My stomach grumbled and I looked up from the stack of papers I was grading to check the time. Shit. It was already 2:00 in the afternoon and I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I put down the red pen and rolled around to my desk-neighbor in my research lab.
“Sure thing, let me just save up here. Are you thinking Moes or Chinese takeout today?”
“We just had Moes yesterday and we had Chinese all week last week. What about that Thai place? It’ll take a little longer but their peanut pad thai is killer.”
“Oooh yeah and they give you so much food . Let’s do it.”
I was six months into my accelerated Master’s degree and felt like a circus performer trying to balance fine china on every appendage. For some reason, I thought it was a great idea to load my plate with all sorts of responsibilities – I was taking a full graduate course-load, fulfilling my fellowship requirement as a research assistant, working a part-time job on-campus, and picking up extra work as a grading assistant. On top of that, I had just moved into a pet-friendly apartment and was sharing the responsibility of a bundle full of raw energy, also known as a puppy.
I know what you’re thinking. “She’s nuts.”
I totally agree. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20 and at the time I was convinced I could pull it off. And, for the most part, I did… but some things had to take a backseat on my list of priorities.
You see, my days were a whirlwind. I would wake up at 6 in the morning, shower quickly, throw on a tshirt and yoga pants and head out the door to my part-time job for a few hours. From 10-12, I would attend a couple of classes. Then I would grab a stack of papers that needed grading and head to my office where I would either get to work with my red pen or try to tackle some research. I only had a few hours to make some headway, so I’d often multitask and eat fast food while working until 3, when I would head off to my last few classes of the day. Once my classes were over, I’d go straight home to take over the night-shift of puppy duty while simultaneously conquering my mound of homework. Sometimes I’d hit the McDonalds next to my apartment for dinner, but a lot of the time I survived on microwavable French bread pizzas and buttered noodles. If I was lucky, I’d finally get to bed around 1 in the morning.
Weekends were a little bit better since I was able to stay home for most of the day. However, in an attempt to salvage my social life, I’d usually end up grabbing some dinner and drinks with friends at least once. I was also running a semi-successful blog (more on that in another post) with some friends so that also took up some of my time.
I wasn’t eating well. I wasn’t sleeping well. I was always stressed. And water was replaced with a blend of iced coffee and Red Bull. Yet somehow I was shocked when, upon graduation, I weighed 40 pounds more than I had prior to starting my Master’s program.
I wasn’t aware of my declining physical state while it was happening, but once I noticed it wouldn’t stop bothering me. I just didn’t feel okay. Not only was I super self-conscious of my body image but I was constantly sluggish and always felt sick. Heck, I was probably at an Urgent Care every 3 months for some ailment or other. Without having any crazy underlying diseases, that really wasn’t normal. The fact that I had let myself go was really weighing on me.
Thankfully, my schedule slowed down considerably once I started a full-time job, so I decided to dedicate myself to my overall well-being. I committed myself to hitting the gym for an hour at least three times a week and overhauled my eating habits. Buttered noodles were replaced with chicken and – wait for it – real vegetables, while my fast-food lunches were replaced with salads. Don’t get me wrong, I still had plenty of cheat days and bad habits – and I still do. But with motivation and dedication to my health, the changes I accomplished were quick and substantial. One year later, I was back down to my normal weight and feeling good.
These days, I’ve fallen off the horse a bit. There’s a lot going on in life and it’s all too convenient to take the easy way out when it comes to fitness and nutrition. Fortunately, I’ve been aware enough so things haven’t gotten too out of hand. But that’s part of the reason for this blog – it helps me stay focused and motivated, and hopefully I’ll only improve from here.
Everyone’s health goals are different and what it takes to achieve them will vary from person to person. But it’s important to find your motivation and really stick to it. Whether you want to improve how you feel about yourself, reach body-building goals, or simply stave off disease – know that your goals are achievable if you only put your mind to it.
What are your goals? What’s your motivation? I’d love to hear from you and build a community of like-minded, motivated go-getters!