"Being healthy" is a topic that is widely discussed in today's media. Yet, for a great deal of the population, it is placed on the back burner. The excuses are endless. Results aren't fast enough, it's a lot of work—take your pick. Why make the time? Because living a healthier lifestyle is best to prevent diseases and continue feeling your best. Unfortunately, there are people who don't take action soon enough.

I grew up in a very busy household—our family was very involved. With a hefty load on our schedules day-in and day-out, it was easy for meals to be the last thing on our minds. Many breakfasts would be skipped for early rehearsals, lunches would be bought rather than packed and 8 pm suppers were normal.

cake, chocolate, coffee
Caitlyn Ramsay

Entering university, I knew I wanted to create some new habits in my lifestyle. In my first year, I was able to learn the importance of managing stress and eating well—to fuel our brains properly and avoid becoming overwhelmed. 

With more readings than I've ever been used to, a job that occupied my free time and anxiety building higher than my dirty clothes pile, I knew I couldn't continue to have the same habits I was used to. 

Step One: Healthy Eats

vegetable, salad, tomato, pepper, lettuce
Torey Walsh

Halfway through September of my first year, I reached out to a dietitian. She helped me discover my nutrition goals—like feeling more energized and less stressed

From there, she helped design a meal plan for me and encouraged me to keep a food log (download this app—now). She also provided great dining hall tips

The dietitian really opened my eyes. I discovered new foods I really liked. Soon, I became motivated to try to make my own meals

This idea scared me because, up to this point, I really didn't have much skill in the kitchen. To put this in perspective for you, I messed up hot chocolate. Needless to say, I wasn't the ideal person to be working with meat or rice (or anything). 

Not only that, but as a student, it's normal to be super busy throughout the day. I quickly learned I would need to know how to meal prep, which I did with some help from online recipes (shoutout to Spoon), and my boyfriend. Together, we plan out our meals (biweekly) and help each other in making meals.

It's important to note that we're all human. There will always be a hectic day where you just need to pop a frozen pizza in the oven. The goal here is to find a balance between eating right and treating yourself.

Step Two: Healthy Mind

Healthy living has two equally important parts to it—balanced eating and mental well-being. After living a fast-paced lifestyle for 18 years, I knew things weren't going to just magically slow down when I stepped foot on campus.

The most important thing to do when life gets a little tough is get a good night's rest. I went to the campus doctor and did a bit of research on my own. I learned all new ways to relax, some of which are so important to include in your daily routine.

Clearing your mind of all that negative energy really makes a difference. Where I once had the understanding that breaks were extremely unproductive, I now have a whole new perspective. I strongly encourage making the time for them. Self-care isn't selfish.

Why this matters to me (and should to you, too)

beer, pizza
Caitlyn Ramsay

Healthy is not a diet. It is not a cleanse. It is not picking at every tiny imperfection and demanding results, no matter what it takes to get them. I've learned that healthy is a lifestyle, not just about eating well or exercising until you can't feel your legs. It's all about finding a balance between eating, moving around and taking a mental breaks.

When you feed your body right, it will take care of you, and when you give your mind a break, it will work both more productively and calmly. Lastly, I've learned that there's more to life than simply getting through the day and your to-do list.  

University is filled with so many opportunities and new experiences, and the sad part is that it will be over in the blink of an eye. With the new independence university brings, set goals, make mistakes and push yourself to be the best you can be. Take care of your body and mind, and you'll find yourself in a much happier place.