It isn’t easy to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle while studying abroad. There’s a lot of new and interesting food and restaurants to try and it can be hard to find a good time or facility to work out. So, in lieu of a post about my adventures, today I’m going to share my gems of wisdom about fitness and food (on a budget) while living in another country.
- You can’t eat what you don’t buy. If you live in a dorm or apartment, you’re most likely shopping for yourself. So don’t buy things that you know you’ll snack on incessantly or won’t be able to stop eating. This has been a big challenge for me to overcome with pita and dried fruit. The dried fruit here is simply unreal, it’s so good, and it’s very easy to eat tons of it without stopping, never mind the excessive amount of sugar it contains. Pita is also fluffy and delicious, but pretty much devoid of any real nutritional value. So, I’ve stopped buying these items, because I know I have a hard time controlling how much of them I eat. I don’t have any real “snack foods” either, just lots of fruit and veggies.
- Make a list and stick to it. Plan your meals and shop accordingly. It helps you ration what you buy and prevents that “What the heck should I make for (insert meal here)?” Try and make balanced meals and take advantage of local produce. For example, as I’ve said, vegetables are dirt-cheap here (pardon the pun) and unbelievably fresh, colorful and delicious. Yesterday, I managed to eat eight servings of fruits and veggies without even trying.
- Eat slowly. Sip water between bites, cut as you go instead of all at once, don’t eat while watching television or something on your computer. Do whatever you need to do to get your body to slowwww downnnnn because it takes a while for that full feeling to set in.
- The “I don’t have any food” feeling is as much mental as it is physical. If you find yourself starving at odd hours of the day (despite having eaten a balanced diet the rest of the day), distract yourself with something else physical. Do some crunches or pushups, sit in a few yoga poses, walk around your building or something else to just get your mind off the hunger that might not even be actual hunger, but boredom or another emotion like it.
- For exercise, take advantage of what you have near you. In my case, we have the national park across the street, so I go walk/jogging there and I also do some short exercise videos from YouTube. But make time for it to happen. Make it a part of your routine, however you have to.
- While traveling, walk as much as you can. It’s a fun way to explore the area and it’s good for you.
- Treat yourself! This sounds contradictory given everything I’ve just said. But every now and again, it’s totally fine to splurge at a restaurant. Get a big steak or bowl of creamy pasta and order dessert, too. You deserve it. And try to eat something you don’t normally eat in your everyday life, because it will be more satisfying that way.
So those are my pearls of wisdom, garnered over six weeks abroad, living in a dorm, feeding myself and trying to save money and stay healthy. Check back next week when I get back from Greece and Cyprus for an update on the wonder that is Spring Break 2012!