Illustrations by Ryan Snook

Busy alumni, a mental health professional and a dietitian agree that there is not just one definition of healthy living. Each individual has to define their own goals and priorities for how they will live a life that balances mental, physical and emotional well-being. Here are some essentials they’ve learned in their pursuit of a healthy life.  

Pursuing Happiness

Jarvis Miller ’16, a data scientist at BuzzFeed in Los Angeles, defines a healthy life as “being happy and content with the decisions I’m making.” 

If necessary, reboot your career direction
After Rice, Miller entered a doctoral program in statistics, which left him feeling dissatisfied, alone and unhappy. But he thought it was what he “should be doing.” Several months after quitting his Ph.D. program and moving to LA for a new data scientist job at BuzzFeed, Miller says he is much happier. 

Expand your friend network
After moving to LA, Miller attended a couple of tech events to meet new people. He also used the best friends feature on the Bumble app to look for guys who had also just moved to the city and wanted to explore. Through the app, Miller found a few friends to hang out with every week.

Fitting it in

Lauren Heller ’17, an investment banking analyst in Houston, maintains a healthy lifestyle by focusing on what’s in her control with a demanding work schedule. 

Work out when it works for you
Since Heller works 70–100 hours a week, she’s accepted that her sleep schedule and work routine are out of her control. She packs a healthy breakfast and lunch every day and tries to work out at night after dinner before returning to the office. 

“It’s hard leaving your really close friends and keeping in touch with people.” Heller schedules outings on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, when she is sure that she’ll have time off.

Befriending Routines

Olivia Hsia ’17, a KIPP graduate teaching fellow in Houston, maintains a healthy life by being disciplined and trying new routines.  Here are her tips.

Cut yourself some slack
“I hate cooking. I despise being in a kitchen, but eating well is obviously a super important part of being healthy.” Though not the most cost-effective option, Hsia buys prepackaged salads and meals to avoid the hassle. 

Make workouts easy
“I eventually figured out that I need to have all of my [workout] equipment already in the car. I even bag up my workout clothes each week.”

Try something new …
“The postcollege years are a chance to join new gyms, take classes and find something you really like. All of a sudden old friends are traveling the country to go rock climbing or run their first triathlon.”

… or swim in the familiar
“Because I stayed in Houston, I kept up with some familiar activities, like Rice’s master’s swimming team. It’s an adult swim team that I joined in college, and I continue to go almost every day.”

Consider hiring a trainer
“Obviously this isn’t for everyone, but for me it was an intentional decision that has helped me get so much better at weightlifting and also helped me save time at the gym.” 

Mix it up
ClassPass and trial gym memberships make it really easy to try different workout routines. 

A Life Balance 

Chas Taylor ’17, a first-year law student at the University of Chicago, believes that the key to a healthy life lies in keeping his relationships well balanced. “A healthy life is one in which we establish rhythms that allow us to flourish in our most fundamental relationships.”

Seek balance
Taylor says law school has shown him that he can push himself academically, but he makes sure that school doesn’t overwhelm the other parts of his life. 

“I need to be careful that by pushing my limits as a student, or an attorney, I am not sacrificing my responsibility and cherished identity as a husband or child of God.”

Prioritize relationships
“A healthy life means that eventually I need to be content with a ‘lower rank’ academically or professionally in order to thrive holistically.”

Embracing Perspective

Tahir Malik ’17, a second-year medical student at Baylor College of Medicine, stays healthy by embracing perspective and making the most out of his free time.   

Set realistic goals
Malik is currently on rotation at Texas Children’s Hospital, where he is working on the 19th floor. Because his 10- to 14-hour days make it challenging to work out, he chooses to take the stairs. On his off days, he tries to live a more active lifestyle and heads to the gym. 

Keep doing the small things that are important to you
On Friday nights, Malik says he stops studying and heads to the Burger Joint or goes for a run.

Cultivating Resilience

Timothy Baumgartner, a licensed psychologist, is the director of Rice’s Student Wellbeing Office. He defines resilience as the ability to recover from failure.

“When people come up against meeting a task that seems really large, what do they do then? Do they give up? Do they panic? Do they define it as a crisis? Or are they able to find a way to recommit to the task and maybe back up a few feet and look for other resources?” Baumgartner asks. “Just because it’s hard or I fell down doesn’t mean I can’t get back up and accomplish this. It’s a product of having survived failure in the past. If we can’t fail, we can’t be resilient.”


  • Work with a mental health professional
    Baumgartner says therapy can be a great way to develop resilience. “There is something very unique in seeing a mental health professional. They’re not holding any personal agenda, they’re just there to help you develop.”
  • Normalize difficulty
    Baumgartner says emotional pain, whether from a broken relationship or failed task, doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. “Not all intense emotional difficulty represents failure.”
  • Give back
    Be kind to yourself and others. “When you authentically do something for someone, even anonymously, it takes you out of yourself in ways that are very freeing. It allows you to realize that you’re adding to the overall good.”

Resources Recommended by Fellow Owls:

Healthy Eating

Dietician Rhea Li is a nutrition consultant at the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center. She understands that all the advice around health food fads and diets can be confusing. We asked her for the nutritional scoop on a few millennial meal staples. Here, Li takes aim at a few myths — and suggests ways to season your diet with a dash of healthful knowledge. 

They’re full of dietary cholesterol — and healthful nutrients. According to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, moderate egg consumption — up to one egg a day — is not associated with increased heart disease. Li follows the “moderation is key” guideline. “For those who love eggs on a daily basis, I have recommended one egg a day, whether in recipes or on their own.”

Delivered Meal Kits
The calorie count in meal kits can be as high as 700–800 calories, but they should be 600–700 calories per meal, at most. She recommends choosing lower-fat options when selecting meals and making meals without added sauces. Use healthy oils instead of butter and milk instead of heavy cream in kit recipes. 

Avocado Toast
Li says avocados have good fats, but their healthfulness depends on how much avocado you put on your toast. She says that one-third of an avocado is a good serving size. 

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