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Somewhere between cramming for finals and grabbing a slew of over-processed, microwavable and packaged meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, extra weight can sneak up on you. Maybe you don’t feel all that great, or maybe you don’t look the way you want to. For some of us, the dreaded “freshman 15” was just the tip of the iceberg, and some of us are still working on losing those pounds after graduation!

After graduation is the time to focus on things you may have put on the back burner while in school. If you’re trying to make the change from overwhelmed, ramen-and-red-bull-filled couch potato to a healthier twenty something, here are some helpful first steps!

1. Monitor yourself.

This means more than just making a mental note – use something to really monitor your food intake. Write it down, or try a calorie counting app. is a great tool that counts not only your calories, but keeps track of your nutrition, calories, and workouts. You’ll be amazed at how many calories you’re consuming. After about 2 weeks of consistent monitoring, you’ll have a good grasp on what to eat, what to avoid and what to improve on, nutrition-wise.

2. Prepare your own meals. 

Monitoring yourself can lead to a wake up call about processed foods. You can save so much money and calories by sticking to preparing your own meals whenever possible. There are an abundance of healthy recipes all over the internet that are absolutely delicious, filling and still good for you. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor, or be a great cook to pull off a healthy recipe. (If you need a starting point, take a peek at my recipe board on Pinterest here.)

3. Eat whole foods whenever possible.

Try to avoid as much processed food as you can – which, these days, can be difficult. Buy fruits, vegetables, and meats that you can use to create your own meals, rather than a frozen dinner – you’ll save yourself empty calories, preservatives, and ingredients you can’t pronounce. Pay attention to the nutritional label, not just the calories. The cleaner you eat, the better you’ll feel and the less you’ll crave food that is bad for you.

4. Make exercise a priority.

You don’t need to run eight miles every day to start getting healthier. So many people are afraid at the idea of exercising, because they see it as an all or nothing option. No matter how slow you go, you’re moving. No matter how little you lift, you’re trying. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you stick with it.

5. Make exercise fun…

Because it is! Don’t look at exercise as a chore, try to make it something you look forward to. Don’t commit to a running program if you absolutely hate running. Try out different classes, gyms, machines, and find out what you enjoy doing. The more you enjoy it, the more committed you’ll be and the quicker you’ll see results.

Healthy eating in the real world vs. eating in college (AKA what not to do!) (via)

Making even the smallest of changes can be hard depending on the strength your past habits. Here are some things to keep in mind (and keep you sane) while you make a lifestyle change.

1. Keep in mind what “health” is.

It’s not about hipbones, collarbones, thigh gaps or other outrageous measurements of “skinny-ness.” It’s about making a positive change that you can maintain and improve on – particularly one you enjoy.

2. You can’t outrun a bad diet.

Or out-lift. Or out-yoga. Weight loss is primarily done in the kitchen. Toning is done in the gym. Just because you went for a jog today, doesn’t mean you should eat pie for dinner. Diet and exercise need work together to help you get the results you want.

3. Be patient and consistent.

It can take up to 4-6 weeks to see a change in your body. The first few weeks of a new routine are the hardest, but you won’t see extreme improvements in one week. Or two. Don’t quit, keep going!

4. Switch it up every now and then.

Not only will you get bored but your body will, too. You won’t see continuous results unless you continue to challenge your body. Add an extra 5 minutes to a run, increase your weights, or add a rep.

5. Cheating isn’t failing.

You had a slice of birthday cake, drank few margaritas, or ate fast food… Welcome to being human! This doesn’t make you a failure, nor does it give you permission to give up altogether. Lifestyle changes allow flexibility for, you know… life! As long as they don’t become daily habits, a cheat / treat every now and then can help you keep your sanity.

Life after college is about taking responsibility and taking care of yourself. What better place to start than taking care of your body? Good luck, and don’t give up!

How do you stay healthy post-grad? Tell us below!

Featured photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc