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Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

By David Pekema
Quick Tips
  1. Catching Zs – Very few recent grads get the required 7–9 hours of sleep a night, yet not getting enough sleep is detrimental on many levels. Sleep deprivation causes decreased mental function, increased stress levels, and a generally high bitchiness level.
  2. Eating well – It's surprisingly easy to maintain a healthy diet. Cooking your own food, bringing leftovers to work, and limiting your meat intake can drastically cut your caloric intake and generally make you feel healthier.
  3. Working out – Exercising for just 30 minutes a day will help with everything from boosting your immune system to putting that extra bounce in your step (and making you look amazing to boot). Working out regularly will also ensure you suffer less as you age.
  4. Ying and yang – Don't lapse in one area. Your excellent diet and exercise routine will be wasted if you don't supplement them with ample rest and recovery time.
  5. Moderation – Too much of anything is bad for you. Excess alcohol, food, and even Mountain Dew can be harmful. Exercising for hours every day is dangerous, and the people who do so start to look like either the Hulk or Skeletor (either way, not a good look).

The biggest irony in my transition from college slacker to working stiff is that I get sick a lot more now than when I was in college. How is this possible? One year in the dorms featured vomit-filled sinks, a turd in the shower, and the varsity water polo players. The place was a germ factory, yet I somehow

made it through unscathed.

Shortly after moving to Southern California, I started sneezing all the time and constantly getting sick. I tried everything I could think of—replacing my grimy pillow, taking allergy medication, even calling Mommy—but nothing worked. Then something finally dawned on me one day at work, while surrounded by an especially loud chorus of hacking—my office was making me sick. An unhealthy lifestyle is a side effect of the fast-paced architecture firm where I work. We put in long hours, eat crappy meals at odd times, rarely sleep, and, in my case, drink ridiculous amounts of Bacardi 151.

You can’t prevent your coworkers from getting sick. Fortunately, by living in moderation and making time for the things that matter, you will be healthier, look better, and get sick less often. Just follow these steps.


“Sleep is not merely a ‘time out’ from our busy routines; it is essential for good health, mental and emotional functioning, and safety.” – The National Sleep Foundation

We’re all pressed for time. If we could just tack on a couple additional hours to the day, we’d have no problem getting the daily seven to nine hours of Zs the National Sleep Foundation recommends. Any less and you are putting yourself at risk. Sleepfoundation.org reports that roughly “100,000 police-reported crashes are caused by drowsy drivers each year.” Even if you do make it through your commute, sleep deprivation results in decreased mental function, increased stress levels, and a generally high bitchiness level (to use the scientific term). If you’re not getting enough rest, the other things required to live a healthy lifestyle—maintaining a balanced diet, exercise, etc.—will also suffer.

One strategy is to use your bed only for sleep. Getting into the habit of watching television or reading in bed creates the expectation that some other activity must take place before you can go to sleep. There is only one activity besides sleep that’s perfectly acceptable for under the covers, only because nothing tuckers us out like a good romp in the hay.

More tips on how to get some shuteye.


“Aim to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.” – U.S. Surgeon General

We live in a country where 50% of the population is overweight or obese, and heart disease is the number one killer. These stats are the direct result of poor diets and not enough exercise. It’s easy to get into a rut in these areas after college, but it’s even easier to get out of it.

I’ll be the first to admit that eating out is delicious and convenient, but unfortunately it is surprisingly bad for us. A plate of innocent looking fettuccine Alfredo can contain over 1,200 calories. Studies have shown that you eat half as many calories when you prepare your own meals because you know exactly what is going into the preparation and can better control portion sizes. In an effort to eat healthier, I make it a point to bring my lunch to work every day. My coworkers love to tease my “sad sandwiches” (one even made a short film about them), but I can smile knowing at least one of my meals is making me healthier.

One way to make cooking easier, and get proper servings of all your recommended food groups, is to cook a big dish (stews, casseroles, pastas, etc.) on Sunday night and then dine on the leftovers throughout the week. Just supplement with a healthy side dish and you’re good to go. Check out thirteen more keys to a healthy diet.

Once you’ve started cooking for yourself a little more often, the quickest way to a healthy diet is increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you consume. If you were to replace every one of your unhealthy snacks with a piece of fruit, you would get a ton more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants—while still getting a sugar rush. Ordering a salad instead of fries when you do go out is one easy way to assure you’re getting some leafy greens in your diet.

"Meatless Mondays," where you omit meat from your diet one day a week, can seriously cut back on your caloric intake. There are advantages to living completely vegetarian, as well, but my already questionable manliness won’t allow it.

Food is what powers you during exercise, so a weak diet will result in a weak effort when on the basketball court or at the gym. A daily multi-vitamin helps cover any nutrient areas that you may be lacking.


“Investing 30 minutes a day in aerobic exercise—such as walking, bicycling or swimming—can help you live longer and healthier.” – The Mayo Clinic

A half-hour is all it takes for countless benefits. Not only will you feel more energized during your day and boost your immune system, but you'll also suffer far less as you age. Your likelihood of developing several types of cancer, diabetes, cardiac problems, and countless other maladies goes down significantly when maintaining a regular exercise routine.

You don’t need to work up a tremendous sweat or anything—just get your body moving and try to get in your recommended 10,000 daily steps. The key is to create reasons for you to get moving: walk the dog after work; bicycle or walk to work three times a week; rollerblade to the coffee shop three miles away; take a brisk walk during a lunch or afternoon break. Supplementing these minor activities with the occasional vigorous workout increases your metabolism and will put you well on your way to a very healthy lifestyle.

Don’t like exercising alone? Make dates an excuse to exercise. Renting a tandem bicycle, taking a ride in a paddleboat, or swinging away at the batting cages are not only fun and romantic, but are also effective ways to burn calories.

Don't have time? There are plenty of ways you can get in exercise during your busy days. Do push-ups during commercial breaks. Park further from the office. And once you get there, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to coworker's desks instead of phoning them. Shadow box with your boss. Whatever it takes, just make an effort to be more active. Check out more tips for working out at the office.

Hate exercising? Check out these tips.

Avoiding Sickness

Getting sick when you're working is tough, and failing to deal with it properly can just make matters worse. When you do catch something, it's best to stay home and relax for a couple days. Sure, you want to be a trooper and stagger into the office, but your coworkers will thank you for sparing them your germs, and you'll get better much more quickly if you stay home.

As gross as it sounds, one of the best ways to avoid catching office germs is to not pick your nose or rub your eyes. Washing your hands before eating or not drinking your sick friend's soda might be a good idea, but your stomach is pretty good at breaking things down. However, germs are easily absorbed through the sensitive membranes in your nose and eyes.

Also, be especially careful on airplanes. Combine a hundred or so hacking travelers with recirculated air and you've got yourself a recipe for catching colds. "Airborne" may have been exposed as a sham, but drinking lots of fluids and bringing along some hand sanitizer may help.



Sleep and diet are so key to getting through the day. I have been trying to cut out coffee and replace it with water. I feel like pumping cold water through me instead of caffeine keeps me energized longer and prevents that mid-day crash.

Also, bringing little snacks like carrots and fresh fruit to work is a nice break and can provide a perfect pick me up.

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