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25th February 2016

Breaking Out of the Bad Habit Cycle

Because getting back on that healthy living wagon is not always as simple as it seems

We all know how it starts. For a good few weeks after returning to uni you kept up your good habits. Exercise was done, vegetables were eaten and smugness runneth over. You are never going to eat badly again. This is your new way of life. You feel so much better, look how great you look. Your friends hate you as you wax lyrical about spirulina while they’re just trying to eat their oven pizza in peace. Then suddenly, disaster strikes in the form of a good weekend. Going out for drinks on a Friday night swiftly turned into a full-on session of hardcore drinking. Talk of lemon water and a healthy gut are obliterated in the face of that lukewarm can of Stella that the equally inebriated guy in the club queue gave you. Before you know it, you’re sitting in McDonalds at 4 in the morning, covered in glitter and inhaling a McChicken sandwich that you don’t even remember ordering. It’s fine, you comfort yourself, a balanced diet clearly can’t always be good. You’ll make up for it tomorrow.

But of course that doesn’t happen. Waking up with a mouth like Gandhi’s flip-flop and still wearing your clothes from the night before, anything that involves the most carbs with the least effort is on your mind. Self-denial creeps in as you find yourself in Wetherspoons with your friends, ordering a massive breakfast and then trying not to freak out when your hungover brain has to deal with the billions of mirrors in the toilets. Having written off Saturday, you promise yourself that you will go for a run on Sunday when you’ve finally recovered.

Waking up at 1 o’clock on a Sunday, the realisation that you were supposed to have read 3 books, prepared a presentation and at least made some progress on your dissertation dawns on you and all else falls by the wayside as the cold dread spreads across your entire body. You hole up in the library and become single-minded in your panicked work. Nothing else can matter, and as a result you end up eating a questionable meal deal and some squashed Mr. Kipling bakewells, panic-bought from the reduced section. You remind yourself of those memes on Instagram that inform you that you can only pick two out of health, social life and work and laugh bitterly to yourself in the self-checkout queue. The girl behind you buying avocados looks mildly concerned. You try to convince yourself that her work is probably going terribly, because of course it’s impossible to concentrate both on looking after yourself and doing uni work…

One of the best options you have to break out of this cycle is sleep. It may seem obvious, but going out for the majority of the weekend causes such a sleep deprivation that it can make you ravenously hungry as your body tries to find extra energy to keep it awake. Try and get to bed early on Sunday night, drink plenty of water and, if you have time, do some exercise when you wake up on a Monday morning. The most important thing is to get back on the healthy-eating wagon and not to convince yourself that you’re so far gone that it’s not worth it. It’s a point said time and time again, but no-one is perfect all the time and everyone has spent a whole weekend eating solely McDonalds at least once. Maybe.

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