Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some salad-loving, exercise junkie. I’m a college student. I love a nice bowl of ramen at midnight or a spontaneous large milkshake from Marble Slab. I’ve tried so hard to avoid gaining that notorious Freshman 15, and I’ve really only gained about 8ish pounds. I attribute some of that to muscle. Walking 20,000+ steps a day will do wonders to your legs . But, after spending my first semester bingeing on ramen and candy and chips, I’ve learned to change my ways.
Let me just start out by saying that claiming you want to “be healthy” is a lot harder than it seems. Being healthy is a lifestyle change. It doesn’t happen overnight or in a week or even in a month. It takes 21 days to break a habit, and an unhealthy lifestyle is a habit.There are simple, easy ways to start switching your life over to living healthier . Know that I’m not a doctor or a dietician, but this is what has really worked for me!
Sleep: something all college kids want to do but rarely get the chance to do. Between long nights studying or going out (if that’s your thing) we rarely get enough sleep. Even if I do say get eight hours, it’s not eight quality hours of sleep. Between the drunk people screaming in the hall at 2 AM, the extremely uncomfortable dorm beds, and having a conflicting schedule with your roommate, it’s virtually impossible to get a good night’s sleep. But, sleep is vital to staying healthy and maintaining a steady weight.
Here are some suggestions for improving the sleep that you do get:
- earplugs. I seriously cannot live without these. They block out all hallway and roommate noise. I instantly fall asleep when I wear them. They do take getting used to, but I assure you — GET SOME EARPLUGS.
- eye mask. For those of us who can’t afford an eye mask, I put a pillow over my head. My roommate and I have two completely different sleep schedules. She stays up late and gets up late. I go to bed early because I get up early. The pillow or eye mask really block out the light and helps me sleep.
- limiting electronic usage. I know you’ve probably heard all about that blue light that electronics emit and that you should avoid using them before bed. Trust me, this one works. I stop using all electronics after about 9:30 or 10 and I’ve started to read for about an hour before I go to bed. It makes me tired and I’m easily able to fall asleep
WATER. WATER. WATER. Seriously, drink your water. Drinking soda and sugary drinks 24/7 is really really bad for you. If you really want to gross yourself out, look at what you drink in a day. Do you drink soda? Sweet tea? Lemonade? Calculate the amount of sugar that is contained in those drinks. Disgusting, right? One time, my mom made my brother and I measure out how much sugar is in one root beer. I’ve never looked at soda the same.
If you’re not a fan of the boring taste of water, try drinking tea. I probably drink two or three cups of tea a day. It’s a nice change from plain water. Or, if you’re not a big fan of tea, try a water flavoring to change things. Granted, it’s not the healthiest option, but you can put just a little bit of that in, and it really does help you drink more water. My last suggestion is to get a fun water bottle (preferably one with a straw). I drink so much more if I have water with me at all times. And if it has a straw, even better!
Cutting Out Soda
When I came to college, I made it my goal to cut out soda. It’s an easy switch, and once you get used to not drinking it, you really don’t miss it. If you’re drinking soda strictly for the caffeine, opt for coffee. Not some crazy flavored Starbucks drink, but some regular coffee with a bit of cream and sugar. It has way less calories, but it still has caffeine. That doesn’t mean that you can’t drink soda at all. If you’re really craving it (which I know I do), go for the regular, full calorie option. Diet sodas are not good for you, especially with all of the artificial ingredients. Real sugar is always better than fake sugar!
Diet plays a HUGE role in being healthy. I took a food-themed English class last semester, and what I really learned from that is that you are what you eat. If you eat mainly vegetables, lean meats, and fruits, you’re going to have so much more energy and feel so much better than someone who eats burgers, pizza, and chips at every meal.
Salads and Vegetables
It was one of my New Year’s goals to eat a salad at least three times a week. Aiming for something small like that is an easy way for you to get adjusted to eating better! And you can even be healthy when choosing what goes on your salad. I like to get romaine lettuce, carrots, black olives, cucumbers, onions, chickpeas, and/or chicken. Having a source of protein like chicken will make you feel full for longer. I also opt for Italian dressing instead of Ranch or something like that. Italian is lighter, and to me, has a lot more flavor. If salads aren’t quite your thing, if you go through the hot line, opt for vegetables instead of fries.
Snacking is another big part of being healthy. Last semester, I would go to the store and buy a bag of doughnuts or a thing of Oreo’s or a thing of cookie dough. I grew up in a very healthy household. We ate more vegetables at every meal than anything else, we only had meat a few times a week, and we always tried to eat organic. When I got to college, the whole junky section of the grocery store was available. But, I learned my lesson. My motto is, “If there’s no junkie snacks, then I won’t be eating junkie food.” I try to buy fruit, like grapes, strawberries, or apples, and easy-to-eat vegetables, like carrots. Trail mix and granola are another great snacking choice but beware. Granola and trail mix can sometimes contain a lot of sugar. Make sure to read the labels and choose the ones with less sugar.
I always like to treat myself from time to time. I typically set aside specific days for me to eat unhealthy food. For example, we have a Chick-fil-a on campus, and I would eat there every day if I could. But, I limit myself to only eating there on Fridays. It gives me something to look forward to. I also love to have something sweet at night. So, I usually have a bag of Kit Kat’s or something like that and I have one before bed. If you restrict yourself from eating anything remotely unhealthy, you’re more likely to binge and eat everything you can get your hands on.
Ha. Exercise. Who wants to exercise? Not me, I’ll tell you that much. But, exercise is really important in being healthy. Most colleges have a gym that is free for students to use. Take advantage of that! Don’t let your money go to waste.
I like to go on the treadmill or elliptical for forty-five minutes to an hour and listen to podcasts. My favorite way to work out on the treadmill is to have the speed set on 3.5-3.7 and be on a 3.5 degree incline. I find that this burns about the same amount of calories if you run off an on at a 1 degree incline for an hour. Plus there’s no running involved. We all know that running is just not my thing. At all. For me the gym is great because it gives me forty-five minutes of me time. I can think about whatever and clear my mind. Or, if you like to multi-task, I’ve even seen people read while walking on a treadmill. Um alright. Not for me, but if it floats your boat, by all means do it.
All in all, find a schedule/system that works for you. I have to schedule in working out into my week or else I won’t go to the gym. Making small changes like having a salad a few times a week or cutting out soda will really help you feel better and have more energy. I know that since I’ve cut out soda and try to have a salad every day, I feel so much better! Good luck!
Do you have any suggestions on how to be healthy in college? I’d love to hear them!