Staying healthy while living in a big city can be a struggle. Trust me, I’ve lived in big cities since graduating college. It’s a struggle to eat well when you’re surrounded by more than just fast food and chain restaurants. It’s a struggle not to go out with your friends two or three nights a week and have a beer and glass of wine or two — plus a late night run to grab a burger and fries from your favorite late-night go-to (mine is Whataburger). It’s a struggle to buy healthy foods when living expenses are high.
It’s a struggle, I tell you, and I totally get it.
And yet, I’m always trying to work on eating healthier and staying active. Living in my third big city in the last eight years, I think I’ve finally figure out some tricks and tips on ways I can maintain healthy living while city living and I’d like to share those ideas with you.
Eating healthy without breaking the bank
What I put in my body is a big factor for me (and should be for anyone) when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Yes, I’m sort of trying to lose weight, but I’m always more concerned that I’m nourishing my body with foods that will benefit me in the long run.
When I lived in Oklahoma City, my rent was $400 and my bills totaled less than $200, so I was able to afford buying all organic food from Whole Foods. Then I moved to Los Angeles, and later Dallas, and realized that buying all organic was not a possibility for me anymore as the cost-of-living is significantly higher in those cities. So then, how do I eat healthy now?
I still have a largely vegetable-based diet with some meat thrown in here and there (I’m trying to cut out carbs and be more gluten-free which seems to help a lot), but now rather than just shopping at Whole Foods, I actually shop at three different stores. It might sound insane to go to three different grocery stores to buy food, but I’m actually able to save a lot and get a lot more healthier food for what I pay for.
This is what I do:
- I got to the 99 cent store and look for personal and paper goods items. Most everything there is $1-$3 so rather than paying $5 for a 12-pack of toilet paper, I’m getting it for $3. Sometimes, I even buy my fruits and vegetables there too. I recently bought a large package of blueberries for $2.50 rather than $6.00. I got spaghetti squash for a $1 (not $1/lb, just $1). Unfortunately, you can’t rely on them having vegetables and fruits that you want every time and sometimes they don’t have a good batch, so by going there, I’m able to figure out what I need at the remaining stores.
- I then go to Whole Foods and buy organic fruits and vegetables that are well-price. Though not all of my fruits and vegetables are organic by the end of the day, I think buying at least half is a good compromise until I’m able to once again spend more money on my food.
- Following that, I head over to Wal-Mart to buy my meat and anything else I was unable to get at the other two stores. I usually buy my meat at Wal-Mart because they do provide organic meats or free range chicken for a cheaper price than what Whole Foods does.
2. The temptation of restaurants
I’m big on cooking homemade meals. For one, it helps me save money, and for two, I’m able to cook healthy meals. I try to limit eating out to once or twice a week. Yes, it’s easier to go get a burrito from Taco Bueno, but at the end of the day, eating out every day or every other day isn’t worth the price I’d pay (whether it be financially or health-wise).
3. I work out!
With so much going on in the city, it can sometimes be hard for people to schedule time to work out. Heck, I live in Texas, so in the summers when it’s over 100 degrees, I don’t like the prospect of running outside next to the burning asphalt or in between buildings that seem to retain heat.
However, within the last few months, I’ve figure out a way to work out more consistently. With living in the city, I get the opportunity of having hundreds, if not thousands, of gyms and workout centers all around me. Beyond regular gyms with weight and cardio equipment, there’s also barre classes, Crossfit gyms, yoga classes, spin classes, dance classes, boxing workouts, outdoor fitness classes, plus many more.
The cool thing that I (and a friend of mine) started to notice is that all of these gyms or fitness classes want YOU to come to their gym or fitness class and sign a membership with them. To entice you to do that, they usually offer a free class or week of classes. So for the last few months, I’ve been taking advantage of those free classes and trying different gyms. Now, I know I’m playing the system a bit, but who knows — I might find a place that I fall in love with and commit to.
I also found that some gyms and fitness classes offer free community events at parks or hotels for which I sign up for. Or they provide a $5 class. I can totally do $5! Better yet, there’s a few parks that have free weekly fitness classes that I take advantage of too! I also signed up for ClassPass which gave me 5 classes at different gyms and classes throughout the city for $19 for my first month. Talk about a deal. Did I mention that every single one of those ClassPass classes kicked my butt? They were diverse workouts that were fun and difficult — exactly what I need to continue my workout regimen. (Meetup and Groupon are other great places to look for free or reduced workouts)
So it takes a bit of research to find these opportunities, but for the most part, I’m able to change up my workout routine weekly and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. It’s a definite healthy living perk to city living that you shouldn’t pass up.
4. Walk your ass off
Go to Europe and you’ll see that everyone walks everywhere! A 30-minute walk to a bar is nothing for them. In the U.S., we’re pretty lazy. Yes, there’s those people in East Coast cities who walk a lot — NYC, Boston, Washington D.C. — but I’d wager that most Americans don’t walk around their city.
I used to be one of those Americans! I used to work down the street from my apartment in Oklahoma City but did I ever walk or bike to work? Nope.
It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I actually started walking a bit more. I learned that parts of Los Angeles are walkable and that it was a lot easier to just walk where I needed to go than to take my car and pay exorbitant fees for parking. When I moved to Dallas, I moved into the downtown area. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by a ton of different, fun neighborhoods that are super easy to walk to or bike to and I make it a point to walk to the bar or the park rather than drive.
That way, I’m burning calories, getting exercise, and enjoying the open air and what’s more healthy, city living than that?