One of the topics I’ve been meaning to address for awhile now is how to stay healthy in college. Everyone’s experience is different, and I shared briefly about my physical changes in my freshman reflection post. Today, I want to go more in-depth about how I avoided the “Freshman 15” weight gain and contrarily, didn’t lose weight unhealthily either.
First, let’s talk eating habits. Going into college, you’ll probably be on some sort of dining plan, and are probably required to buy a dining plan if you’re living on-campus. The dining hall food isn’t great, and obviously it varies from school-to-school, but there are certainly healthier options than the ones provided in high school. In the dining hall near my freshman year dorm, there was a variety of foods I could eat such as salads, sandwiches, pasta, burgers, pizzas, and more.
Like most other aspects in college, you have so much freedom with food when you’re on your own. It’s your choice to make healthy eating habits! If anything, I felt that college food was better for me because at home, my parents would eat what they wanted, which usually wasn’t as healthy as I wanted it to be.
Every day for breakfast, I would eat a microwaved egg, cereal, and a banana (read more here). I opted for purchasing my own breakfast foods and stored it in my refrigerator instead of eating the dining hall’s greasy hashbrown/scrambled eggs/french toast breakfasts. Plus, this was way faster in the mornings.
Every day, I’d eat a variation of a sandwich (Subway style: you choose what meat/veggies/dressing), and a salad (salad bar style: you choose what type of salad you want). If at all possible, go for the options where you have the most freedom to choose what toppings you want. A lot of the time, pre-made sandwiches and salads have stuff in it that may be unhealthy that you aren’t even aware of – the more aware you are of what you’re putting together for your meal, the better.
Sometimes, I would treat myself to a pasta of some sort if I’m extra hungry, and even though Alfredo is the yummiest sauce, it’s also full of fat and cream. My favorite option is to ask the cook to split the sauce into Alfredo and Marinara; that blend itself is delicious and somewhat healthier.
It’s definitely okay to treat yourself every once in awhile – just don’t make it a habit!
Another tip I have is eating sporadically throughout the day. Here’s why: snacking constantly is better than eating large meals because your body will have faster metabolism if there’s always something to burn. If you become really hungry, your body wants to conserve the energy so you don’t crash, thus slowing metabolism down. And then once you’re starving and eat a HUGE meal, your body still thinks that it needs to conserve so it doesn’t burn much of the food you ate – leading to weight gain. Basically, never be hungry. Once you feel a little bit hungry, eat a little snack, like a protein bar or almonds. I always like to have healthy food on hand because I’ve noticed that if you’re not stocked, you’ll likely go buy unhealthy food because it’ll be what you’re craving when hungry.
A few of my friends actually lost a scary amount of weight in college as well – because they neglected to feed themselves. I know school can get super hectic, but if you want to do well in your classes, you have to eat! It amazes me when people tell me they “forgot to eat” – how does one ignore the empty hollowness in their stomach? And how does their brain continue to function? I never forgot to eat – if anything, I usually used meals as breaks between studying.
I think another factor that helped me stay away from the Freshman 15 is the amount of sleep I got – or rather, how early I went to sleep. I noticed that the later I stayed up, the hungrier I got. That’s also when my junk-food cravings spiked. If you go to bed early, you won’t have those cravings as often!
It’s really not easy to find time to exercise in college – sometimes you have class or work form 9am-5pm and then after that there are tons of extracurriculars going on, and then there are social outings after that. Some weeks you may be freer than the one before, so it’s okay if you don’t really have an exercising schedule.
Some quarters this year I was able to develop a simple workout schedule, but other weeks I simply did not have time. I just made sure to compensate for lost workout days in the week following! You guys, working out in college is so important. Walking around campus, in my opinion, is simply not enough. And plus, FREE GYM MEMBERSHIP (at least at my school). It won’t be free after you graduate!! So take advantage!!
I usually tried to squeeze in one-hour workouts (half cardio, half pilates) at least 3 times a week, and 4 times for weeks I wasn’t taking dance class or going to dance rehearsals. I always go into a workout dreading it, but coming out of it feeling amazing. Trust me, endorphins are REAL.
So that’s it! I have no doubts I’ll have to re-figure out my eating habits come next year because I won’t be living in the dorms or eating dining hall food anymore, so we’ll see what happens. I hope I’m able to keep some of my healthy habits though!
What are your tips on staying healthy in college?