“All-in” lifestyles surrounding students and the fitness industry are a dangerous mix

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By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor

Students often find themselves living a life on the extreme side of a continuum. Sacrifices made for good grades and academic success often involve trading sleep for coffee, physical activity for hours at a desk and interpersonal connections with endless citations.

It can be seemingly impossible to find balance with so many tasks, leaving little chance for a lifestyle of moderation. It is difficult to accept, but it often seems like a necessary sacrifice at this point in one’s life to foster further success down the road.

The fitness industry, on the other hand, perpetuates another extreme type of lifestyle that is the exact opposite of educational institutions.

Instead of readings and calculations, this industry can project that excessive exercise and strict, often dangerous, diets are the keys to flawless aesthetics and health. 

Instead of readings and calculations, this industry can project that excessive exercise and strict, often dangerous, diets are the keys to flawless aesthetics and health. 

SlimFast, for example, preaches meal replacements that are laden with sugar and sodium and can worsen one’s health in the long run. Moreover, many used to praise the show “The Biggest Loser” for transforming the lives of overweight individuals.

However, they did not realize that contestants completely destroyed their metabolisms through excessive movement and extremely low-calorie diets. 

The media is actually leading us to pursue dangerously unsustainable and unhealthy lifestyles in pursuit of better health.

What we see on social media especially seems to portray the “perfect” body, constructed through rigorous workout routines and diligent dedication to certain lifestyle regimes. Although we are seeing an increasing number of honest influencers trying to make a “fit lifestyle” seem more accessible to the average person, many still associate being fit with having to give up any normalcy or moderation in their lifestyle.

It is difficult to believe the likes of Kayla Itsines, who preaches listening to your body alongside a moderation in both exercise and nutrition pursuits, when most bodybuilders do not disclose their regimens, making it seem like their constant posts of lifting heavy weights and limiting diets are the keys to a good physique.

As a result, it seems as if there is little room for other hobbies or priorities in one’s life if you are to meet the standards of fitness that society has created. What happens when these two extremes meet? 

What happens when these two extremes meet? 

If students, most of which are already making sacrifices in various areas of life for their education also feel the need to do so for their health and wellness, then they will inevitably perpetuate the consequences of these extreme lifestyles even more.

If a student now decides that they must maintain a 12.0 GPA, intensive extracurriculars and obtain the best physical physique and overall health possible, there is little room for leisure.

Interpersonal relationships are pushed to the side, motivation and enthusiasm for life become strained and physical and mental health suffer immensely.

Furthermore, consider what happens to students as they succumb to the traps of the fitness industry. Adopting the “no-pain-no-gain” mentality is a poor decision for anyone, as it can significantly increase the stress on one’s body and mind.

For students especially, many are already perpetually sleep-deprived and have full schedules; having to put copious amounts of effort into workout or diet routines would only add to the physiological and psychological stress.

Moreover, focusing on aesthetics rather than health, as the fitness industry attempts to make us do, can lead one to try products like detox teas, waist trainers and others.

These can harm one’s physical body and also cause significant guilt if one cannot attain the “goal body” they want. Add all these pursuits on top of a school or general workload and one experiences undue amounts of stress that can severely impact their mental health.

These can harm one’s physical body and also cause significant guilt if one cannot attain the “goal body” they want. Add all these pursuits on top of a school or general workload and one experiences undue amounts of stress that can severely impact their mental health. 

Student-athletes especially must maintain excellent academic standards to play their sport at the collegiate level. There is insurmountable pressure to meet the standards of “perfection” for both educational and wellness lifestyles.

While some could argue that excellent time management skills can balance these two priorities, others see the stress that these athletes exhibit. Having to prioritize two major sectors of life means having to give up relationships, career advancement and other variables that contribute to our holistic view of life.

What is the takeaway from this? Firstly, students have to appreciate that they are in a season of their life where it is difficult to balance more than one paramount in their life.

While it can be a difficult pill to swallow, students need to take a more intensive approach towards their studies and other priorities, such as paying for their education, as opposed to falling into the many traps of the fitness industry.

Secondly, we need to beware of lifestyles where there is no possibility for moderation. It is the simple concept of an opportunity cost: in order to do more of something, we have to give something else up.

We should ensure that we scrutinize the value of what we are putting in and taking out of our life to ensure that we are contributing to a more positive lifestyle.

Overall, there can never be true, holistic happiness in any lifestyle of extremes, especially when they are compounded together. We need to appreciate that we have different focuses in varying areas of life as we move through its seasons.

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