A year ago, a typical Saturday consisted of me laying on the couch watching whatever Netflix show I was currently addicted to, covered in a mixture of potato chips, candy, and ice cream.
That is no exaggeration. I was the very definition of a couch potato.
One day, I turned to my roommate and said, “I want to go to the gym.” I’m not exactly sure what inspired the change, perhaps a break-up or just a hallelujah moment.
Whatever it was, now I’m living a healthier lifestyle, including working out more and eating better. I also have rules that help me stay on track. As a former couch potato, I share these tips in the hopes that others will have a healthier, post-couch potato life.
1. Treat your body like your most prized possession.
This mindset transformed my outlook on health. Instead of looking in the mirror and thinking about all the things I want to change, I think about how much stronger I’ve gotten and how much I love my body. Just like my soul, my body is unique, and I decided to take care of it by eating right and staying active. Now, I feel better every day, and my body has thanked me for treating it right by clearing up and getting stronger.
2. Find an exercise you like doing and do it
When I used to imagine working out, I only pictured running, one of my least favorite activities. Turns out, there’s so much more I can do. Instead of running, I focus on strength training and get my cardio in by walking, hiking, and doing yoga. Your workout doesn’t have to be miserable! Find workouts you enjoy and do them!
3. If you hate a food that is super beneficial, just hide it
When you give a dog medicine, you wrap it in some food so the dog doesn’t notice it. I do the same thing with kale. I despise everything about kale and am praying they find the next big super vegetable soon. Since health professionals say kale is extremely beneficial, I force myself to eat it. BUT I can’t taste it, because I put it in smoothies with the fruits I love like strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi. Even though the smoothie comes out a nice shade of green, I can’t even taste the kale.
4. Balance out your diet so you don’t hate your life
Living a healthier life is not about cutting out things you love completely. I could not live a life without chocolate cake, and I wouldn’t want to! But there are some things I cut out almost completely, like soda or candy. Once I stopped eating or drinking sugary foods, I craved them less. I plan my meals the day before or in the morning, so I can make sure I don’t eat too much of one food group and too little of another.
5. Find healthy alternatives to things you love
I’m a big fan of cereal in the morning. It’s easy, fast, and delicious. Unfortunately, a lot of cold cereals are loaded with sugar and then drenched in whole milk. Now, most mornings I start my day with a bowl of healthy, whole grain cereal with almond milk. It tastes better than my old cereal, and it’s much better for me! Another tip: substitute whole wheat bread for white bread. These little changes will improve your diet while barely being noticeable. I live for easy ways to eat healthier.
6. Get enough sleep
I had a terrible sleeping schedule in college for absolutely no reason. I would stay up until 4 a.m. watching TV or messing with my phone. The next day, I was always tired and unmotivated. Getting enough sleep really jumpstarts my morning and makes me look forward to achieving my daily goals.
7. Only watch television when you’re doing something else
I used to waste so much time laying on the couch watching television. I could go through eight episodes of “The Office” without moving except to get food. Now, I never just sit on the couch and watch TV. Whether I’m eating dinner, working out, or doing laundry, I’m always multitasking. Not only does this save time, but it helps me stay more productive.
8. Listen to your body
Your body will tell you how it’s feeling. By picking up on the cues, you can find out which exercises or foods make you feel better. After eating fruits and vegetables for a week, I felt amazing. After a week of eating sugary foods, I felt disgusting and my skin broke out. Exercise works the same way. You can tell which exercises help you the most and which ones are straining your body. Before you know it, feeling good will become more addicting than junk food.
Originally published on January 27, 2017.