Food and exercise are some of the most essential things in my life. But you know what else is really important to me? Breathing. Family. Friends. Music. Animals. Sunlight. Technology. Tea. Sleep. Academics. Comfort. You get the point; there are a lot of things that are important to me, including but not limited to food and exercise.
This is easier said than done. As someone who is a habitual planner, it can be very difficult for me to be flexible and spontaneous. As someone who is also invested in my health, it can be even more difficult for me to be flexible and spontaneous when it comes to food and exercise. It’s so tempting to put some exercise plan in my calendar or plan out a bunch of homemade meals for each week, all in the name of health.
However, I’ve learned that health is more of a feeling than anything else that we’re told it is. Health is not a cumulative thing—participating in lots of “healthy” behaviors all the time does not necessarily make you healthier. Health also does not have a certain “look”. Every individual’s differences in metabolism, muscular/skeletal build, genes, and lifestyles come together in complicated ways to make him or her look a certain way. Although we may have one particular body type in mind when we think about “looking healthy,” it actually looks different on everyone. Weight distributions are unique and often independent of one’s health status.
Not only does health look different on everyone, health management is different for everyone. There are guidelines when it comes to diet and exercise, but they are only that: guidelines. As such, they can be great resources that you can refer to when thinking about your own diet and exercise. Other things to consider include your schedule, goals, and preferences. Maybe you are really busy this spring and don’t have time for the gym, but you enjoy walking. Challenge yourself to walk to class sometimes instead of catching the bus and use it as a time to listen to a cool podcast or just get some fresh air. Maybe you’re like me and you’re trying to learn how to cook instead of eating out or eating the same boring meals at home. Push yourself to try all kinds of interesting recipes and invite friends to join you. It’s not a huge deal if you don’t follow through on every little goal you make. Just be creative and think of fun things you can do that make you feel good. “Feeling good” may not be the most medical measurement of health, but it works pretty well for me!
Flexibility, moderation, and variety are all essential components of health. Don’t confine yourself to a schedule, don’t overdo it, and spice things up. In order to maintain a healthy relationship with food and exercise, you can’t get caught up in it. Move your body in ways that you find enjoyable. Eat when you’re hungry and eat foods that will give you the energy you need—maybe you need some brain food throughout the morning to get your day started right or you know that you have to eat a hearty dinner in order to stay up late with friends. What works for someone else may not work for you, so just listen to your body. Figure out what kind of system fits your needs and let it change with you, just as you do with so many other aspects of your life.