Responsibility and the Art of Making Healthy Choices

Alright, so truth-telling time. I did try to eat healthy last year, and in second semester, I joined the school gym and started going regularly. But the healthy eating was difficult because of my restrictive residence meal plan, and I eventually gave up. Also, my program’s demands eventually made it very hard to get out to the gym regularly. By the last month of classes, I went maybe once every other week, which was not nearly enough to stave off the dreaded freshman-15 weight gain.

That’s the thing about being out of shape − it’s actually really stressful. You feel bad about yourself, you try to hide it or fix it and it’s just embarrassing. It also meant that I lacked the energy to go at my daily tasks with 100 percent effort. I’m not one to worry about what other people think of me, or how I look, but the fact that it was affecting my performance in school (since my program is labour-intensive) upset me.

Over the summer, I came to the realization that no one else was going to take responsibility for my personal fitness. It had to be me who took action. For a while, I attended Weight Watchers [KY2] and tried to work out and eat better. And it really did help. But I find that kind of routine is difficult to stick to, especially if you have a busy schedule. It requires planning, time to prepare nutritious meals and things like that. Going back to school, I wondered if I would ever be able to maintain that routine.

One of the first things I did was get a year-long membership at the Ryerson gym. It was only $77, which is an amazing deal. Many public gyms charge something like $50 a month for memberships. So be sure to check out your school’s gym prices. Students usually get deals.

I also made plans – and followed through on them − to go to the gym with friends over the past two weeks. It’s true what they say about working out being easier with a partner. If you’re going alone, it’s easy to say “Oh, I’m too tired or busy. I’ll go later.” If you make plans with someone, you have a social obligation to meet, and it’s mentally more difficult to cancel.

As far as food goes, I’ve been cooking most meals for myself and my roommates. I make sure to buy healthy things − we eat a lot of salad and pasta, as well as grilled cheese and chicken. It’s all relatively healthy and easy to make.

My favourite recipe so far has been one that my dad started making for us at home right before I left to go back to school. It’s cheap and REALLY easy to make.

What you need:

  • Pasta of some kind (enough for however many people are eating)
  • Baby spinach (one container full)
  • One clove of garlic (chopped or pressed)
  • Virgin olive oil
  • A handful of walnuts (chopped)
  • A pinch of salt

What you do:

Get your pasta boiling (I assume you know how to do that. If not, Google it). In a frying pan, pour in your olive oil − just enough that you can tip the pan around and cover the bottom of it in oil. DO NOT USE TOO MUCH OR IT IS NOT HEALTHY. A thin layer is enough. Add the garlic and walnut pieces first, and stir until the garlic turns slightly golden. Add your spinach, one handful at a time. It may look like a lot, but once it cooks down, it will get much smaller. You will likely need a whole container’s worth to feed four people. Keep stirring and add in a bit of salt. This brings out the flavour of the nuts and the spinach. Turn off the heat once all the spinach looks small and dark green. When your pasta is fully cooked, strain it, then put it back in the pot and pour in the contents of your frying pan. Mix thoroughly, then serve hot.

It’s a nice, light recipe, and is quite easy to make. You can also add any other herbs and spices you like. I find that if I’m all out of spinach, a few pinches of rosemary instead makes an excellent substitute. You can experiment to see what spices you like the most. If you’re not a fan of spinach, you can substitute arugula.

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