This guest post is written by Ashley, who's a grad student in theoretical chemistry. About two years ago she got in shape, lost 60 pounds, and "gained a reputation at school for being a weird workout health freak type." She's noticed that while everyone says you need to change your lifestyle to lose weight permanently, it can be hard to learn the specifics of how to do this! When a fellow grad student emailed to ask her advice, this was her response.
1. Be flexible. This is actually contrary to pretty much any other advice I've ever heard about working out regularly. Most people who fit in working out to a really busy schedule will tell you that you should schedule four or five absolutely set-in-stone times to work out and not let anything change that schedule. This somehow always seems to involve getting up really early too. I think this is stupid. Every single week I evaluate my schedule and what I want to do each day at work and after work and figure out which days I can work out. And yes, sometimes I'm like, well, I need to be at work for this meeting at this time and I want to work on this and then I want to go to Bible study at 6:00, so.... oh crap, I'm going to have to get up and run first thing in the morning.
2. Change your eating schedule so you can handle eating dinner later so that you can go work out after work. The single most common time I go work out is after work, at 6:30 or 7:00. However, this means I don't get home to eat dinner until 8:30 or 9:00. So, you have readjust when you eat and how much you eat to accommodate this. I eat breakfast (which is always a power bar and a diet coke; I am by no means a nutrition nazi) when I get to work at 9:30 or 10:00, lunch at 12 or 12:30, and then I eat one or two pieces of fruit, maybe another power bar, and (most importantly) a carton of yogurt during the afternoon. I eat all this stuff by 4:30 so it has time to settle in my stomach. And sometimes I don't eat all that healthy sounding stuff and I go to Starbucks and get a latte and a giant rice krispy treat. But the point is that I eat a pretty big snack in the afternoon that always includes carbs and dairy so that I can workout at night without dying of starvation.
3. Make slightly better choices when you go out to eat. Anytime I go out to eat and I am contemplating what I want to get, if there are two things that I want equally, I pick the one that's healthier. If there's one thing that I really want and nothing else will do, I just get it. Also, I love dessert and eat it most every day, so I make myself wait to order it. I never buy the cookie when I am getting the rest of my food. I get my food, eat it, and then if I am finished and I want the dessert enough that I am willing to get up again and wait in line to buy it, I get the dessert. Also, I have a rule that when I go out to eat on social occasions, in addition to my food, I can only get two of an appetizer, an alcoholic drink, and dessert; never more than two of the three. Which brings us to our next point.....
4. Drink less alcohol. This is the one where I am going to sound like the old woman that I am, but I never have more than two alcoholic drinks at any social occasion where I have decided to drink. I usually get the first drink when everybody else does and then I nurse a second drink for the rest of the evening. And yes, I often get made fun of about this. There are worse things in life.
5. Plan to do athletic activities. I run a lot of local races, often with other people, so that I will have motivation to go run a lot. Once you commit to doing something with somebody and pay the money for it, you don't want to not be able to do it because you didn't train for it.
6. If there is anything you can do to make working out logistically easier, it's worth doing, even if it costs some money. In my case, this meant renting a locker at the gym. I can keep extra clothes and shower stuff and extra makeup and hair stuff in the locker at all times. That way, I never have the excuse that I can't go work out after work because I have some social thing I want to do later and would need a shower.
7. Work out both days on the weekend. I feel that my adviser owns most of my time Monday to Friday, but I personally don't work that much on weekends. I have a fantasy that eventually my boyfriend/husband and I are going to regularly go run together every Sunday afternoon, but as I have no boyfriend, this clearly hasn't happened yet in my life. But I'm hopeful!