People tell me all the time that they are too busy to eat healthy or exercise. They want to know how to make living a healthy lifestyle an easy “task”. Truth be told, it’s not. This summer I moved, worked two jobs (1 full time and 1 part time), finished graduate school (thesis and all), attended 9 weddings, and went on 3 trips.
Between cranky patients, long days, hour+ commutes, and a growing to-do list, the last thing I wanted to do was hit the gym or cook a meal. After about 2 weeks of unhealthy behaviors, I noticed an onset of fatigue paired with a growing waist line. It was time for a change. How could I bring back my healthy diet and physical activity habits without getting less sleep (is that possible?!) or skipping out on one of my obligations?
It all came down to planning. I utilized a few different tools to help me get started. The first thing was a menu planner I created for the “30-Day Anti-Inflammatory Challenge“. Each Thursday I ended my evening by planning every meal and snack I would consume for the following week. I then made a grocery list and decided what I had and what I needed to buy. On either Saturday afternoon or Monday evening, I went to the store to gather my ingredients and chop vegetables to make cooking easier. I then spent either Sunday or Tuesday putting my lunches together for the week. Knowing what I will be eating and that I have all the ingredients on hand helped me make better decisions when I was in a hurry and needed something fast. Check out some of my favorite meals below.
I also utilized my weekly family dinners to help minimize the cooking load. In the summer, we spend every Sunday evening on my parent’s patio barbecuing and enjoying a few beers. We ALWAYS have enough leftovers for at least one meal I can eat later in the week. If I have any food that could be put on the BBQ pit, I bring it over that evening and cook it while enjoying my family time.
Exercise is a little trickier because two jobs and an hour commute brings out the laziest in people (or is that just me?). I decided to start out slow. The “old me” used to wake up and sit on the sofa to drink coffee and watch the news for about 10 minutes to get the day started. The “new me” puts that coffee in a travel mug and takes a walk around the block to wake up. I also started taking a 15-minute walk during lunch instead of working through it. I also began incorporating walks into my week nights out. For example, my mom and I now take the dog on a walk after dinner every Sunday, when my boyfriend comes over for dinner we walk to the grocery store to get our ingredients, and my best friend and I walk to the local bar to get drinks. While I was thrilled to be moving more, I missed running and understand the importance of strength training. It was time to hit the gym again.
I have a gym membership to Club Fitness, which is a local gym that has 23 locations in the St. Louis area. Fortunately, one of them is 0.2 miles from my apartment. However, after many evenings of having intentions of walking over there only to decide an evening on the sofa was well-deserved, I realized I needed a new plan. I found a location close to work and packed a bag with gym clothes and things to shower with. This way I couldn’t get distracted (or just comfortable) at home and make excuses to skip a workout. When I got home, my focus was on putting dinner together and finally relaxing for the day.
I have to admit, some days look better than others. When things go out of wack and my plans fall through, the only thing I can do is get back on track the next day and not let life get the best of me.
Hopefully the techniques I utilized to stay healthy while being crazy busy can help manage your health. Do you have any other secrets that may help someone make the “healthy life” easier? Leave them in the comments below.
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