Your body is keeping something from you—a dark secret that is slowly killing you.
Whoa. Pretty scary way to start a blog post, huh? But really! Your current lifestyle is pretty harmful to your health.
You’ve lulled yourself into a false sense of security with rationalizations about your diet and exercise regime. With your entry-level salary, you can’t afford a gym or yoga membership and let’s not even get you started on those Whole Foods prices!
And it’s not like you’re a total sedentary blob; you go for jogs after work and rarely eat fast food. You should be fine, right?
The truth is, even if you do exercise regularly, spending your entire day sitting down is really, really bad for you. Also, a lot of foods are not as healthy for you as you think. There are so many hidden ways that your post-grad life is hurting you.
But never fear! Here are nine ways you can live a healthy twentysomething life (without breaking the bank).
1. Ask for a standing desk
More and more workplaces are accepting the fact that sitting all day is a health hazard for employees. Here at AfterCollege we were offered the option of having a standing desk. It’s great. Standing not only keeps my blood flowing but also keeps my energy levels up.
See if your office has a similar option. Some might even allow treadmill desks.
2. Go for walks
Okay, so we totally understand that not all offices are ready to redesign an entire workspace just so you have the option of standing at your desk. That’s okay! You can still battle that sedentary lifestyle by standing up, stretching, and walking around for just ten minutes every hour. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can just walk to the bathroom or the kitchen, go to get a drink of water, or step outside for a quick jaunt around the block.
3. Bring your own lunch
Bringing in your own lunch definitely helps you stay healthy. First of all, it allows you to know exactly what you’re putting into your body. A lot of the foods you’ll find when you eat out secretly contain large amounts of calories, sugar, fat, and salt. Yes, a salad is made of lettuce, but many of the ones you’ll find ordering out are HUGE, come with a creamy dressing, and are covered in different toppings. Not so healthy after all. Making your own lunch will allow you to know exactly what is going into each salad, sandwich, or any meal you create.
The second benefit of bringing your own lunch is the amount of money that you’ll be saving. Let’s use the salad example again. The salads that you’re probably buying are $5 to $8 each. At the store, you can buy a head of lettuce for $3 and an entire bottle of dressing for $5. That’s about three salads for the price of one that you’d order at a restaurant. Even if you wanted to add extra toppings, the price would still be way cheaper than if you ordered a salad out every day.
With the money that you’ll save by bringing your own lunch, you’ll be able to afford healthier groceries!
4. Find alternatives to expensive, organic food stores
Eating “healthy” can be expensive. Trust me, I totally understand that feeling of panic as you’re being rung up at Whole Foods. But, you don’t have to drop half a paycheck on groceries just to eat organic, fresh veggies. Look into what types of independent supermarkets/farmers’ markets are in your area. You might be able to find all natural, healthy food for a cheaper price. For example, there’s a supermarket in the Bay Area called Berkeley Bowl that sells their extra-ripe produce on super sale.
Also, check out the farmers’ markets in your area. There are three in my neighborhood alone and they all sell locally grown, organic veggies for a very reasonable price. There are also a few corner stores in the Mission and North Beach districts of San Francisco that look a bit dodgy but have EXCELLENT prices.
5. Drink regular coffee or choose less sugary options
Talk about hidden calories! All of those fancy coffees you’re buying are filled with sugar. A lot of the time it’s like you’re drinking a milkshake. Now, I enjoy a fluffed up coffee every now and again, but for the most part, I’ll stick to a good ol’ cup of black joe. It’s five calories and gets the job done.
Now, if the thought of plain black coffee has your face scrunched into a bitter pucker, there are other options. Most places have the option to make a drink “light.” Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf both have no sugar added options. You can also ask for skim milk instead of whole (or soy or almond). Also, keep in mind that most teas contain little to no calories as long as you get them without added milk or sugar.
Try ordering your coffee black (which will also save you money) and then add in some almond milk, sugar free vanilla syrup, or a natural sugar substitute like Truvia. You can buy all of these things at the grocery store and they will last you a lot longer than just one fancy coffee from the coffee shop.
Also, listen to your body. Although there’s no exact amount of coffee you “should” be drinking, if you’re having trouble sleeping at night (sleep is a large part of staying healthy) you might want to start cutting back on your caffeine intake.
6. Replace some happy hours with “yogappy hours”
One of the best parts about being young and at work is that you get to bond with your coworkers. In fact, a recent article in Entrepreneur explains that our generation is much more likely to build friendships with coworkers than older generations.
One of the ways to build these relationships is by hanging out together after work. That means HAPPY HOUR! The only problem is, as enjoyable as those windows of cheap drinks are, you’re adding a lot of sugar and calories into your body. This is totally fine on the occasional Thursday or Friday afternoon, but you might want try out different activities to do together.
Maybe you can do a “yogappy hour” instead. Recently, a couple of coworkers and I have been going to yoga classes together after work (and sometimes during our lunch breaks). Now, you might be thinking that this isn’t as intimate because you’re practicing your breathing rather than discussing your days with each other, but actually it’s really brought us closer together.
While walking to class, setting up our mats, and walking either back to the office or to our respective public transportation stops, we’re constantly talking about different things going on in our lives or which poses made us feel like we were going to fall on our faces.
It’s a really fun way to hang out with coworkers while also getting your body moving.
7. Look for affordable exercise options
Now, you may already be protesting my last tip because of the cost. Trust me, I am no stranger to the costs of yoga/gym memberships, but I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to find affordable options.
The first couple yoga classes we all did together were a part of a monthly deal at the studio across the street from where we work. Many studios will offer these monthly first-timer deals so you can see if it’s an investment you’re really ready to make.
We also started going to a donation-based yoga class on Tuesday nights. Yep, a $5 to $10 donation is a much better price than the $100 a month membership fees you’ll pay at most studios. You can also find other donation-based exercise classes like Zumba, too.
And there is such a thing as an affordable gym membership! The gym a few blocks from my office is only $15 a month. Such a good deal. Also, consider the YWCA/YMCA in your neighborhood. For only around $44 you can get access to a number of classes and facilities.
Also, look for other exercise options around your neighborhood. I live about a mile from the Park Presidio and there’s a full plyometric routine built into it. I can run from one station to the next, follow the instructions, and end up working out my entire body for free!
8. Turn to the internet
One of the best parts about being a twentysomething in this century is the fact that we have the internet. That means, with a couple of keywords typed into that Google search bar, you can find some pretty good, free workout routines.
I am a big fan of Blogilates and have to say I was surprised by how much I sweat doing some of Cassey’s ab workouts. She even has a meal plan you can sign up for.
9. Make exercise and dieting fun with a fitness band/app
Fitness accessories may just seem like a passing fad, but I think they’re totally fun and also pretty motivating. I personally have a FitBit and having something tell me how lazy I’m being works pretty well when it comes to getting me off my tushy.
My roommate and her family all have FitBits and compete over how many steps they can take in a week. They even do a bit of friendly trash-talking over the app. Talk about motivation to stop sitting all day!
But FitBits are pretty expensive and as a recent graduate, you might not have that much cash just lying around. Not to worry. Apps like MyFitnessPal are totally free and let you log all of your exercise and meals. There’s also the option to build a network so that you can support each other in your healthy endeavors.
Being healthy is not always easy. As a recent graduate, you probably don’t have a lot of cash to spend or the motivation to get up and exercise after a long day searching for a job or working at your first one. But it’s important to fight the urge to give in to that sedentary lifestyle (one that is so easy to fall for in our screen-obsessed generation) and move around.
Homework time! Be conscious of the amount of time you spend sitting down. Give yourself little challenges. Can you stand for ten minutes every hour? Also, do you really know what you’re putting into your body? Do you need that venti Java Chip Frappuccino? See if you can find little ways to make your day healthier. Make your own lunch! And don’t forget to drink water.
P.S. Live in a city? Refinery29 shares some hidden health hazards that come along with that urban lifestyle and what you can do to prevent them.