A Difference Could Save a Life ‘a Personal Health Change’

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I cringed as I looked down at the scale. It seemed I was gaining quite a bit of weight, as just a few months earlier I had been a few pounds less. As disappointing as it was, it wasn’t that difficult to see why. At the beginning of the year, I had just dropped a sport I was deeply invested in. Without a backup plan, I began to panic, my sole goal to get into a prominent college, so I could hopefully have a better life. Along with the previous added stress came the end of the school year, and then the challenges of taking multiple summer classes within two months, instead of the usual allotted year. No longer an athlete, I stopped exercising as much, no longer watching what I ate. Plus, it surely didn’t help that I tended to eat when I was stressed, as many of us tend to do, and not healthy food either. (Once, I was writing as essay and I’m pretty sure I ate ¾ of a 200-count tic tac pack). Pulling myself from my thoughts, I looked down at the scale once again. As I had always been one to try to promote self-love and body positivity, it was really quite ironic that I faced those challenges myself; however, part of my morals on body positivity is to strive to achieve the body you want, if it truly is your desire, not a “need” as is portrayed by the media.

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Whenever I watched myself in the mirror, I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t take natural selfies because I thought my face was chubby, instead, relying on filters to make myself feel better. My goal, I decided right then and there, was to attain the body I wanted. Not the one that displayed fatigue after climbing a flight of stairs or running a lap. I want to run a mile in under 7 minutes without feeling my head spin, or hear my blood rush in my ears. I want to go on hikes and runs for fun, without the ever dreaded feeling of exhaustion. I’ll admit that I am fairly stubborn (other people might say I’m a lot more than fairly, but that’s what I think I am), so I believe that when I am so exhausted that I’d rather stop instead of finishing my mile, something’s definitely wrong. By now, you’re probably thinking ‘Well, that’s great and all, but you seem to be all bark and no bite’ and so far, that’s true, I have talked an awful lot, as you can see without even delving into anything meaningful yet, but I have always believed that context is important and grants an extra, underlying layer of emotion and motivation. Starting with one of the most important components of keeping fit, I realized the value of keeping a plan.

When I had done sports, I knew exactly what I was doing when, but when I stopped, my sleeping and eating schedules went to pieces, hauling me along with it. With recent research on fad diets, I think it’s safe for me to conclude that those are out of the door. Previously, I had found that they can lead to countless different diseases and disorders (heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binging, high blood pressure, as well as other more distinct conditions depending on the diet); some of which were chronic and required professional help to adjust and regulate. The course of finding a good eating plan doesn’t necessitate a dietician as there are many websites and apps that have proven exceptionally advantageous, which help you track your consumed foods, calories, proteins, fats, etc. and calculate the average amount of calories to eat each day to gain/lose/keep weight. Other websites include tips on how to eat healthy, benefiting your body and often certain organs, which can be of the utmost importance. In the end, the key really is to keep everything in moderation, though it really never hurts to make a meal plan.

As for me, the best way for me to start the day is with a bowl of whole grain cereal, or some plain yogurt with fruit, and I wash it all down with a refreshing cup of milk. This way, I feel full without really eating that much, and I’ve already consumed some of my DVs (Daily Values) of dairy, fruit, and some sugar. In between breakfast and lunch, I like to have a snack which could consist of some fruits, like strawberries and cherries, or vegetables to dip, like celery and vinaigrettes. By avoiding eating too many unhealthy snacks in the day, and, instead, opting for the healthier choice, it’ll benefit my body and mind in the long run by curtailing my susceptibility to certain illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney stones, bone loss, high blood pressure, and obesity, paving the way for a fulfilling, lasting life. Just like that, I can eat my necessary 5 cups of fruits and vegetables, not to mention the direct perk of eating more and gaining less; Furthermore, these two food groups are remarkably versatile. For example, avocados, a favorite of mine, can be eaten plain with salt, baked with an egg, used in cakes, or even in smoothies and ice creams! And that’s just one fruit (it’s a fruit by definition, more accurately, a berry because it’s fruit surrounds the seeds and helps it reproduce)! Just imagining the different combinations that have yet to be tasted by me or anyone else, is astonishing, to be honest!

When it comes to meals themselves, my mother cooks, but I can ensure I am eating healthy by asking her to cook specific meals that contain more nutrients (fish or lean red meat, which will make up my protein intake), or to make sides such as whole grain garlic bread (carbs). Every day, I drink a few cups of milk, as it’s what I’ve grown accustomed to, so it’s probably pretty straightforward that I need to drink a lot more water (professionals recommend 8 glasses a day), as I usually drink less than a glass a day; Nonetheless, my heftiest dilemma may be portion control. Every time, I tell myself, I’ll only eat so much, but it always ends with me eating more than I had hoped, thinking ‘Just a little bite wouldn’t hurt.’ Sooner or later, “little” begins to escalate and pile up; Instead, I believe a strategy that would work is divvying up portions beforehand, instead, of having an all-you-can-eat sort of situation. In my portions, I can check the nutritional value and calculate how it would fit into my daily values with apps which would help me keep track of what I’d eaten that day.

Adding onto that, exercise also plays a central part in maintaining fitness. As of now, I run 1.2 miles every morning, but that’s it, and it may even dwindle with the beginning of school. In that sense, stretching is something I could easily achieve more than two times a week, as the Activity Pyramid recommends, as I could stretch and work on my flexibility while reading, watching TV, or doing homework. In regard to muscular strength and endurance, I could set aside 1 hour, three days a week to do exercises such as planks, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, tricep dips, and more, giving me an adequate amount of time to recover in between. For each exercise, I plan to do 3 sets of 10 reps each, with 2 minutes in between. By utilizing a practice known as split training, I could focus on a certain muscle group for a day, then allow it to rest while I emphasize other exercises. Studies have shown that this, if done properly, proves to be an efficient way of training and fortifying strength and endurance. Additionally, in relations to cardio and recreational activities, I will persevere with my morning runs, prolonging the distance, little by little (starting with my current 1.2 miles), though I can’t do recreational activities as much as I would like to. Luckily, I will be taking up hockey this coming year at least 2 times a week, with the occasional swim or skate, thus, effectively satisfying the Activity Pyramid’s requirement of 150 minutes per week. Overall this will help me feel more energetic, engaged, focused, and content.

Lastly, probably the weakest chain in my plan, is my ability to manage stress. From childhood, it’s been plain to those around me that my capability of supervising and managing stress is rather inadequate. It’s always been plain to see, whether through my procrastination or overcalculation, that it was self-destructive, but it’s seemingly insurmountable to stop. As a friend of mine suggested, it’s always beneficial to take a few minutes and plan out a schedule. As a practically expert procrastinator, I also know that having a deadline gives you eustress, a kind of stress that motivates you beneficially, which is why having a schedule can work wonders. Not only can a schedule benefit my schoolwork and deadlines, it allocates more time to relax or explore, it, moreover, sets aside more time for sleep, something I can only assume will be hard to come by during high school and college. Other techniques I rely on to distress include meditation and deep breathing, or a process known as grounding, originally thought up for those who deal with anxiety, though it can be adapted from person to person to overcome paralyzing waves of emotion.

I think that building a detailed plan like this is half the work, because I know my friends and that they care about me, so if I start slacking, I know for a fact they’d tell me to pick it back up. This goes for my family as well, both my siblings and my parents push me to be best so there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m well supported and that my loved ones will help me through it until it becomes a natural routine. I’m making these changes for a healthier me in the long run. According to multiple websites, stress, fad diets, inactivity, and unhealthy eating habits can provoke a myriad of multifarious disorders including, but definitely not limited to, heart disease, mental disorders such depression and anxiety, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binging, and even cancer! With a carefully planned out diet, portion control, and exercise plan, I can sidestep problems such as fatigue, inadequate consumption of crucial vitamins and nutrients, nausea, and/or eating disorders. By creating a daily schedule, I can lower my risk of stress-induced conditions such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, and so my plan will yield the utmost advantages.

When it comes to drugs, one of the clearest facts there are is that it hurts you, your body, and those around you. As has been proven over and over: “Drug abuse and addiction can affect almost every system in your body. You probably know that drugs affect feelings and moods, judgment, decision making, learning, and memory. But they can also cause or worsen other health problems—cancer; heart disease; lung disease; liver function; mental disorders; and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. Some of these effects occur when drugs are used at high doses or after prolonged use, and some may occur after just one use.” —Nora Volkow, M.D., Director of NIDA All this info is backed up by research, so you can plainly see the possible side effects of using drugs. Not only can it harm your body, it effectively shatters your life, destroying the length and quality of your life. In the end, my goal is to benefit each of the 7 wellness dimensions found in the Wellness Model of Health, from physical to occupational, and everything in between. Physically (wellness dimensions are underlined), this plan will keep me much more active, as well encourage me to abstain from harmful habits, such as consuming lots of unhealthy fats (LDL cholesterol, butter, red meat fats, etc…), doing drugs/sex, and inactivity. Exercising daily will not only help me stay fit, but also more relaxed, engaged, focused, and cheerful. It has been proven to release a chemical known as dopamine (neurotransmitter that gives you the feeling of happiness), ease stress and anxiety, stimulate you (reenergize), and fight insomnia (if you don’t exercise within two hours of going to sleep). Socially, having a better psychological state means dealing better with people and having better relationships, giving you a sense of love and belonging. Feeling like you belong is also a crucial piece of your Spirituality and finding yourself, as well as showing empathy and sympathy for others. Intellectually and Occupationally, being happier and more alert allows you to focus better in your classes or career, which in return can result in an increased GPA or a promotion, which ties back into social and psychological happiness. Correspondingly, when we are joyous, we start to consider the happiness of others and the condition of the earth, Environmentally.

Ultimately, my aspiration is that, after a few years, this routine will be a habit which has ultimately benefited me and those around me. I hope to look at my body in the mirror and feel proud of persevering through this plan, no matter how difficult or easy it was. I hope I can look back and say this reduced my stress and helped me take control of my life again, that my grades were high and I was heading to a good college just like I had hoped. I hope I no longer look down to the scale in fear and cringe, but, instead, I am proud of my weight. I hope I am happier, mentally, emotionally, and physically, and that I can look back when I’m 70 and say I am proud of how I turned my life around. After all, that’s what this is all for isn’t it?

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