Skip to content

Healthy Living Manifesto

September 24, 2010

My best friend Michelle, after reading my last blog post, asked me, “Why do you feel so guilty about just relaxing? It’s fine to do nothing sometimes.”

She’s right. R&R is very important, and in the past I’ve had no problem with extended bouts of TV watching, reading, and gaming–especially during vacations. So what’s changed? Why did Wednesday give me so much anxiety?

The truth is, the guilt I felt two days ago stemmed mostly from the fact that I was sedentary all day and made bad choices. I barely moved. I had even resolved to go to the gym that night, and I didn’t go. I also over-indulged in snacking – two small chocolate bars, a big spoon of peanut butter, and an ice cream bar from the convenience store. I felt… fat. And unhealthy.

The lightbulb moment for me happened today, in the dressing room at Zara. I wanted to buy new black pants. In the dressing room, I tried some on – they were uncomfortably snug. And when I looked up at myself in the mirror, I was not happy. I’m not fat, but I’m definitely close to be overweight for my height. I can see it. Ten more pounds, and I’d be clinically overweight.

When I put my shorts back on, I remembered how loose they had been around the waist at the beginning of the summer. Now, they fit snugly. I don’t look the way I want to look, and I don’t feel the way I want to feel.

In college, living a healthy lifestyle was easy. The dining hall made healthy eating so easy–so many options, fresh fruit and vegetables all the time, permanent salad bar, vegetarian options, and, usually, desserts unappetizing enough that I had no problem skipping them. I walked to classes, rehearsals, and social events all the time around Harvard’s sprawling campus. Last year, I walked up four flights of stairs multiple times a day to get to my dorm room (no elevator).

Now, it’s much harder. Unhealthy food is often the cheapest, most convenient, and tastiest: fried dumplings and noodles, usually light on the veggies. Healthier fare, especially western-style stuff like salads, is quite expensive by comparison. Fruit can be on the pricey side, too. I need to actually go out and buy healthy foods for them to be there in my kitchen, which takes planning, budgeting, and energy. I’m so much more tempted to indulge in snacks, sweets, and fried food here – it’s always in front of me, big pictures in store windows. Making things twice as bad, I’m totally sedentary at work.

Anyway, I’ve been reading the wonderful and inspiring book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and he wisely teaches that you should always live by your deepest values (which, I think, I tend to do already, but can slip sometimes). He suggests writing them down in a constitution of morals.

Being healthy is something that I deeply value. So,  I put a spin on Covey’s idea and wrote myself a Healthy Living Manifesto, sort of a moral guide to eating and exercise habits, which I will now share with you.

Healthy Living Manifesto

Because eating poorly and being sedentary hurts my body and my soul, I pledge to shape up and get healthy. Being out of shape shortens my life and lowers my self-esteem. Being sedentary all day fills me with self-loathing. I pledge to make better choices because they align with my values, make me happy, and will prolong my life while increasing my quality of life.
  1. I will not over-indulge in unhealthy foods. These are fried foods, starchy foods with no nutritional value, desserts and sugary foods, and oily foods. Instead, I will eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, dried fruit, and clean proteins (not in excess). I will watch out for foods that appear healthy, but are not.
  2. I will not mindlessly overeat. When I really enjoy something,I wills savor it slowly and stop when full. When I’m not wild about something, I wont’ eat much of it, and instead save my calories for foods I do really like. I will drink lots of water or tea before and during meals to help with this problem.
  3. I will not mindlessly snack. I will only buy healthful snacks, like nuts and dried fruit, and I will always measure out the quantity to be snacked opon before eating it (no continuous snacking out of an open bag or container).
  4. I will cook often, and will choose healthy recipes. I will only occaisonally cook desserts or sweet things. I’ll measure the oil I use to prevent over-use.
  5. I will allow myself to indulge sometimes, because good food is one of life’s great pleasures and something I value. I’ll relax my  rules-but still keep them in mind, esp. rule #2-when out at a nice restaurant or eager to cook something a bit indulhent (like clam chowder). When travelling, I will exprience the regional cuisine without guilt. One day of the week will be deemed dessert day, where I can have one serving of full-fat cake, ice cream, or a sugary drink. During Sunday brunch and on holidays, anything goes. When I indulge, I must always been thoroughly enjoying myself (no wasteful indulging on so-so food or drings).
  6. I will drink alcohol in moderation and select drinks with care. I will avoid sugary cocktails and too much heavy beer. I will choose wine when possible. I will avoid getting drunk , because I always crave unhealthy foods when I’m drunk.
  7. I will go to the gym six days a week, barring illness, injury, vacations, or other special occaisons or commitments. I will stick to my workout plan, or change it if necessary – but I will always have a workout plan. If I ever miss a day, I will not let this allow me to lose motiviation and lapse. Instead of getting mad at myself, I will forgive myself and get back to it.
  8. I will always keep a workout log, and use it to maximize gym efficiency and ensure progress.
  9. I will build activity into my daily activities. I will take the stairs when possible (does not apply for more than 4 flights, or when I’m in a hurry.  I’ll choose to walk instead of taking the subway when something is closer than 15 minutes away. I will take frequent stretch breaks at work, and go for a short walk during my lunch break, time and weather permitting.
  10. I will puruse active hobbies or recreational sports throughout my life – dancing, hiking, skiing, running outdoors, water skiing, and yoga are some activities I’ve already tried and truly enjoyed. I will always be open-minded towards trying something new.

With these rules in mind, I will build myself a healthier, happier lifestyle and facilitate my personal fulfillment.

Well, it’s mostly common sense stuff, but I think writing it out will help me commit to it. Next time I’m craving a slice of cake, I’ll tell myself, “wait until Friday” (that’s the day I’ve picked for dessert day – and no, not because today is Friday). Next time those fried dumplings look oh-so-delicious, I’ll remember my manifesto, walk on by, and get some vegetable noodle soup instead. Next time I’m eating something delicious at a restaurant, I’ll remember the manifesto, savor every bite, and when I’m full, take the rest to go. Dessert should be an occasion, not tacked on to the end of the meal just because.

I go forth to conquer China’s calories.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Miranda Dong permalink
    September 26, 2010 12:34 pm

    Hey 乐瑞!How is Shanghai and everything? I see from your recently posts that you’re having a good time except this one! Yeah, tasty food always involve more calories. I’ve been experiencing the same problem since HBA. I feel tired everyday so I decided to treat myself with a lot of high-calory stuff,like malatang(the hot spicy sichuan food).I’m gaining five pounds.So count me in your manifesto!This is Dong laoshi btw.

  2. Mom permalink
    September 29, 2010 2:37 am

    Wow, I am really impressed by that manifesto. I know you well enough to know that you will stick to it. You can always come home, too, and I’ll make sure there is plenty of healthy food. Love you, baby!

  3. Becky permalink
    November 15, 2010 3:56 am

    I’m on the same regime! I completely agree with the self worth comment. It can really affect you, even if you aren’t clinically overweight. I’m in preparation for my trip home to Thanksgiving and must take every action to lose the excess weight I have gained since August (where it came from, I con’t quite say!). Minus the 6-day workout rule, I say we are in unison. Have you kept up with it?

    • November 23, 2010 3:23 pm

      Hey Becky! Good to hear from you. Yes, I’ve kept up with most of the things in my manifesto, minus the 6 days a week gym. It’s a bit unrealistic, I’ve realized. I think 4 days a week is much more realistic goal – that I’ve actually been able to do, minus this week because I’m home! Although, I should really be keeping it up at home, too… the plane flights and constant activity have gotten in the way. Glad to hear you’re working on staying healthy too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: