all just sad excuses because being healthy does not have to look like what ads look liken in a magazine. People neglect exercise and healthy eating habits because they think it is an option. Getting your heart pumping to have a healthy circulation of blood flow throughout your body and feeding yourself essential vitamins and nutrients is not optional. Even though these things are not visible to the human eye, they are necessities for your overall health, and neglecting them can lead to complications with age. Being in good health is not a goal you can achieve at the end of the month or year, it is a series of lifelong habits different for each individual that need to be adapted over time. The good news is that you can start making changes now by setting daily and weekly goals tailored to fit your routine.
As an economics major, I tend to think of goals in terms of the “short run” and the “long run.” These concepts are theoretical representations for short periods of time where certain variables are fixed and long periods of time (usually over a year) where all variables can be changed, respectively. Many people think of healthy living as a goal attainable in the short run, when in fact it can only be achieved in the long run. In the short run, you should think of your health and weight as a fixed variable. These things may have small fluctuations daily, but their effect on the long run is what would constitute as an actual lifestyle change. For example, in the short run, you can make small supplements to your diet like picking mixed nuts over chips and water over soda. Activity wise, you can choose to spend an hour getting your heart rate up at least three times a week instead of watching Netflix. If you are consistent with your changes, you can add more short-term goals. With these small victories, you are setting yourself up for success, and the feeling of achievement will motivate you to keep going. In the short run, there will only be incremental changes, but in the long run, you will see a significant change in your overall health that you can be proud of.
Once you have committed to a lifestyle change, having minor setbacks will seem trivial. It will no longer be the end of your health streak if you indulge in your favorite unhealthy meal or trade the gym for a week of vacation. It is impossible to break habits that are ingrained into your lifestyle in just an hour or even a week. With some time and commitment, your new healthy habits, like eating right and staying active, will become second nature to you, and old unhealthy habits will feel uncharacteristic. Personally, because I have incorporated the gym into my routine for so long, skipping the gym for four days during midterms week made me feel fatigued, sluggish and not myself. These feelings make it easier to get right back to my normal healthy lifestyle because the negative impact reminds me how beneficial my habits are to my body.
Any goal worth achieving does not have a shortcut — health and fitness are no different. Working out for a day will not make you fit, and eating a salad for dinner will not make you healthy. This is a good thing! It gives you time for the trial and error necessary to figure out the diet and exercise habits that work best for your lifestyle. Always be patient with yourself as you develop new habits and get rid of your old ones because this process will not happen overnight. Remember — you are what you consistently do, so changing your habits changes who you fundamentally are. If you want to be a person who makes their health a priority in their life every day, you can gradually and actively choose to do that. It is not as unachievable as you think.
Monica Bulnes is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in economics and minoring in business administration. Her column, "Mind Body Scarlet," runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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