Written by Zoe Manoukian
College is a time in which many of us find our groove when it comes to our diet and exercise habits. When we are restricted largely to a dining hall and have access to a gym for four years (and in our case, access to the beautiful AT), it is no wonder that we settle into a particular rhythm. The habits and tendencies that we have been cultivating may become compromised once we graduate. Of course, our health is holistic and regards much more than that which can be explained by our diet or fitness regimen. We must also take into account our social, mental, and spiritual health, among other aspects. With this said, here are several ways to mind various aspects of your health after graduation.
Obviously, we should all be striving to make our own meals as often as we can. Between no longer frequenting the dining hall and being asked to handle the new time-consuming stress of managing a career, it might be easy to opt for a fast food or take-out restaurant over a homemade meal. For some, cooking a meal can be a form of stress relief. Those who experience the contrary might consider meal prepping. This can be as extensive as making entire meals and storing them in the freezer or refrigerator until ready to eat, or can be as simple as preparing a sauce, meat, or grain ahead of time.
Incorporate whatever nutritious ingredients you have available! Remember that shopping healthy does not have to be so expensive. Honor your budget by browsing the sale produce and shopping in season. Look into the “eating ugly” trend and find out how it applies to your city. More groceries and co-ops are beginning to sell imperfect but completely edible produce at a reduced price. If you are set on shopping organic, you can consider buying frozen over fresh, and buy store brand. Stores such as Aldi are known for providing healthy options while remaining affordable. Also, double check that you are storing your produce correctly, and prioritize reducing food waste.
While you should all strive towards bringing your own lunches to work rather than dining out every day, it is important to provide yourselves with a moment to fully enjoy your lunch. Even if you so choose to stay back at your desk during your lunch break, make an effort to slow down your eating. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy your lunch and also helps make the experience more memorable, thus reducing the likelihood of you reaching for a snack soon after.
While graduating means you may no longer be living next door to a gym, let alone a gym you can access for “free” at virtually any time, making fitness a routine is still a possibility and should be a priority. According to the Entrepreneur, our generation is more likely to build friendships with coworkers than older generations are. Simultaneously, group fitness such as yoga and kickboxing are becoming more and more trendy. Spending time with coworkers outside of the office can be a great way to form impactful relationships and can contribute to a healthy social life. If you feel interested in forming these relationships with future coworkers, consider asking them to join you in a workout class.
Structured workouts might not be for you. They don’t have to be as long as you are continuing to find a way to keep yourself active. If you enjoy the outdoors, you might go for a weekend hike or kayak trip. Many people begin to enjoy golf once entering the workforce, and for those who are a bit antsy, there is also disc golf. Going for a nice walk is always an option as well. It can be a great way to use up the hour or two that you spend talking on the phone with your friends and family. For those who prefer to be indoors, look into what kind of dance scenes there are in your area. Many bars, restaurants, and creative spaces turn into salsa or swing dancing hubs in the evenings. They may even provide a free or affordable lesson beforehand.
For those who are interested in structure, you might consider joining a gym. Many gyms offer discounts or trial periods for new members. Fitness centers such as the YMCA often offer fun courses for reasonable prices. If you want something more entertaining than traditional weight lifting or core work, you might consider a Zumba or Jazzercise class. Alternatively, there are plenty of fun and serious workout programs offered for free online that might save you time and money.
Ultimately what is most important is that we all find our own ways to feel nourished, energized, and grounded. This can look incredibly different from person to person and from one period of our lives to the next. Congratulations Class of 2020! I hope that the following years bring you health and peace.