Ahhh, college. Often referred to as the “best four years of your life” by some. It’s also know for the time when you gain the “freshman 15”. Although there are many factors that can potentially add on the pounds (such as free pizza everywhere, nights out with friends followed by the obligatory trip to McDonalds, and many hours sitting and studying), college does not automatically have to be associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. I managed to participate in all of the classic college festivities while maintaining my weight and having fun. Here are some of my tips for doing so:
Fuel yourself with nourishing meals
If you’re in the dorms, try to choose healthy options most of the time. This means getting back to the basics: make half your plate fruits and/or vegetables (NOT French fries or any other form of fried potato); choose whole grains over white; lean proteins such as grilled chicken, fish, beans, and nuts; and low-fat cheese, yogurt and milk. Make sure to include the occasional treat (my favorite was a small bowl of soft serve with hot fudge) once a day or so to keep you from feeling deprived.
If you’re in an apartment, it’ll take you a little more effort since you’ll need to shop and prepare the food you want to eat. This is where meal prepping can come in handy.
No matter what, plan ahead and think about when and what you will be eating. Don’t skip meals and pack healthy snacks to have on hand when hunger strikes. Doing so will prevent you from coming home starving at the end of the day and eating everything in sight. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it is also not good for your health.
Be mindful of fluid calories
Alcohol has calories…a lot. Yeah, I hate this fact too. It can be especially difficult since social life in college often includes adult beverages. Buuuut, I’m going to tell you something you probably won’t believe: drink it if you want (and if your legal, of course). However, I’m not saying you should go buck wild Thursday-Saturday night each week. One or two nights a week is fine, but more than that can have a detrimental effect on your waistline. Go out, and have fun on the weekend, but supplement that with healthy decisions throughout the rest of the week. Also, keep in mind how you feel the day after to keep yourself reined in. Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you did end up overdoing it the night before. Starving yourself because you ate or drank too much will only backfire and cause you to overeat later on in the day, reinstating the vicious cycle. Instead, get up, eat a nourishing breakfast, go get your sweat on (even if it’s a slow, sub-par workout, it’ll make you feel a ton better, I promise) and get right back on the healthy train.
Get enough Zzz’s
Something that is unheard of in college: SLEEP! Ok, I get it because I’ve been there (I held two jobs, was the president of my sorority, and was a full-time student remember?) so I’m not going to preach to you that you should get 8 hours every night. Not realistic. However, I think students should prioritize sleep more than they do. I’m someone who physically can’t work off of little sleep every night and I’ve never pulled an all-nighter. I know staying up all night won’t benefit me because after 11pm I check out and can’t retain any information anyways. It’s better to just go to sleep, wake up refreshed and resume studying the next morning when I can actually process the stuff I’m looking at. Many people think they can function off of little sleep, when in reality, their body is crying out for more. Too little sleep can derail your healthy living efforts in a major way. Feeling tired can cause one to skip their scheduled workout, crave and eat less healthy, calorie-dense foods and much more. So remember, sleep doesn’t just affect how tired you feel in the morning, it is a powerful component of your food choices and activity levels.
I love, love, LOVED being on campus because I had the ability to walk everywhere. Even on the days I didn’t have a “formal workout”, I still got a lot of steps in just by walking to and from classes and back to my apartment. Besides walking my butt off, I took advantage of my university’s recreation center . They had tons of cardio and weight equipment, group exercise classes, basketball courts, etc. so there was something for everyone.
In addition, I kept a pair of dumbbells (one light and one heavy set) at my apartment as well as a yoga mat so I could workout from home when I didn’t want to make the trek across campus to the gym. I own a couple of workout DVD’s and tried YouTube workouts on occasion too. Fitness Blender has a wide variety of awesome workouts you can do from the comfort of your own living room with little to no equipment. In addition, as a hard-core power yoga lover, I took advantage of the free yoga podcasts on iTunes at least once or twice a week since I didn’t have the ability, time or money to join a yoga studio. My favorites were (and still are) “Power Yoga with Dave Farmer”, “Lean Power Yoga” and “Power Yoga with Nikki Wong”.
The main point I’m trying to convey, is move anyway you can and choose something you enjoy doing. Even if that means taking a walk during the break between classes instead of sitting down in the union to Facebook creep. Every little bit really does count!
Remember, no one is perfect and as a college student, you have more important things to worry about than being healthy ALL THE TIME. Also remember, that you only live once and that college is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (hopefully…) so have fun and enjoy it. Go out with friends, eat drunk food, have lazy movie marathon days, and don’t worry about it or beat yourself up about it. Just wake up the next day and get right back on track!