A college student’s transition from the comfortable ease of home life to the stress of college often takes its toll on the body, due to the dramatic shift in daily schedules and sleeping patterns.
The fanatic rush to make that early morning class, study group meetings at the library, and late night cram sessions before a big test can leave you with little time to worry about trivial things like healthy eating habits and exercise regimes.
As a multi-tasking college student, quick fixes like bagels and doughnuts to coincide with a large vanilla latte (with extra whip cream) are often a common morning ritual along with orange chicken and a large soda from the nearest fast food restaurant for lunch. Price point and timeliness of food often play a large part in why many students neglect their health and diet and experience a slight weight gain, popularly known as the “freshman 15.”
According to the “Dorm Room Diet” by Daphne Oz, only a small percentage of college students actually gain 15 or more pounds in their first year. However, a weight gain of two to five pounds is much more common, occurring in about 50 percent of college freshmen.
Hectic schedules can contribute to weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle when classes and often-overwhelming coursework take priority over exercise. After staying up all night studying for a midterm, you’re hardly going to be eager to go on a three-mile run or meet up with a personal trainer.
There are ways to avoid falling into these unhealthy habits. But, to keep the pounds off for the duration of your college career, a slight change in your daily routine is required. As cliché as it might sound, diet and exercise are your biggest weapons to battle the freshman 15.
Try exercising, even in small doses. A good workout can help in toning muscle, speeding up your metabolism, and burning fat and calories. Utilize sources on campus like the Fitness Centre, which has a variety of fitness equipment available, a nearly Olympic-size swimming pool, and group fitness programs.
Get involved in a weekly yoga or aerobics class at the Fitness Centre or your local gym. Many gyms offer discounted membership rates if you’re a student. A regular exercise routine also gives you a small window to “cheat” occasionally and enjoy an unhealthy treat from time to time.
Living on campus offers different meal options than you would have at home. In many cases, parents often determine what meals are served throughout the day. Living on your own means making your own decisions when it comes to nutrition, and often times what’s quick, cheap, and tastes good takes precedence over health.
Replace your daily burger-and-fries combo with a salad or sandwich on wheat. Hamburgers, pizza, and greasy Chinese food are chock full of fat and empty calories that can add up quickly.
Make sure your meals are balanced and contain more protein and vitamins than fat and sugar. Protein also fills you up quicker and leaves you full for longer periods of time.
Ditch the sugary snacks like candy bars and cookies. These are a temporary fix that just lead to empty calorie consumption. Try to keep an apple or granola bar in your backpack or purse at all times to snack on when you’re on the run.
Packing food from home also helps your wallet and reduces unnecessary expenses on unhealthy snacks and drinks. Load up on groceries at you nearby grocery store instead of eating out. Cutting those $10 lunches out of your routine can drastically help your finances and your health.
Another possible contributor to the freshman 15 dilemma is alcohol consumption. The need to relax and unwind on the weekends often involves having a drink or two (or three). Alcoholic drinks, like beer and mixed cocktail drinks, are loaded with sugar that can contribute to rapid weight gain if consumed on a regular basis.
As a college student living on campus, you have the freedom to make your own decisions in regards to your health and diet. Remember that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body weight does not have to be a painful experience. A few minor tweaks in your daily routine will not dramatically change your life, but will do wonders for your body.