Getting It: Final-ly

by Rachel on May 11, 2010

Oh, finals week. Thinking about how tight my jeans usually got around December 1st and May 1st makes me 100 percent certain my body doesn’t want me to go to grad school. This is when my all-or-nothing ways tended to get out of control. Typically, from February through April I was eating nothing (since no, diet pills are not a food group) and then come May it was like, “Hm, well, Formal is over…and I’m exhausted and stressed about passing my classes…and I want to stress eat everything I’ve been depriving myself of…what can I have delivered?!”

[See also: “A Tale of Two Magical Milkshakes.”]

So by the time it was finals week, it was like, Oh, heyyyyy, yoga pants!

I’m pretending I’m wearing you to be “comfy” but really I’m wearing you because, like Regina said toward the end of Mean Girls, “Sweatpants are the only thing that fits me right now.”

Now, since I know my readers are smarty-pantses, I know a lot of you are in finals week right now. And I know you might be dealing with some major stress eating and no gym time. How do I know? Because I see your Facebook statuses and Tweets and I got this e-mail last night:

“So I have been doing a decent job of working out and eating healthy (for the most part) the past few months and it’s been showing — in a good way. However, like clockwork last Friday the stress of finals barreled down on me and I’ve been turned into a total couch potato and crappy food whore. I know that when I go home this will be fixed, but I was curious if you think this is going to make a big impact on my health goals or if a weekish of setback isn’t going to make a big difference. Frankly, I feel like crap, and I’m trying to get back to working out/eating healthy but studying is also much more important.”

You’re right. Studying is mucho important. I’m vain, but I’m also cheap, and you can’t be like, “I need another student loan so I can retake this class I failed…but look at how cute my ass is!’

Here’s my answer to this question, plus some other tips:

  • Rule #1: Don’t be ridiculous. (I know…I know…but honestly, most of my problems in life could have been solved if someone had just said those three words to me.) Don’t get so all-or-nothing that you’re like, “OMG, I’m so stressed about my American History paper and my summer internship and I want to eat my feelings! I think I’m going to go to McDonald’s…for breakfast and lunch!” Ummm…no. Don’t be ridiculous!
  • Rule #2: Take care of your body as best you can. This means things like getting as much sleep as you can and acknowledging when a workout would make you feel better. Be honest with yourself and realize when you’re just making excuses. But be flexible! Maybe you don’t need to go to the gym for an hour. Maybe you just need a 15 minute walk to clear your head. Sleep and exercise are such great stress-busters and mood-lifters and for that reason you should do them when possible. Taking care of these basic needs first means you may not need the carbs to make you feel better.
  • Rule #3: Give your body what it wants. A couple weeks ago, I was really stressed and rather emotionally drained and all I wanted was carbs. Nothing else would do. But instead of eating a few bagels and several mini candy bars (which adds up to like six real candy bars, except they don’t when I’m in a mood like that), I went for super pimped-out oatmeal. A little extra butterscotch? Yeah, it happened. But on top of whole grains, fiber, and healthy protein from nuts and milk. And as soon as the carbs and sugar hit my bloodstream, I felt better. Like, that’s how it is sometimes…chemical reactions in your blood and brain. It’s evolutionary.
  • Rule #4: If your body wants crap…choose the lesser of the evils and stress eat responsibly. I rarely take this approach, so do not make a habit of this, girls. This is something I only call for during high-stress times. When you have a good reason for feeling shitty for a short-term duration, make the BEST choices. Need to do takeout? OK…get a Happy Meal instead of Supersizing it. Need to eat chips on the couch? Fine…can we make it a mini bag of Baked Lays instead of a full-size bag of Doritos?? When I’m stress eating now, I turn to my “break glass in case of emergency foods.” These are things like the Digiorno 200 calorie pizza (I eat two, NBD). While in real life, I’m like, “Uh, please give me a real pizza,” when I’m cracked out on Red Bull and academic insecurity, crappy imitations are enough to calm me down.
  • Rule #5: Don’t force yourself to eat things you don’t want to eat. Usually when I’m stressed, I have no appetite for veggies or even fruits. The thought of fresh food just makes my stomach turn. So I’m not going to pick at a salad…I’m going to do my best to follow rule #3 because I know that eventually, I’ll want my greens again. Take a multivitamin and get over it.
  • Rule #6: This week isn’t as important as next week. NO, one weekish of setbacks is NOT going to ruin all your hard work, not even if you order two milkshakes and drink them both. (God…what even was my life?!) The body just doesn’t work like that. But once you get into your couch potato whore ways again, it can be easy to get sucked in for a long time. (Teeeee-RUST ME.) So even if you must take up permanent residence in 7-11 for the moment, pick a day when you’ll just be done with it. When finals are over, you should not be finding yourself in a Big Gulp anymore. It’s like how a holiday is one day but people gain eight pounds over the “holidays.” Uhhh…no. You might gain like, a pound this week but it’ll fall right back off again when life returns to normal. And your hard-earned muscles aren’t going anywhere! Just promise yourself — and me — that you’ll return to your healthy ways as soon as soon as you’ve turned in your last final, drunken yourself into a celebratory oblivion, had a hangover breakfast, packed up your dorm room with your mom, headed home, and had a good night’s sleep in your own bed.
  • Rule #7: Do not use that as an excuse to be all, “Let’s get nachos! I’m totally starting my diet when I get home for the summer!” Um, nope. Sorry. See rule #1. When in doubt…always see rule #1.
  • Rule #8: Wear jeans. Hands down, this is my best tip ever. (Well actually, “Don’t be ridiculous” is my best tip ever. But this is a close second.) I know it’s finals week and you want to be comfy, so wear jeans three times during the week. Good compromise?

I think that the most important thing is that finals week (Or any stressful time really! Fashion Week for assistants is like finals week in stilettos…) is that it’s what YOU make of it. That’s what I didn’t get before. I always just gave up before I had even tried. Nope. You got this! Just be truthful with yourself and I promise you will know when to couch it and when you need to get in motion.

You can be a smarty pants without being a smarty elastic-waist pants.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julia May 11, 2010 at 9:34 am

Ok, friend, you might have written this one for me! Although I don’t go bat-shit crazy and only eat totally ridiculous things during finals, I’m definitely not at my best! I couldn’t agree more with tip #2 – if you can manage to do a few little things to take care of yourself and feel human, it goes a long way! Yesterday, I did Core Fusion Pilates Plus for the first time in weeks and although my legs were shaking so badly, I felt great after and I didn’t feel sluggish for my final later in the evening!

Maybe this will seem superficial, but I think there is something important about your appearance and how it relates to what you eat, too. After my CF session, I took a shower (which is a major accomplishment during finals week) and put on real clothes (not Hardtails), and I made a real lunch because I felt I was already up and dressed and tackling the day. If I had stayed in my yoga pants and not washed my hair, I probably would have been more inclined to eat something sort of crappy/quick while I still was sitting in bed reading over my study guide.


2 Rachel May 11, 2010 at 9:36 am

Friend, I DID write it for you!! You know, it’s so funny because I ALMOST said something about how you should wash your hair and get dressed and I was like, “Ugh, I don’t want to give them more pressure, finals week is an excuse to let yourself go…” but I TOTALLY agree that if you let your appearance go, you tend to let it ALL go.

I’m so proud of you for being awesome in grad school and having three degrees by age 24…AND having abs. <3


3 Lexie May 11, 2010 at 9:51 am

I’m lucky. I end up losing weight during finals week because my job requires me to run around and deliver exams all day. Thank goodness! A great tip for not gaining weight during finals week is also to not procrastinate. Oh wait, that will never happen.
.-= Lexie´s last blog ..Blog Cheating =-.


4 Jen May 11, 2010 at 10:16 am

Great post. I just finished finals, and I feel the added cushioning. Sigh…


5 Nikki May 11, 2010 at 10:33 am

This is what I’ve been trying to achieve. The first sign of failure and I throw in the towel and eat the whole bag of cookies. I’m having a stressful week this week and I just need to remember to do what I can for where I am. Thanks so much for this post. It’s really helping me get more perspective on how to be balanced.
.-= Nikki´s last blog ..Nice and Cannes in pictures =-.


6 Rachel Marlena May 11, 2010 at 10:45 am

OMG can you please post a variation on this sayyyyy once a week? In THREE weeks I am moving 2000 miles away from everyone in my life to start the most ridiculous graduate school ever. So between packing, moving, saying goodbyes, taking out six digits of student loan debt, and oh yeah, stressing about SUCCEEDING it has kind of been like “gym? …who has time for the gym? I think I’ll just eat six mini reese’s instead.”

This was a much needed reminder and you always strike a perfect balance between legit advice and comedy. Great job, girl!



7 Diane May 11, 2010 at 10:46 am

STORY OF MY LIFE. Thanks for the great reminders! I didn’t eat all day during work and followed the extreme hanger with a quesadilla and large cheese fries … don’t be ridiculous.


8 Kaitlin May 11, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Um, this was seriously one of your best posts, ever. And it totally applies to life outside of college as well. Thank you for this!


9 Ashley May 11, 2010 at 4:07 pm

“I know…I know…but honestly, most of my problems in life could have been solved if someone had just said those three words to me.) ”

Story of my liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiife, too!

I totally agree with all of your points, but especially wearing jeans. If you wearing something loose, you’re gonna let go and be a blob, because you didn’t have any constricting clothing telling you to do otherwise!
.-= Ashley´s last blog ..Restaurant review (and advice!): Greek Garden, Orange Park, Fla. =-.


10 Jenn May 12, 2010 at 12:11 am

Ashley beat me to it, but I wanted to comment as well, that I loved your advice on wearing jeans for the holidays, and I love seeing it again. I actually do it whenever I’m feeling low on the self-control. It’s so easy to snack my day away while working from home in PJ’s…jeans just make you aware!


11 Rachel May 12, 2010 at 9:13 am

Jenn I’ve started wearing jeans again every day since you reminded me in my “Ugh I gain weight in the summer” post!!


12 Lauren May 13, 2010 at 1:52 am

Why are did I only read this today when finals are over tomorrow? I headed over to your site to take a break from studying and catch up on some posts and I come across the best advice to get through everything I’ve been thinking about all week!
This will DEFINITELY be bookmarked/saved/whatever so come December I can be all over it, making sure I soak these tips in BEFORE finals!
Great post!


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