Ever feel like your body is begging you to live a healthier lifestyle, but all the solutions seem too expensive and time-consuming? The good news is you don’t have to break your piggy bank at Whole Foods or buy that Instagram fitness star’s workout plan to make some major health changes. Here are a few tips on how to live healthier this instant as a fierce female college student with very little time and very little money.
Drink More H2O
Let’s be real – who can actually spend $10 on a 16oz green juice without feeling guilty?
While green juice is definitely great for you, drinking plenty of water is more than sufficient on the detoxification front. If you didn’t already know, water is actually more important to your body than food. And I’m dead serious – Put. Water. First.
The first thing your cells need upon waking up is not coffee or a bagel, but more water. One way to ensure that you’ll drink water first thing in the morning is to leave your water bottle or a tall glass of water on your bed stand or on your sink so that you’ll see it right when you get out of bed.
Cameron Diaz supports this habit, and in her words from her book The Body Book, she says, “I go from being a wilted plant to one that has just been rejuvenated by the rain.” A little dramatic perhaps, but she’s totally right.
We’ve all heard that we’re supposed to drink at least eight cups a day, but who knew how important that really is? Sure, you may find yourself frolicking to the bathroom more than you’re used to but this is a good thing. Every time you relieve yourself, your body is ridding itself of toxins and becoming stronger. So drink up, and watch your energy rates soar.
Don’t focus on how many liters or ounces you’re drinking a day, but keep a large water bottle nearby so that you’ll naturally sip more often. This method is more likely to create a lasting habit than obsessively measuring things out. Add lemon to your daily H2O. Not only does it make water delicious, it aids your digestion, cleanses the liver, boosts your energy, and supports your immune system.
Try An Elimination Test
Paleo or Vegan? Raw food or cooked? Gluten or no gluten?
There are tons of fads out there that claim to have the solution to all of your symptoms, but don’t sell your soul just yet. The truth is, there is no one size fits all lifestyle. Our bodies are complex and entirely different from the next person. One person may thrive on a vegan diet, while the other becomes sick and only recovers with animal protein. We’ve tried them all, and only by mixing and matching from each have we been able to find what works for us. One easy way to find out what your body likes and doesn’t like (if anything) is by trying an elimination test.
Eliminate the typical irritants like gluten, soy, eggs and dairy for two weeks, and then gradually reintroduce one at a time and see how you feel. You might be surprised! You don’t have to have stomach troubles to try it. This experiment is beneficial to everyone.
At the very least you’ll learn which foods energize you and which slow you down. Often our bodies adapt to foods that don’t mix well with us, but we’re so used to feeling a certain way that we don’t even know that we could be feeling better.
Take Care of Your Cortisol
Cortisol is your main stress hormone. In the words of Dr. Sara Gottfried, a kickass holistic gynecologist, “Cortisol is the boss of all the other hormones in your body.” In other words, it controls your estrogen and progesterone, your thyroid, and all the others. Therefore, if your cortisol levels are too high, it can cause a slew of health issues that you would never think are related to stress.
Nobody wants to hear that they should stop drinking coffee – BUT, when times are stressful, you should consider nixing the caffeine. You know how when you drink coffee you feel unstoppable for about thirty minutes, and then you end up feeling more tired and foggy than before? That’s your cortisol skyrocketing and then dropping too low.
We do need some cortisol or we’d never be motivated to get anything done. Point is, we drink extra coffee when we’re sleep-deprived because we need that extra boost. However, caffeine provides momentary fake energy, and robs us of any real energy we had before. Try to drink less caffeine on a day-to-day basis, but especially when your next finals week comes around, dump the caffeine for more water and healthy, slow-burning carbs like raw fruit and vegetables. These provide so much more energy than any double-shot venti macchiato ever can.
Another way to lower cortisol and to get through a hectic day is to reward yourself every couple of hours or so with 15 minutes of something you love. You are amazing, but you are not an invincible machine; you need some “me time” every day.
Dr. Sara Gottfried also says that it’s a proven fact that dark chocolate lowers cortisol in women- especially when eaten mid-morning! Reach for a couple squares of dark chocolate an hour or so after you finish breakfast. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
You already know that regular exercise is crucial to your physical and mental well being, but forcing yourself to go to kickboxing when you’d rather cut off your own foot is not going to do you any good.
Alisa Vitti, an integrative nutritionist, explains that women need to learn to base their physical activity around their menstrual cycle– since our cycle is truly always in charge of how we feel each day. She explains that there are days in our cycle when our body wants vigorous exercise, and other days when it wants slow, controlled exercise. You don’t need to understand the science of it all to know when you should run and when you should do yoga– your body is excellent at telling you what it wants if you listen to it.
She also says that exercising too intensely when your body doesn’t want it can actually stress your adrenals so much that they cause you fatigue and weight gain. She says she’s had many patients come to her who are training for the marathon and can’t understand why they’re putting on pounds. Point is, there’s a difference between discipline and masochism. Definitely keep moving, but always move the way YOU want to move.
Eat Real Food
By “real” food, I mean food that hasn’t been tampered with in a factory. The best food doesn’t have a label– like an apple– but if it does, make sure it only has about five ingredients that you recognize.
If you don’t recognize the ingredient tert-Butylhydroquinone (aka TBHQ, and really bad for you, BTW) neither will your body. Your body doesn’t not know how to process such things, and every time you consume chemicals that are the opposite of nutrition, some part of your amazing body has to work extra hard to figure out what to do with it.
Meat and dairy are the exception to the label rule, but they’re often pumped with hormones and antibiotics– and this is so not real food. If you can’t afford organic yogurt and grass-fed beef, which is understandable, simply eat less animal products.
Real food is not only found at Whole Foods and other expensive health food stores. You’d be surprised by how much real food you can find at Costco and Trader Joe’s. It always helps to stock up on products like oats, beans and brown rice. These are all very cheap items that last a while, are perfectly healthy and can be used in a number of ways.
Listen to a Podcast
For those of us who can’t seem to get behind starting the day with sun salutations and OMs, listening to a good podcast is a great alternative way to meditate. They not only make it easier for us to wake up by immediately engaging our brain, but they may also inspire you to set an intention for the day. We often listen to podcasts while making coffee and getting ready, and they usually leave us feeling excited to be alive and ready to conquer what’s to come. Even if a podcast doesn’t contain life-changing information, at the very least they’ll bring you joy and make you laugh – a great way to set the stone for a stress-free, productive day. Guess what else? Most of them are free on iTunes, so give it a try.