Health

As a college athlete, health isn’t something I’ve ever been able to simply ignore. Though it can be frustrating at times to always carefully plan meals and workouts, I’ve seen the ways in which my active lifestyle has taught me important lessons about my health. Here are some of the tips that I’ve implemented over the years to keep me happy and healthy:

1. Do something active every day.

Even if it means going for a brief walk before breakfast. I find that it’s much easier to complete a workout if I do it first thing in the morning. This isn’t just good for your body, but good for your mind as well. The days where I’m not playing tennis or lifting, I’ll go for a hike or do yoga. I always find that cross training and stepping out of my comfort zone is more fun anyway!

Don’t beat yourself up if you only complete half of what you thought you could do. The hardest part is getting up and doing something. If you really take it one day at a time and work toward a small goal each day, you’re more likely to reach your bigger goal in the long run. Not to mention that the more you work out, the more you want to work out. Similarly, the less you work out, the less motivated you will be to start.

2. Document what you eat.

I want to clarify that I am not a calorie counter. But there is a difference between counting calories and writing down your meals. I, personally, don’t like looking at a list that reads: chocolate croissant, white mocha, and chicken Alfredo. I would much prefer to see a list that says: berry smoothie, grilled salmon, and quinoa.

For some people, it works best to write their meals down ahead of time. However, if you’re someone who has the tendency to cheat (guilty!), then sometimes it helps to write down what you eat after you’ve already eaten it.

This may be a bit of guilt tripping, but it forces you to take a serious look at the way you’re treating your body. You not only become more aware and health-conscious, but you can pay close attention to the way you feel after you eat certain foods.

Nonetheless, it does help to have a food schedule for the week. If you have an extremely busy schedule and very little time to cook for yourself, dedicate a couple hours on the weekend to prepare your meals for the week. Not only is it harder to cheat on meals you’ve already made, but it also saves a lot of cash.

3. Adopt the buddy system.

Not every friend you have is going to be working toward the same goals as you. However, it does help to have someone keep you accountable. Even the most disciplined people can’t maintain that discipline 24/7.

For example, if one of your goals is to keep track of your indulgences, make a pact with a friend to text each other every time you eat something sweet. Even if you promise yourself one small treat each day, you’ll feel obligated to let someone else know when you cheat. (Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.)

4. Don’t focus on the numbers.

Weight, calories, reps…they’re all just that: numbers. Weight fluctuates, calories are deceiving, and there are days when no one feels like working out.

As an athlete, I’ve learned to focus on three things: how I feel, how my clothes fit, and how I move on the tennis court. How you feel is always most important. Often times the healthier you eat and more active you are, the less groggy and more motivated you’ll become. Nutrition is energy. Exercise is a healthy and satisfying way to release that energy.

Nonetheless, it’s good to pay attention to other factors as well. If exercises that used to seem easy for you now seem difficult, that may be a sign that you haven’t been doing your body justice. If you’d reached a healthy weight, but now find that you’re swimming in your clothes or can’t button your favorite jeans, that may be another sign that you haven’t been paying close attention to your health. The busier you are, the more these little signs matter.

As most of us enter into adulthood and begin to lead busier lives, our health tends to fall on the wayside. Though my health was something that I was required to pay attention to, I admit that there were times I didn’t do my best at maintaining it. All in all, paying attention to your health will make you feel better. It will make you a genuinely happier person, fighting depression, anxiety and other mental health issues that kick in when school and careers become stressful.

So when you wake up in the morning and don’t feel like working out that day, do it anyway. Wake up an hour earlier if you have to. Skip the croissant and have some granola. To this day, I’ve never regretted a workout and I’ve never regretted eating my vegetables. The hard work is always easier than the regret of not living up to your potential.

Image: Julia Caesar

Culture

What do you see in a plate of food? You might notice the portion size, the nutritional value, the color scheme. Or maybe you just see the sustenance — but there is much more than that. I like to think of food as a delicious blueprint of a culture that directs you to its history and values. Many people are self-proclaimed “foodies,” and hopefully, today, I will explain why I am too.

Food, like travel, can teach you more about people than any textbook or documentary ever could. It gives you a sneak peek into the lifestyle of the people who originally created the meal. For example, the most well known meal of my family’s Creole culture is gumbo, the heavenly stew native to Louisiana and other African-influenced cultures.

Let’s take a moment to break it down. The flavorful shrimp, crawfish, or crab in gumbo is illustrative of Louisiana’s coastal placement on the Gulf of Mexico. The fresh seafood in the dish is an ode to the way many Creoles have lived as fisherman in harmony with the expansive swampland and rivers throughout the state. It’s not uncommon for rural Creole families to still fish for their own seafood even today. A bite of gumbo’s thick and silky roux is seasoned with filé powder, a spicy seasoning made of ground sassafras leaves. This seasoning is unique to Native American cuisine and specifically points towards Creole people’s Choctaw Indian roots.

Finally, the bed of fluffy white rice the stew sits upon is absolutely a Creole staple. Because of the humid Louisiana climate, rice could be grown anywhere and often grows wild in the area, making it the grain of choice. Gumbo, in essence, is everything the unique Creole culture is, in one place.

There are so many meals across the globe, just like this one, that are beautiful representations of the people who created them. In South Africa, this meal is bobotie, a tasty minced meat and egg dish. In Spain, this meal is paella, the mouthwatering spicy rice and meat plate. And in Fiji, it’s the delicate raw mahi mahi marinated in coconut cream, lime, and tomatoes called kokodo. A bite into each of these beloved meals is a step into the past.

So, yes, I do love food. Not only for the obvious taste factor, but even more so for the way it has the power to connect a person to another life, a people, a culture. Eat on.

Image: FoodiesFeed

CultureHealthTravel

With its long days, relaxing energy, and laid-back natives, I can only describe the small island nation of Fiji as slow. When I traveled to this beautiful country a few years ago, the friendly Fijian workers at the resort I stayed at taught me so much. Not only did they teach me about some of the local flora & fauna of the ocean and how to properly drink kava (more on this later!), but they also taught me about a concept they call “Fjii time.” According to the natives, Fiji time is a sensation felt by everyone who visits and lives on the island – Fiji time makes minutes feel like hours and hours feel like days. It forces people to stop rushing and enjoy where they are at the moment.

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Coming from a fast-paced lifestyle, getting used to Fiji time was an adjustment. If I am being honest, I found it a bit annoying at first. The same way some American east-coasters say that the west coast is too “laid back” for them, I thought Fiji was just a sleepy island that essentially was a giant resort for retirees and ex-pats. Soon enough, I was proven wrong.

One spontaneous night, the resort staff invited me and few friends to join them up at the main building. We joined them and saw about 6 or 7 Fijians sitting Indian-style on the floor and laying shamelessly across the cold tile floor (maybe in attempt to cool off from the heavy Fijian heat). We spent what seemed like hours chatting about Fijian culture and talking about the adventures many tourists – including myself – had been on so far. From values to fears to funny stories, we talked about it all. At some point in this conversation, I remember thinking, “so this is what they mean by Fiji time.” No one was worried about going to bed at a certain time or counting the hours until we had to wake up the next morning. We were all simply enjoying each passing second in the present moment.

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Quick side note: throughout the conversation, the staff was sipping on a drink called kava, a traditional beverage with some serious sedative properties. Naïve to what exactly kava was, I tried some and quickly noticed my tongue was tingling and I felt very calm. I briefly wondered if “Fiji time” was a result of drinking kava, as it is a popular pastime for Fijians, but then dismissed it because I surely experienced Fiji time beforehand… we will never know for sure.

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At this point we have probably all read enough self-help articles helpfully urging us to slow down our hectic lives, but I want to add to this. So much can be learned when you spend time with those of another culture, background, or ideology. While the idea of Fiji time originated in that island country, it is a mindset that can be taken with you anywhere across the globe you might find yourself.

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Fijians value spending their time together laughing, storytelling, and giving advice – something that does not seem to happen as often in person as it should. What I took away from Fiji was more than lovely photos and a few souvenirs, but a reminder of how important it is to pass time – in the moment – with the people around you.

Image: Aysia Woods

Health

Late night cravings are possibly the worst of temptations and probably of the unhealthiest. Fighting them off is a very difficult thing, as many of us have experienced. But how do you resist that bag of Doritos while watching your favorite TV show or finishing that essay? Here are a few tips to help keep the bad snacks away:

Integrate a Well-Balanced Diet

Eating balanced is perhaps the most effective thing you could do for your body. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will call for an alkaline system and absorption of all of the fibers, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to function properly. Protein is essential whether you attain it from meat or plant derived proteins, and making sure you get just the right amount is absolutely vital. Just the right amount of carbohydrates and sugars will give your body the fuel it needs to function. As long as your fats and oils are controlled, you are likely to be replacing those cravings with a healthier alternative.

Eat On a Schedule

Making sure that you eat on time is strongly correlated with how much you will want to consume later in the day and the types of food you will crave. Make sure that you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at equally spaced out hours with healthy snacks in between to keep your metabolism and blood sugar levels steady. Waiting too long to start eating lunch of breakfast can skew your routine which can cause confusion in your system.

Drink Tons of Water

Try chugging an entire glass of water when you begin to feel hungry. Many times, your body is actually dehydrated and what it really needs is water. Not only will this fill your stomach and replace the hunger but it will also cleanse your digestive system and free it from unwanted radicals.

Get Busy or Release Stress

We usually tend to think about food when we are in either stressful situations due to the inflow of anxiety or when we are bored. If we are stressed, relaxing or mediating is perhaps the best way to create an outlet for the anxiety we are feeling. Releasing it through food late at night is not only unhealthy but can also cause more anxiety because of the sugar spikes. On the other hand, if you happen to be bored, it is almost instinct to walk over to the kitchen. Try doing something other than thinking about food like finding a hobby, complete an unfinished task, or even go to bed early.

Build New Habits

Habits play a huge role in your cravings. Instead of eating on the couch or on your bed, make sure you make the effort to sit at your dinner table to eat. This will help you avoid the unnoticed urge to finish the bag of chips or box of cookies. Eating at the dinner table makes you focus on just eating and you become aware of how much you are consuming, making you more conscious and likely to avoid overeating.

Another trick can be to have dinner an hour or so later. This will make you fuller before your usual bedtime. Another strategy you could use to deceive your brain is to pre-pack healthy snacks throughout the day and have a special one saved for night. Pre-packing your snacks helps create portion control and reminds you that you’ve already put the effort into preparing them (meaning you might be less inclined to scarf down that left over pizza!). These snacks can include sliced fruits, nuts, or granolas.

Late night cravings tend to lean towards fattening foods rather than healthy nutrient-rich foods. For that reason, they are usually dangerous to your health and can cause weight gain. However, hopefully with these tips you can alter your approach and dodge cravings completely!

Image: A Dash of Cinema

EducationHealth

We’ve all heard of the horrifying myth of the Freshman 15 and unfortunately—it’s real. Juggling classes, internships, and a social life can make it hard to find the motivation (and time) to hit the gym, so here are some tips to avoid the Freshman 15 even with that busy schedule!

1. Monitor What You Eat
You can’t always be eating healthy, especially with the sometimes limited options given to you on campus, but you can keep track of what you’re putting in your body and how much of that contributes to a healthy diet. Apps like MyFitnessPal really allow you to monitor what you’re eating based on your individual height and weight. It gives you a daily calorie intake based on this information and lets you keep track of the foods you eat and how many calories they contain. It also gives you other helpful information such as showing a pie chart of the carbohydrates, fat, and protein percentages you have consumed throughout the day. It also allows you to put in any exercise you do and the amount of calories it should make up for!

2. Have Healthy Snacks in Your Dorm
Having healthy foods in your dorm for midnight snacking is vital. When you’re craving something sweet, reach for fruit snacks instead of chocolate. Foods such as Goldfish, Cheerios, granola bars, and trail mix are snacks you’ll be able to eat at your heart’s desire without worrying about their nutritional value, or lack thereof.

3. Treat Yourself Once in a While
It’s okay to have that chocolate ice cream you’ve been craving—just don’t make it an everyday habit! Try making junk food a reward for doing well on a really hard exam or finishing a great workout. Also, an emergency stash of chocolate for times of need never hurt anyone!

4. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is the life saver of staying healthy and in shape. Make sure to drink a surplus of it and to drink water in place of soda and other beverages as often as possible. Drinking a lot of water will help curb the munchies for unhealthy food!

5. Find a Gym Buddy
Having a friend to go to the gym with will make working out and staying healthy way easier! A friend will help give you the motivation to stick with it, as well as make you feel more comfortable going to the gym rather than walking there alone. Take advantage of your schools facilities!

At the end of the day, don’t stress over the weight you may or may not gain in college. Do what you can to stay healthy and try to make more good decisions than bad ones. Enjoy the experience and the yummy food that comes with it!