Eat, Sleep, Move: Easier said than done

Posted on 24 September 2014 by admin

Writer Sabree Blackmon explores the secret to long-term health

SABREE BLACKMON

SABREE BLACKMON

By: SABREE BLACKMON
Copy Editor

The secret to long-term health is supposedly simple. One only needs to eat better, exercise regularly, and get eight hours of sleep each night. This boilerplate advice exists as sound bytes in popular media and as numerous Internet articles by so-called experts.

Of course, it is never that simple – the real life stressors and constraints that the average student has to cope with are massive. Our health often becomes an afterthought until we are forced to confront it by illness or by sheer exhaustion.

I have recently heard the drumbeat from those touting personal responsibility as the key to health get louder in the past years. I agree with them in some respects – health is a very personal journey and no one else can take it for you.

However, the challenges to taking control of one’s health are often drastically oversimplified, much to the detriment of the people who need reliable support and guidance the most.

Challenges brought by a lack of time and money can certainly set back one’s journey to better health, but some diligent planning and frugalness can often be enough to overcome them. However, the many other potential challenges students can face can throw a wrench into the best-laid plans.

Our personal relationships to food can be complex, highly dynamic and are sometimes out of our control. Overeating and serious eating disorders can take root as one struggles to cope with anxiety or body image issues. Food addiction, while a relatively new idea to the medical community, is gaining credence as a prevalent disorder.

Certain foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat have shown by recent research, performed by The Scripps Research Institute of Florida, to send people into the same cyclic pattern of mental cravings of addictive drugs. Given the often poor affordable food choices available to students, it is no surprise that breaking existing eating patterns can be an arduous challenge.

Even though regular exercise and activity have been shown as effective against depression and anxiety, struggling with episodes of depression can make finding the motivation to get out of bed, let alone to exercise, extraordinarily difficult. 30 percent of students report debilitating depression at least once a year according to the nationwide American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment conducted in 2011. This has important implications on our ability to stay on track with the long-term changes we need to improve our health.

A student can easily find themselves in a self-fulfilling prophecy where low energy levels, poor sleep, and a lack of motivation lead to behaviors that do nothing to break the cycle. Add to that the long nights and hectic schedules that many students face and it becomes quite understandable why even the most motivated will sometimes stumble and often quit altogether.

Every step forward one makes in their path to better health will mean a lot more if we all acknowledge that these things are not simple nor easy. There is constant reflection, struggle and often doubt along the way.

Much like getting a good grade, each step should be seen as an accomplishment that one works for, even with the few hiccups along the way. Personal victories tend to snowball – proving things to ourselves makes us feel good and it motivates us to see our goals through.

A positive outlook towards the small changes and the hard everyday decisions can ultimately be what puts us back on the wagon when we inevitably fall off.

 

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