The freshman fifteen may not be a myth, but I wasn’t told that every following year has a little weight gain as well. Between alcohol, delivery restaurants that stay open until 3 a.m., and your only exercise being the walk to class, it’s no surprise that college is not the best time for your body. Having personally had my ups and downs, I’ve learned that the key to being healthy in college is not putting too much pressure on yourself. This is not the time to be counting calories and exercising all the time. If you put too much stress on being in perfect shape, you’ll drive yourself crazy and miss out on some of the best things about college. The real trick is learning moderation and finding a balance. I am not pretending to be an expert on the subject, and it is a really difficult plan to stick to, but I will share the routine that I found most successful.
Know When And How To Eat Well
I’ve gone back and forth between being healthy and being totally horrible to my body, and I’ve learned from both. After a lot of research online and general knowledge, I have found the best foods to eat, as well as the worst. More importantly, however, I’ve learned a couple rules that will make eating well a little easier.
Don’t skip breakfast:
Ya, ya, ya, you’ve heard that one a million times, but only because it really is that important. As a college student, you are going to need energy for the day and the healthiest way to go about that is by eating breakfast. Breakfast will get you through the morning without craving pizza or Cheetos on the way to class ( my personal weaknesses).
Don’t censor your breakfast, either. If you are not a breakfast person, then you aren’t going to want your average eggs and a bagel. My personal opinion is go ahead eat whatever you want – at least you’re eating breakfast. My favorite breakfast on a morning when I am motivated to eat well is grapefruit, scrambled eggs, and some coffee. The more protein you eat, the more full you will be; so don’t skip the bacon or greek yogurt for a fat-free option.
Do your research:
A great way to know how to eat well is by learning about food. Researching food and recipes that are healthy is something I do constantly. There are so many resources: online magazines, blogs, newsletter, and books are great places to start looking.
I wouldn’t always recommend following a specific eating plan. It can be too constricting for a student and often times too expensive as well. Try looking at several plans, learn what is healthy and then create your own plan that suits your needs. I’ve learned that snacks such as nuts, edamame, and greek yogurt all pack a ton of protein which will keep you full and taste good too.
Also, try to drink as much water as possible. Drinking water was hard for me, because I’ve never liked it much(I know that’s strange), but it’s so helpful. A good way to go about that is simply buying a cheap water bottle. There are fountains everywhere and you’ll never be without a source of water. Surprisingly, when you have water on you, it just seems natural to drink it.
Make a plan:
This does not have to be down to the meal each day, but if you’re on the go like me I try to pack a lunch and some snacks to get me through the day. If I don’t do this, I wind up eating at the Union (my school’s dining hall), which is never a good choice for me or my wallet.
It could be as easy as a sandwich, a bag of cut up fruit and nuts, and a water bottle. I try to prepare everything at night because I am always in a rush in the morning, but do whatever fits your lifestyle. I don’t care what I bring for lunch, because whatever I bring is probably better than that calzone I would be getting otherwise. If you eat decently healthy all day, you won’t need to feel pressured to say no that free hot dog at the bar (hopefully that’s a common thing, because it should be!).
Know your drinks:
If you are really committed to a healthy lifestyle, you probably wouldn’t drink much alcohol, but that’s just not me. When I go out to the bars, I try to stick to somewhat “healthier” drinks. The main culprits are the mixers, people. Try your drinks with soda water, or 100% juice. One of my favorite drinks that is low in calories is ‘vodka, water, lime.’ The bartender will know it, so try it once and you might like it (ask them to put Rose’s Lime in it.)
If you’re a beer person (and I’m definitely with you on that!) I say drink it in moderation, but don’t go for light beer just because it’s light; beer is an art. Don’t muddy up your senses with a Coors light all the time, try some good, full-bodied beers. Guinness is a great beer that is surprisingly better for you than you might think. College is the time to get away with drinking, so don’t let weight loss goals hinder your goal of having a fun time.
I will preface this by saying I am not a huge fan of exercise, but i’ve found that it is all about the way you go about it. Try to find fun new ways to get your heart rate up. You are surrounded by young people, clubs, sports, and free recreational centers – it just can’t be that hard, right? Well it can be. Between classes, going out, and roommate drama you can feel so drained it is impossible to want to work out. Here are a few things I’ve come up with to get a little workout in without hitting the gym:
- Walk to class: The bus system is great, but try to plan ahead and walk to class. Unless it is raining, snowing, or freezing outside there is no reason to take the bus. Walking to class is the easiest way to get in some activity without noticing, and you get to see a lot of your friends on the way.
- Dance at the bar: Don’t be afraid to get jiggy with it on the dance floor. Ladies especially, this is a great workout and don’t try and tell me you are not having fun. Dancing is such a great way to raise your heart rate, in more ways than one!
- Have sex: Sorry, but it must be said. This is one of the best ways to get your cardio in, and I should hope you’re not thinking about working out.
- Play a game with your friends: Find a spot of grass or a field and play anything with a little running. Try a new sport or make one up. It is not only a good workout, but a great time with your friends. There are basketball and tennis courts on basically every campus, give them a try!
- Make up a workout game: I just found this awesome workout that is based on the Harry Potter movies, you have to do a specific move every time something happens in the movie, such as 10 squats every time a spell is cast. I haven’t tried it, but I am sure it’s not as miserable as I feel on the treadmill!
- Go shopping: This may not be great for your wallet if you have no control like me, but in the words of Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City), “Shopping is my cardio”. Between the walking around and trying on clothes you are definitely burning some calories. As long as you can resist that cookie cake or soft pretzel, you’ll be getting a good workout in.
Exercise is important, but don’t make it your life. If exercise is your stress relief, that is a great thing to do often. I have never been a gym person, but I have a lot of friends who love it! It is all about finding the right way for you and your lifestyle to go about it. Once you find your niche, may it be joining the dance team or going to the gym every day after class, you are making a healthy step.
If you eat healthy as much as you can without pressuring yourself and get a little exercise in during the day, you will be in better shape by summer. If you want a more structured plan, try making a calendar and write down exercises to do on the days you have time. Having a set plan will keep you motivated and help you succeed. Being healthy is the goal, not losing weight. When you make these little changes, you will feel so much better, happier, and have more energy (which is never a bad thing).