New Jersey Food Journal

Monday, April 14, 2014

With Diet and Exercise, More Than Weight Loss

By Stephanie Greene

I am doing my best to take care of my health. I am a 22-year-old college senior with about 65 pounds to lose and diabetes looming. What does this mean? It means that every single day I wake up and exercise (right now I’m working through Beachbody’s Focus T25 program). I make a meal plan, and I pack all of my food before classes or work. I use a fitness app on my smartphone to log and count my calories.

Since I’ve begun this regimen, I’ve lost 8 pounds and counting (slow and steady wins the race). I usually wake up, naturally, before 9 a.m. I’m alert, active, and sharp. I’m eager to move around and be productive. I revel in the weather, take walks outside.
But then I was asked to change my diet for a week. I thought about going vegetarian. But what actually happened was quite different. My cheat day turned into a cheat week. For the last spring break of my college career, I did not log calories. I did not exercise. I went out to eat with my boyfriend and my friends. I indulged in wine, beer, and chocolate with a side of gluttony. I even ate at McDonald’s for the first time in months (greasy French fries and diet soda with aspartame included).

Most people would not see this as a problem. They would advise me, simply, to get back in the proverbial saddle. But the effects of my cheat week – indulging in a typical student diet – were astronomical.

I was sluggish. I could not get out of bed before 11:30 a.m. I wasted my morning, my most productive time. With morning gone, I didn’t exercise. With exercise gone, I lacked the energy to do much more than sit on the couch and watch bad movies on FX with my friends. I felt slow, mentally. It took twice as long to process events. I was grumpy and quick to get angry. (Usually I’m pretty content and patient.) Stomach pains and migraines I hadn’t experienced for months came back with a vengeance.

On my first day back from spring break, I weighed in. In one week, I had gained 8 pounds. (which, hopefully, was mostly water). Once I reintroduced my plant-based diet, my stomach pains began to dissipate. Once I cut out processed foods, the migraines mostly disappeared. My muscles are sore and my endurance has waned.

My point is simple. Take care of yourself. Treat your body right and it will reward you. Three days back on my plan, I lost 3.5 pounds. I’m alert, awake and ready to tackle the rest of my final semester. My muscles are sore, reminding me to keep working. I feel better and I’m happier.

Nobody wants to put their health at risk, and the easiest way to fend off the possibility of risk is to follow the most boring plan possible: Eat less and move more.

Therefore, I challenge you. Cut out processed foods for three days. Listen to your body and I promise you’ll be happier for it.

Stephanie Greene is a senior student of journalism at Rutgers University. She is also a blogger, freelance editor and writer with prior experience in media production. Ms. Greene can be reached at 

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