I feel like I’m always talking about what I do now to stay healthy, but in this article, I want to take you guys back to what I did originally — when I had a little bit of extra weight to lose and was starting from scratch.
Being Persian, I grew up eating pretty healthy because Persian culture is really big on natural foods and fruits. What I didn’t know then was how to eat healthy LEAN. You could eat bowls and bowls of fruit and stews with rice, which are not bad for you, but when eaten in abundance or combined wrong, you might not have the leanest body. That’s where I was at.
I went to pharmacy school from when I was 18 to 24 years old. It was a very intense six-year program, and I was studying all the time. I was athletic in high school, but when I got to college, I was really focused on not failing out of pharmacy school, to be honest, leaving me with no time to workout.
I never thought I would gain weight. I always had somewhat of a naturally lean body, but I definitely carried a little bit of extra weight around my stomach — kind of just assumed that was my body type and didn’t really think about it in high school.
When I got to college, I wasn’t eating as fresh of food anymore. I ended up gaining over ten pounds my freshman year, and I didn’t even see it coming until my mom asked why I have an extra roll around my jeans! Thanks mom :). That’s when I started to figure out what I could do.
Fast forward five years. I’m in my last year of pharmacy school. The workload isn’t as intense, so I don’t have to study as much for exams. In September of my last year of school, I remember stopping and saying to myself, “I really want to try and get the body I’ve always wanted.” My body was fine, but I really wanted to reach my fitness goals and give it my 100%.
I GENUINELY set my mindset for that goal. Before, I would try…do a little bit here and there. I hated going to the gym and I wasn’t really in it. I finally changed my mindset, told myself that I had the time and that I could do this. Keep these tips in mind when getting started:
- Realistic Goal Setting. Set up a long term goal.
It was September, and my goal was to have the body I wanted by summer. Most people, including myself, usually have short-term goals — you want to look good for a wedding coming up or for a vacation in a few weeks. I really wanted to do it the right way. I decided to give myself a long-term goal so that I wouldn’t get disappointed and give up. I could slowly start tracking progress.
- Accountability. Have someone hold you accountable for your goal.
My roommate and I decided to join a gym together that was right down the street. It was convenient and we were going to do it together. Having that motivation with a friend — keeping each other accountable and on track — that was another huge thing that really helped keep us going.
- Try it all. Find a workout routine around your passion.
I found something that I actually liked to do. In the past, I would go to the gym and have no idea what I was doing. Even right now, as much as I exercise all the time and LOVE staying fit, I HATE walking into a gym by myself and using machines. Even if I know what to do, I just don’t like it. That’s what I was always doing before.
We tried a cardio kickboxing class at the gym we joined and completely fell in love with it. I had never really done a group class that I liked, but something about the energy of this class and the instructor made it so much fun. We genuinely looked forward to it every single week (we did it twice a week).
If you don’t like exercising, it sometimes sounds cliche to say find something you love. Exercising can suck, and it still sucks in the moment, and you’re doing it, and it’s really hard, you’re exhausted…but you get to this point once you’ve started doing it and you really find your groove of something you like, that even though it sucks in the moment, you get on this high, and you feel so good, and it starts to become about making yourself feel good. When you get to that point, not only are you going to feel good, but it’s actually going to start showing results physically because so much of it is mental.
Diet. Back to the basics.
I had the right idea of how to eat healthy, but I didn’t know how to put the pieces together correctly. I was not eating a vegan diet then, but I decided I was going to start eating really clean. Instead of buying oatmeal packs, I would buy plain oatmeal and sweeten it myself with cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup; I would buy nuts and seeds that were raw instead of buying candied pecans or salted peanuts; I was eating chicken and fish then, so I would only broil it. I kept it plain and simple. Doing this gave me such drastic results. I actually lost a little too much weight and had to gain it back because I wasn’t even realizing how quickly it was working.
Those were the first steps that got me into this lifestyle. I started learning more because once you start seeing just a little bit of a result, it gets you motivated and excited to keep going. It becomes more of a passion — the best passion to have because it’s your body, your temple. You are going to live in it for the rest of your life, and the better it’s functioning, the better you are going to feel throughout all the different years of your life.
I wasn’t tracking anything, I wasn’t doing anything intense. I think that’s important to explain for someone that’s just starting out. Just try and change the general way you are eating and how you are looking at exercise. Remember that your mind is so powerful! If you are stressed, you will release cortisol, and cortisol will make you hold on to fat. When your hormones are out of balance, diet and exercise are not going to give you anywhere near the results you want. Make sure to go easy on yourself.
I hope this inspired you a little bit! I really just wanted to give you guys a good starting point to get you going.