Like many of you, I am guilty of following gym buffs on Instagram because I’m envious of the bodies they have. However, weight and muscle aren’t always an indication of good health. We all need to focus a little more on improving our bodies both inside and out. During the holiday season, it can be hard to get to the gym and eat healthfully with all the home cooked meals and baked goods. By not focusing on the number in between our feet, and instead focusing on small improvements, we can all start the long trek to good health. Grabbing a head start on New Year’s health goals can help improve exam scores and help you to be in a better mood to start out the upcoming semester.
Water encompasses over 60 percent of the human body. The brain alone is made up of 92 percent water, making your cognitive abilities dependent upon water intake. The daily recommended water intake is 64 ounces of water. Like most, I don’t even get half of the recommended daily water intake. Setting goals is the easiest way to force yourself to do better. Try telling yourself you can’t have any juice or soda until you’ve had at least two full 16 ounce water bottles. This will help enforce rules and keep your body on track. If there’s no way to get down the daily recommended amount of water because it’s just too boring, try adding flavoring packets to help ease the pain. Making this small change can cause an initial five pound drop in water weight your body has been storing for safe keeping. Another tip to improve water intake is to buy a water bottle that holds 64 ounces of water. These water bottles are relatively cheap and can be found on Amazon for about $5, or with UNC Charlotte logos at the bookstore for less than $20. These are great stocking stuffers for your gym partner to help them get a kick start on their long lasting results.
Just like water, sleep is an essential part of human life. The right amount of sleep not only improves signs of aging and brain function, but also reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease. With cramming in procrastinated assignments and study sessions, sleep may not be a priority. The recommended amount of sleep for the average college student is between eight and nine hours. Obviously sleeping this much just isn’t feasible sometimes, so to improve sleeping habits, I’ve come up with these tips. Try setting a recurring alarm on your phone telling you it’s time to get ready for bed. This gives a warning of how late it’s getting while still giving some time to do some last minute things before bed. If getting more sleep just isn’t going to work, try improving sleep quality by showering at night or testing out essential oils for sleep. One known essential oil used in aromatherapy for sleep is lavender. Lavender helps alleviate headaches and reduce stress. Stores like Bath and Body Works sell aromatherapy lotions, soaps, candles and more in order to help improve sleep quality. Another good option is to try buying local and handmade essential oils from sites like Etsy.
Snacking. This word can be very good or very bad, depending on the time of day and type of food involved. Everyone should set a time when they’re going to stop eating for the night. Making sure this time isn’t unreasonable and giving yourself a little lenience when cramming for that one test is important. A healthy hour to stop the intake of food is about 6 p.m. Give your body time to process the foods you’ve eaten that day before eating more. Timing isn’t the only key here, portion size is also an important factor. Eating more frequently and in smaller quantities will help your body process foods more efficiently and keep you less hungry. Binging on unhealthy foods will only make you hungrier, so try to eat consciously. Also, as we’ve all heard a thousand times, get rid of the junk foods. Instead of eating chips, try snacking on popcorn. Replace all the cookies and crackers with healthier options like cheese, yogurt, peanut butter, celery, fruits and nuts. Making small changes like these will help improve bodily function, mood and weight loss.
Finally, go to the gym. Next time you’re dying to watch one more episode of “Blacklist,” try walking on the treadmill while watching instead of sitting in bed. Although this won’t help major weight loss and muscle improvement goals, the changes will be noticeable. Instead of taking the bus, try walking to class, and instead of walking to campus, try investing in a bicycle. Biking is faster and much more beneficial than walking. These changes will push you closer to those long awaited results.
The media can be deceiving, so knowing that health doesn’t mean you look like a Kardashian is important. Being healthy is much more than just weight. Know your limits and improve them through some of the tips provided above. If you’re wanting to really kick start your health, try talking to the nutritionist on campus who provides free help to UNC Charlotte students.