11/09/2011 07:37 am ET Updated Jan 09, 2012

A Healthy Lifestyle for the Recent Graduate on a Budget

I've always been well aware of the benefits of exercise and healthy eating. As I transition through life, my solutions to these needs change and I'm forced to adapt to life's circumstances. Now as a recent college graduate, I'm no health expert but I do know which health techniques may prove to be beneficial for a recent graduate on a budget. After all I've lived through it. As I'm sure most recent college graduates would agree that the transition from school to the real world can be stressful, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't be healthy. It may require a different routine.

As an undergraduate, I often compensated for lack of gym involvement by walking to and from campus. This method of exercise was simple, yet effective and it got me where I wanted to go. As I began to expand my horizons and explore my college campus I began to learn more about the free exercise classes that were offered. My natural curiosity for exercise routes such as Pilates, Zumba, and Kickboxing kept me coming back week after week. Because they all were group exercises I could also bring all my friends along. Score! With my curiosity and friends by my side I began to shed the pounds. My body looked and felt great and best of all it was all free of charge!

Now fast forward six months later. As a recent graduate I was living at home with a very limited disposable amount of income. To complicate matters, my mother, proud of all my accomplishments made it a point to fix all my favorite southern foods: Steak, homemade macaroni and cheese, and rolls all slavered in gravity. "Real food!" I thought, much better than the food I ate on a daily basis at school. As the stress of the job search escalated I found myself spending more time behind the computer crunching though job applications. I was walking less and eating more. It was time to get back in shape. I managed to imitate a few yoga exercises I picked up during my last year in college, which did eventually help to ease the job application process. In addition, to exercise I began to eat a variety of baked foods.

After landing my first job out of college my heath slowly began to decline, once again I was spending most of my time behind a computer and I was back to eating fried foods on my lunch hour. Pretty soon my jeans began to feel tight and the constant feeling of sluggishness began to consume my thoughts, and to complicate matters even farther the daily lunch hour runs to the nearest restaurant were beginning to burn holes in my wallet. It was time for a change and this is how I did it:

  • Exercise at Home. As recent graduate money is sometimes scarce, so a gym membership may not always been an option. In order to compensate for my lack of cash at the time I began to look online and on the television for free work out videos. My personal favorite is the Comcast Exercise TV network found On Demand. This exercise option is free of charge for cable users and there's a variety of exercise routes to choose from.
  • Bring a Bag Lunch Mama was right! Bringing my lunch and not only increased my amount of disposable income it also helped me to eat healthier. Generally lunch usually consisted of a healthy sandwich or a lean low carb, low sodium microwavable meal. As a recent graduate the boost in disposable income was a plus!
  • Snack Between Meals I ate breakfast at work and then I would eat a healthy snack between breakfast, lunch, and dinner in order to avoid eating so much.
  • Take the stairs This may seem like a given, but you'd be surprised at the added steps will add to your stamina.
  • Eat Smaller Portions If you do decide to go to your favorite sub sandwich opt for a smaller portion, or maybe a healthier selection. The smaller portion is usually the cheapest.
  • Keep Track of Calories Document all the foods that you consume throughout the day to get some idea of your calorie intake.

After only a few weeks of repeating this route I began to see the results in my clothes and energy levels, and I began to feel just as I did in college. Everyday I'm closer and closer to mastering my new routine. I think it's a keeper.