Nowadays, not one commercial break goes by without featuring an ad for a weight-loss program, machine or miracle pill, so it’s hard not to think about your own eating and fitness habits while sitting on the couch watching TV. As an Elon University student, you’re at a college that tears you in two directions — free food at all events, free gym membership all week. Perhaps you have tried a crash diet or bought into that miracle pill, just to see if it worked. But it didn’t. And here you are.

I found myself in a similar place when I first came to Elon. I was dealing with the fact that I had packed on some significant weight during high school, and I knew I wanted to beat the Freshman 15 before it started. So if you’re in the market for a fitness overhaul, keep reading.

The truth is, I’m not a dietitian, personal trainer or perfectly in shape by any means. And I think that this, believe it or not, is what may make my advice work for you. No miracle pill, just what worked for plain-old, picky-eating, carb-loving me.

First of all, make sure you have the right mindset. Instead of thinking, “I have to get out of this body,” start to think, “I don’t love where I am, but this is where I am today, and I have the power to change my tomorrow.” Then, stop making excuses. “Oh, I’m too busy, it will never work, I don’t want to…”

All of that has to go out the window. You want to change your life, so make yourself accountable. Find a way that works for you to log your food and your workouts. I used strikes for junk food instead of counting calories when I first started out since the numbers intimidated me. Whatever you do, recording what you eat really brings attention to your diet. It reveals that handful of candy you unknowingly sneak from the jar at work or all those hundred calorie packs that can really add up.

That being said, cut back on, but don’t eliminate, the junk food you love. Finding the things that you actually want to spend those precious calories on rearranges your priorities and revolutionizes your eating habits. If you can’t resist the temptation, don’t keep it in the house.

When your house is clean of those dirty little snacks you know you can’t resist, eating these treats every now and then is more special. You can’t look at eating food as a permanent diet — it’s a way of life, which is why it has to be flexible and enjoyable.

To complement your healthy eating, find what gets you moving and do it. Tying a donut to a fishing rod attached to your treadmill is not the way to get yourself to work out.

You won’t do it if you don’t like it. That’s a promise, no matter how strong your will. No exercise is better than another, so instead of focusing on the type of exercise, try to find something you really enjoy and adjust the amount of time you do it to match the number of calories you want to burn.

Don’t compare your fitness to anyone else’s, either. I could never do a full pushup — now I can do three. I don’t want to be Miss Universe — I just want to be fit, and whether that means I’ll eventually be able to do five or 500, that’s all I want and all I can ask for. Ignore the numbers and focus on how you feel.

Finally, know the warning signs of mental issues and physical injuries, and surround yourself with people who make you feel your best. I have an accountability partner who tells me if she thinks I’m working out excessively or eating too little. Though it seems obvious that neither of those are problems for me now, I want to make sure they never have a chance to become problems. Her encouragement has helped build my confidence and kept me on track when I wanted to give up.

In summary, I’m still working. Hard. And, some days, it sucks. But after years of failure and dissatisfying results, the tips above are finally helping me lose the weight and keep it off, all with a smile on my face. The tips are vague, but intentionally so because you have to find what works for you.

As for me, I’ve used kickboxing, running and strength-training to lose close to 30 pounds and many inches since I started college, and it looks like I’m going to graduate without them, too. So if you see me running around campus, give me a high-five — and if you ever want a workout buddy, you know who to reach out to.


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