This is my first year where fall hasn’t meant going back to school, so I started reflecting on college and got the idea for this post.
Most colleges have been back in session for about 2 weeks. You have had time to get settled into your classes, meet some new people and are hopefully enjoying your roommate’s quirks. Now its time to look at your habits and see if you are the right track. A couple things to remember:
The French Fries/Cookies/Soda will always be there
Dining halls can be amazing with a huge variety of delicious things to try. It is easy to be overwhelmed and want to eat all the things your mom never bought at home. Just remember that most of the ‘treats’ will be there everyday. They are no longer special foods. Its okay to occasionally have them, but making it a habit (which happens to a LOT of students) is a quick way sabotage your diet.
Beverages are a common trap. On average 20% of American’s calories come from beverages! Regular sodas, sports drinks and even juice all pack a lot of calories, especially with free refills. And the kicker is they don’t quench thirst as well as water. If you still want juice in the morning, remember that a serving is 6oz while many glasses may hold up to 16oz! Cut it with water to cut the calories and when in doubt, hydrate with 64oz/day of water.
Get involved in physical activity
College campuses are teeming with opportunities! There is bound to be something that you enjoy. Continue playing a sport from high school or try something new. I played volleyball in high school so I joined intramurals. I also joined a dance team, something that I had always had an interest in but had no experience with. You can also check out the campus gym and design your own workout. In addition, make it a point to walk or bike to class rather than take a bus or drive. The key is to find at least one thing that you enjoy and engage in it regularly.
Resist bored eating
When you meet up with friends for Friday dinner or a weekend brunch, its not uncommon to linger and chat, especially when you are getting to know them. After you have finished your meal, resist the temptation to get up and grab another helping. It can initially be uncomfortable sitting there without something to physically do. To side step this, choose a calorie free beverage like water or coffee to sit with. Before you grab something just think: are you hungry or bored? If you find you are having trouble resisting, take the reins and plan an activity in your dorm, game room or out and about on campus, away from temptation. Bonus points for a pick up game of basketball or volleyball.
Avoid loose and baggy clothing
This may seem random, but go with it. When you sleep, go to class and study in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, its harder to notice changes in your body. I didn’t own sweatpants till junior year. Once I had a pair, I lived in them and didn’t realize I was gaining weight until I had put on 5 pounds in one semester! You can still choose comfortable clothing but try jeans with some elastic or yoga pants instead. I have also noticed that when I feel put together, I make better choices for myself on the whole.
Have a well rounded plate
So here is some what TO DO in the dining hall. There are 5 food groups, so use them! Don’t get into the habit of piling your plate with a ton of one item you love. Odds are, your body wont be satisfied and you may snack more later on. Want a hamburger for lunch? Totally fine. Fill in the plate with a side salad or other veggie, a piece of whole fruit and a glass of low fat milk. This way your body and your brain gets what it needs to function while satisfying your taste buds.
Keep a regular sleep schedule
Studies have shown that people who are sleep deprived eat more calories and less nutritious meals and snacks than their well rested counterparts. But sticking to a schedule is tough. Tuesdays you don’t have class till 1pm but Wednesdays start at 8am. You have intramural sports till 11pm and then go out on the weekends. High school had a lot of structure; college doesn’t. You have to make it for yourself.
Sit down one afternoon and analyze your schedule. Set a bedtime and then designate certain chunks of time for different activities. Example: In order to get 8 hours of sleep, I need to be in asleep by 11. Done with class at 2. 2-5 homework, 5-7 dinner, 7-10 social time, 10-11 calming down and getting ready for bed. The system may sound silly but you would rather be the well rested, functioning person in class than the zombie to your left eating a donut.
Don’t overdo it on alcohol
Alcohol has a presence on most college campuses. If you are underage, I do not encourage you to drink but understand that many students do. If you imbibe, this is an activity where the calories add up fast. One serving (a shot) of liquor can range from 95-160 calories. And that is without mixing it!
When making drinks:
- Measure and count, don’t guess. This way you know how much your consuming which is safe for multiple reasons.
- Alternate with water. You may feel pressure to have something in your hands, and guess what? In dim lighting, water looks a lot like every other beverage.
- Use low or non-calorie mixers. Powder mixes like lemonade or diet sodas work well. Juices may have vitamins, but they still have 100+ calories per cup.
- Don’t give into peer pressure. Have a good time and it doesn’t matter if or how much you drink. Save the calories and feel better the next day!
College is an adjustment period. It’s a chance to discover yourself in a whole new way. Use these tips to guide your habits, take control and make the most of it!