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.