When I first arrived in New York City for school, a lot of people I knew told me how they planned to go to the gym and to go running (I was looking for a running buddy, so I asked). Most of them were adamant about not wanting to gain the freshman fifteen. Before I could get out of my stride from summer, I started taking advantage of my close proximity to Central Park and having an on-campus gym and have continued exercising 6 days a week. I’ve also been trying to eat (relatively) healthy to avoid just eating bread all the time-because I totally could and it requires minimal effort.
After a few months, a lot of my friends began to talk about weight gain. Adjusting to their new lives had taken up a lot of time and exercise was difficult to factor in. Most of us were also attached to meal plans which, unfortunately, do not provide the healthiest options.
It was discouraging for a lot of people I know to feel unhealthy, but getting into the swing of health requires a lot of motivation. A lot of my friends were used to rural running routes and they feared the gym, with it’s free-weights and upperclassmen.
So, some words of encouragement for anyone looking to feel good in their own skin while living in an expensive city:
You don’t need a gym membership! Get a yoga mat and some weights to exercise from home. This also removes excuses like “I have to refill my Metro card to get to my gym,” or, “It’s raining,” or, “what if I’m robbed while I’m gone?”
You really can run in a city. If you are fortunate enough to be near a park, or other easy route, take advantage. Coming from suburbia, I was sort of nervous about running in an area where so many people are running, but with some effort I started turning my fear into motivation. Every time I run in the city it’s like a race with tons of other people to help me pace myself. I’m faster than I’ve been in a while, and when I go home to visit my parents I actually find the less populated bike path to be way harder to maintain my speed on.
There’s a lot of great food in a city, so it’s okay to cheat. My friends and I are students. “Going out” for food usually means trying out a new $1 pizza shop-and that is just fine. If you tell yourself you can never have another greasy, cheesy, delectably cheap slice of pizza, you will probably just end up in a battle with your mind. Order some Seamless with your friends, food is delicious and you need fuel.
And when you aren’t cheating….recognize that fresh and healthy foods are not always the cheapest ones. Everything in a city manages to be a little more expensive, but buying local and in season makes getting your real food feasible. Following a farmers’ market can lead you to great, organic deals. Also, storing food you don’t use-freezing it, using tupperware, etc.-will help you from tossing money down the drain.
In a big city, it’s easy to compare yourself to your millions of neighbors. Being your best self and feeling good can help you to stand out, so don’t be intimidated by the close quarters-there is room to exercise, or by the costs-you can eat something other than a Big Mac, even if it’s hard at first. Believe it or not, once you start, it will be hard to stop.