Staying #SAFIT

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Malinda Matney  works as Senior Research Associate for the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Michigan. Student Affairs Research conducts and assists in a wide variety of studies to learn about university students.Matney is the Immediate Past National President of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, and  Nu Chapter Sponsor at the University of Michigan. She also teaches a variety of courses in the School of Education.

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Like many who work with students or who are in leadership roles, I travel a lot. I’ll make eight trips during winter term for events such as fraternity leadership development, board meetings, and conferences. Even if I stayed in Ann Arbor, the nighttime meetings, the irregularity of a student affairs schedule, attending to family, and yes, going to basketball games will do a number on fitness. It is not a lifestyle made for consistency or for lots of time to find good groceries and make each meal at home.

As some of you may know who know me or have seen me in a non-virtual forum, I’ve lost about 117 pounds in the last few years. Most of this was lost between July 2009 and November 2011. While I did half marathons before the weight loss, I have been considerably more active since. Losing this weight and keeping it off in spite of crazy schedules and stress requires discipline. That said, it also requires fun. I have kept a few key principles in mind:

• Find practices (both diet and exercise) that I will do every day.
• Make this process convenient
• Make the process conform to your schedule and lifestyle.
• Be kind to my heart

For me, that means starting from a strategy of enjoying the places I am and the places I travel. My first diet rule was not to eat “boring food,” the food you only eat because it is in front of you. It is amazing how much we eat that we are not excited about eating simply because it is there. Eliminating boring food also makes much more room for the special dishes that might be at a location or event.

I should say something about the “special” nature of travel. If you are traveling as much as I am (and so many of you likely are), we have to get over the notion that every meal on the road is special. Finding some routine, the meals we can do regularly, will help. Dinners are often special for me, but I’ll have a few ideas most mornings of breakfast and lunch options.

Using apps or journals can help keep tabs on all of this. Probably the best energizer of my weight loss was using “Lose It,” a free app that allows you to record both food and exercise. Because you can use it to look up possible meals, you can make some decisions about meals sometimes while standing in line (adding convenience). Newer versions of the app allow you to enter food you think you might eat a couple of days in advance. Preplanning a day allows you to stay on track and still enjoy special food.

Food is only one part of the equation. Making time for sleep and exercise when possible matters (although admittedly I try to sleep and exercise a little more before trips). I carry exercise clothes to every trip, and look up the hotel fitness center amenities before I go. As a runner, I find that usually I can at least make a small run happen. I have friends who will locate racquetball games, running partners, or similar group events to keep active. All of it matters, even if it is an extra lap around the vendor area.

Some of you who follow my twitter feed will notice that I tweet most workouts . This isn’t to brag about my athletic ability. This is an accountability measure. People really will ask me what happened if they don’t see a tweet for a couple of days. Readers also ask about the time, since I tend to work out before work. Yes, the early hour is nuts. I find for my lifestyle that early workouts help me stay on track, since so many changes in schedule happen later in the day. Your life may work differently. Work with the time and opportunities you have. Some work out at lunch, some after work, some in the afternoon with a return to work later. Do what works for your life.

This leads to a final point. Forgive yourself. Keep careful records of food, exercise, and weight, but use them as data. Applying your professional approach to data to the information about your fitness will help you not experience setbacks as permanent. We know that weight fluctuates, and that not every day is a winning day in fitness just as every day isn’t a win on campus. Focus on the long term, and enjoy the journey.

I hope to see many of you at NASPA, perhaps on a (not very fast) run.



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