How motivation can help you achieve your dream body

Georgia state student starts off his workout with stretching in the weight room. Photo by Sylvester Silver III | The Signal

An old soccer coach once told me, “Espen, you need to treat your body like a Ferrari: Sure, you exercise a lot now, but if you don’t eat right, think of it as putting s—– gasoline into your dream sports car.”

He was right.

I never quite understood what he meant until the summer of my freshman year at Georgia State. After a long spring semester, I returned home and was horrified by what I saw in the mirror: 20 to 25 pounds overweight, I could not believe I had let myself go like that and proceeded to spend that entire summer working off my newfound blubber.

I could have felt sorry for myself and simply let it get worse, but I wanted to be proud of my body. And at the end of the day, it was entirely my fault.

After playing soccer and basketball my entire life, freshman year brought my fitness routine to an abrupt end. Suddenly, I was only exercising once or twice a week.

In high school, between practices, games and personal workouts, not a day went by without some sort of strenuous workout. I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain a pound, which I was rather proud of. But I began spending the majority of my days in my dorm room, either watching Netflix or taking naps.

The dining hall food I scarfed down did not help, either. In hindsight, I should have sought out a nutritionist or something because I was one unhealthy specimen. 

Like many, I lacked motivation to get in the gym or go for a run and paid a heavy price for that. 

So, what can you do to avoid that “freshman 15” and keep your body in pristine shape? Allow Tobi Olajide to explain and, hopefully, motivate you to set up a new routine.   

Olajide is a senior at Georgia State. Like so many, freshman year opened his eyes to fitness and motivated him to reverse his weight gain.

“So, summer of freshman year, I saw a picture of myself,” he said. “I told myself, ‘this cannot be it,’ and started eating better.”

For Olajide, the freshman 15 trap was difficult to avoid.

“[The freshman 15] was really bad for me,” he said. “The dining halls and the 24-hour system got me.”

This year, Olajide has begun to workout religiously. His routine is intense and well-regulated, typically starting before the sun comes up.

“I normally work out about five to six times a week,” he said. “I wake up at 5 [a.m.], head out around 5:30 and get to the gym by 6. I work out for an hour and leave around 7:30.” 

Olajide also has plans to become vegan. This is something he is excited to try. 

“I was talking to a lot of people about [going vegan],” he said. “They showed me different ways to get my protein in, and I decided I wanted to give it a try.” 

For Olajide, the motivation to exercise on a regular basis and watch what he eats is easy to channel.

“For one thing, I like the way I look in clothes now,” he said. “I like being able to run a mile and not feel out of breath, and I think it is a good thing to stay in shape. Your body should be your number one priority.”

Olajide believes your college years are critical to a healthy body later in life. Without the proper exercise and dieting in college, he believes that many may regret it down the line.

“Now is the best time to worry about staying fit,” he said. “When you are 40 or 50, you will not have as much incentive to do it. So, I think now is the time to lay out that foundation and start taking care of yourself so you don’t have to worry about it later.” 

Olajide took the right steps to improve his look, something that is not only important for your self image but your body’s overall health as well.

“It is important to eat well and exercise to help prevent any negative health outcomes, such as chronic disease,” Leslie Knapp, associate director of student nutrition services at Georgia State, said.

Knapp, like Olajide, believes that college is the perfect time for students to build a foundation for a healthy life.

“College is a wonderful time to start making intentional and beneficial long-term life habits,” she said. “Taking the time to cultivate these behaviors now can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle after college, helping you stay on track with your health and wellness.” 

Weight gain in college-age students is common, Knapp said. She believes students can easily manage their time to make sure exercise and wellness is a priority.

“The transition into college, especially during the first year, can be very challenging,” she said. “Students are focused on school, making new friends, balancing finances and navigating a new schedule, resulting in less focus on planning meals, thinking about food choices for the day or being active.”

It is important for students to plan out time for healthy habits, Knapp said. 

“Making consistent choices is a huge factor for preventing weight gain,” Knapp said. “Prioritizing exercise, consistent meals during the day, hydration and a balanced diet can help prevent drastic weight change, and help you maintain your weight.” 

According to Knapp, taking the right steps to watch your weight and stay active are critical in preventing major health issues later in life. Let your diet and exercise routines go to waste in college, you could see negative effects on your body soon after.

“Weight change, in general, can have negative health risks,” she said. “We often focus on weight gain being a concern for our health, and it absolutely can have negative health risks.”