How to Survive Prison: How to Eat Right and Stay Fit in Prison
Eat, Exercise, Endure
Television and Hollywood often depicts prisoners as rough-and-tough men with little to do behind bars but pump weights and work out. But did you know that more than 70% of American adults in and out of prison today are considered above the weight that is healthy for them?
In order to survive incarceration, prisoners must know how to eat right and stay fit. In the Prisoner Survival Guide, we look at the different ways you can maintain a healthy lifestyle behind bars. Through diet and exercise, prisoners can endure incarceration and learn healthy habits for life on the outside.
HOW TO EAT RIGHT IN PRISON
Not everything—eating, for example—will be the same in prison as on the outside. But we will talk about learning discipline and values during your imprisonment that you carry over and use in the real world.
Let's start with food, which in prison is never five-star. Remember, the average taxpayer is buying your dinner every night you are behind bars. Remember, too, that many of them may be working long hours to put spaghetti, beans, rice, or mashed potatoes on the table for their own family, so don't look for them to serve up steak and lobster for you. With the state footing the food bill, you will be fed as economically as possible. You are going to see a lot of starchy carbohydrates and greasy fat, but less protein.
Carbs and fats cost less.
Even so, you can survive on prison food. You just need to learn to supplement and control your intake of foods that both dietitians and doctors agree can harm your body over time. That usually means replacing some chow hall visits with "home cooking" from the commissary supplies stored in your locker.
Many commissaries today sell multiple vitamin products. Consider using these daily, not just in prison, but on the outside as well. We seldom get all the needed nutrients through regular eating, no matter how careful we are. Make sure you drink enough water, especially during the summer or after a physical workout. Our bodies are largely water, and we need to replace fluids that are lost and to flush our systems. Keep drinking it when released; it's just a good life habit.
HOW TO EAT RIGHT IN PRISON
Prisoners spend too much time just lying around. Do that in prison long enough, and you will develop a bad habit that will carry over to your life after prison. The human body needs exercise. "Use it or lose it," some say. Our bodies are strongest and healthiest when we force them, through exercise, to work harder than at rest.
There are three different types of useful exercise, and each can be done in prison as well as on the outside—stretching, resistance, and aerobic.
Stretching exercises extend you various bending points for mobility and flexibility, lower the risk of muscle strain, and help with balance.
Resistance exercises build muscle. If your correctional facility has a weight room, use it. If not, simple resistance activities—such as push-ups and sit-ups—can be done in your cell or on the yard.
Aerobic exercises get your heart and lungs pumping. It’s good to do an activity such as walking or jogging for at least 20 minutes.
Eating properly and getting regular exercise are two important ways to not only make it through a prison sentence but to also build a pattern of good habits to follow on the outside. And strong and healthy habits can make or break a prisoner's reentry.
More than 700,000 prisoners will walk out of the front gates of U.S. prisons this year, either on parole or with their sentences completed. Yet studies show more than half of these will return to jail or prison because of parole violations or having committed new crimes within two or three years of their release.
Apparently, we can survive prison but not freedom.
Prisoners must learn to eat right, stay fit, and endure in prison. We should all want to be a "former prisoner" for the rest of our lives.