The thing they don’t tell you: You can be healthy in college.
Being a vegetarian for 6 years has taught me a thing or two about watching what I put into my body. I’m also an athlete and want to play the best that I can. It became increasingly hard to eat well and stay in shape when I started college. Everyone warns of the dreaded “freshman fifteen,” but truth is, it’s not that hard to avoid — I actually lost weight my freshman year.
Now that I’m a junior, I’ve lived on and off campus and experienced an array of college cuisine. Granted, living off campus, you have far more food options than on campus, but it’s still doable. I learned quickly that while it’s still important what you eat, far more important is how much you eat and when. There are plenty of calorie counting apps out there, and yes it’s a hassle, but it is a good starting point. My freshman year I used an app called Loseit. This app is cool because you can both scan bar codes and create common meals so it’s easier to enter. Start by recording what you eat for a couple weeks and once you figure out portion sizes, you can stop using it. If you’re eating at the dining hall, focus on at least half your plate being vegetables. If you happen to be a vegetarian like me, make sure you’re eating the right amount of protein to keep your body functioning in peak condition.
Another college problem is the schedule. Classes all day, meetings and maybe work and sports at night, leave little time for a sit down meal. But while it’s hard to eat during the day, eating too late at night is not good for you. The later you eat, the less time your body has to work off what you ate. Keep that in mind when you’re going for a midnight snack.
A plus side (though many people disagree) to living on campus is that you get to walk everywhere. This isn’t always ideal when it’s flash flooding, but when the sunshine state decides to be the sunshine state, walking is great. When walking to and from class on an average day I would rack up around 8,000 steps or four miles! The extra few hundred calories this burns definitely adds up over time.
The gym is another resource that should be utilized frequently — your tuition is already paying for it. Even a short 30-minute workout is better than nothing, and you’ll feel so much more energized after you do. If you aren’t into the gym, there’s also intramural and club sports (join the hockey team!) or even working out at home. There are plenty of home workouts online and on Pinterest, plus follow-along programs like Zumba and Insanity. Just get out and move.
And finally, you can’t forget sleep. I am a huge advocate for sleep. The average college student gets around 6 hours a night when you really need more than eight. Lack of sleep accumulates, making it harder to focus, decreases immune system efficiency, and even affects your weight. While it’s not always possible, getting more sleep will always be more successful than pulling an all-nighter.
So while it’s easy to get caught up in the physically and emotionally strenuous college life, the important thing is to take a step back and remember to take care of yourself. You can only work so hard before you need to replenish.
Be kind to you.