Smutty Fitness: Healthy choices on a grad school schedule
I'm a graduate student/teacher who used to have healthy habits (mid-range BMI, 3-4 60 min workouts per week, lots of vegetables and home cooked meals) and now I feel so busy/stressed that I'm not making time for myself and for my health. I've gained 20 pounds over the past few years of grad school, mostly due to inactivity and taking comfort in food. I'm not happy with the weight or my lack of energy. A lot of my meals are eating out while on campus because I don't have access to a fridge and much time is spent grading/reading/sitting in office hours or meetings. I'm up at 6:00 and often work till 9:00 Mon-Fri, and the weekends, while not a structured schedule, still have a lot of time dedicated to work. I want to make healthy choices, and I want to quit with the excuses, but I would like advice on: 1) how to ease back into a workout schedule without straining myself so I feel overworked/more exhausted and want to give up; 2) how to make the most of the short breaks I do have during the day--maybe 20 min at a time; 3) what are the most effective changes I can make right now. I know weight loss takes hard work and life long dedication, but I think even gaining small results will do a lot to encourage me--I've just forgotten how to achieve what I want in this area of my life.
I know graduate school will eventually end and this schedule isn't forever, but I don't want to have that 20 pounds turn into 50 pounds over the next two years. Thank you!
Wow, you are one busy girl!
You say you want to stop with the excuses, and although I do not see many excuses in regards to your exercise I see a lot of excuses in regards to your nutrition. Forget the fridge, you do not need it! Buy an insulated cooler bag with a cooling pack and you can fill it full of healthy food options.
Starting Monday you will block off 20 minutes at the end of your night to prepare your next days meals. The first step is ensuring you have everything you need to pack healthy and nutritious lunches so on the weekend you will dedicate one hour of your day to grocery shopping, vegetable chopping and fruit washing. You will cook up a 5 day serving of grains (quinoa is my favourite), you will cook some chicken breasts, boil some eggs and you will place these food items in ready to go containers in your fridge at home. You will also stock your pantry with Larabars and almonds (my two favourite go to snacks) and when you finish your long day you will come home and learn to relax while you prepare your food for the next day. No more campus food! Changing your diet will be the catalyst for you to make more changes, so let’s just start with that.
Begin your day with a healthy smoothie, my new favourite recipe being a banana, strawberries, 1 tbsp of peanut butter, vanilla Vega protein powder, kale, a quarter of an avocado and unsweetened almond milk. In your new cooler bag pack 3 servings of fruit, 4 servings of vegetables, 2 servings of protein, a serving of grains and lots of water.
On the weekends you are going to drag yourself out of bed one hour earlier and get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Rain, snow or sun shine you are going to get your heart rate up and just like your nutrition, exercising outdoors takes prepping and planning so make sure you have the right gear to keep you warm and dry. Invest in a good, water resistant rain jacket, a toque or hat, gloves, warm pants and a good pair of shoes. If it is going to be dark while you are getting outside make sure your clothing has reflective materials on it (this jacket actually glows in the dark) and also clip a light onto you that blinks.
At the moment, use your 20 minute breaks to allow yourself time to sit down and eat something healthy. Nothing is worse than rushing all day and forgetting to eat. When your energy levels improve with your improved nutrition and your increased weekend activity I guarantee you will turn those 20 minute breaks into 30 minute breaks and then we can talk mid-week exercise.
Once you have mastered grocery shopping, meal planning and prepping and weekend workouts I want you to add one mid week workout into your schedule. On that day you will bring your workout clothes with you to work or school and either before you start your day or as soon as you are finished you will exercise – no excuses.
When you are finished grad school you can start to make bigger changes and get back to the 5 day a week, 60 minute workout lifestyle you once enjoyed but now is not the time in your life where you should be stressing about losing weight. However, you do need to make sure that you do not finish grad school 25+ pounds overweight. Take control of your eating now and eat foods that will fill you up with nutrition rather than empty calories. Drink plenty of water, cut back on coffee and limit your alcohol intake as much as you can. Do not allow yourself any extras during the week, such as muffins and cookies, but treat yourself to something special on the weekend.
You are right that this will take focus and hard work but you are doing your Masters so I am sure you are more than capable.