5 Ways To Stay Healthy In College

While eating lunch at work today, I looked down at my food and felt a since of pride.

If someone was watching me eat this meal, I would feel happy about the choices I made for myself while packing the food this morning. A bottle of water, two hard boiled eggs, and a small box of raisins laid before me.

As I snacked on my lunch, I was reminded of my eating habits freshman year. Back then I was on the meal plan, so making healthy choices while living on campus was extremely difficult. The majority of the foods were served buffet style.

With so many choices, it was hard not to pile up my plate and try everything. A side of fries and chocolate milk at dinner seemed like a good idea in the moment, but all of those extra calories began to add up, and so did the weight that I was gaining.

According to Health Magazine,

“Researchers at Auburn University in Alabama followed 131 students over four years of college and found that a whopping 70% of them packed on pounds by graduation (an average of 12, and up to 37 pounds).”

Having always been involved in one sport to another in high school, it was fine for me to take in extra calories because they would simply be burned off at practice. However, staying healthy in college proved to be so much different. Not only was I not on a sports team anymore, but I was not working out as much as I was used to. The habit of eating like I was still playing sports stuck however, and it was not until my clothes were too tight that I really noticed.

Reminiscing on that time only reminds me of why the freshmen meal plan is so unhealthy. Living away from home for the first time, many first year students will jump at the chance to eat ice cream bars and chips whenever they desire, making staying healthy in college really difficult. The healthy choices are either not offered, or are hiding behind all the junk food. The required meal plan, I fear, is a major contributor to the feared ‘Freshmen 15.’

At ‘Your Personal Nutrition Guide’ an online website offering tips to nutrition they write,

“Freshman 15 statistics show there is some truth to the unwanted weight gain experienced by some students in their first year of college, but the actual amount gained is debatable.”

While the amount of weight gain in the freshman year of college varies, it is not guaranteed that it will be 15 pounds. Either way, no body enjoys college weight gain unless it comes in the form of muscle.

Luckily, Daphne Oz, a junior at Princeton from Cliffside Park, N.J., is here to help those college freshman in need. In a New York Times article I was recently reading it said,

“Ms. Oz has written a book, “The Dorm Room Diet” (Newmarket Press), to be released on Sept. 6. The easy-to-read guide has a simple philosophy behind it: If students know nutrition basics, they will make healthier food choices.”

The article continued on,

“…what Ms. Oz lacks in credentials, she makes up for with a transformational story of a self-described former chubby girl made cute by laying off the cookie dough and laying on the cardio. While some of her classmates pigged out, she lost 10 pounds during her freshman year, she said. She did it by relying on vegetarian entrees and salads at her dining hall, snacking on grapes, nuts, baby carrots and semisweet chocolate bits, and eating high-fat foods and sweets only occasionally.”

Even if you don’t buy Ms. Oz’s book, Health Magazine provides tips on staying healthy in college and gives out 5 ways to avoid college weight gain.

  1. Keep healthy snacks handy. Dorm room refrigerators should be stocked with healthy, satisfying snacks, such as fruit, string cheese, Greek yogurt, hummus, and baby carrots.
  2. Drink water. Too many calories from sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages can lead to weight gain. These drinks can also cause spikes in blood sugar that can increase hunger.
  3. Stay active. Exercise plays a key role in staying fit and healthy. Boost your daily activity levels by walking to class, going to the gym, or participating in intramural sports.
  4. Eat regular meals. Skipping meals can lead to overeating and weight gain. Eating breakfast can also jumpstart your metabolism and help you concentrate in class and on tests.
  5. Get enough sleep. Sleeping less than six hours each night can affect hormone levels that control appetite, cravings, and metabolism. People who do not get enough sleep often crave high-calorie junk food the body can quickly break down for energy.

While there may be many resources, let it be books or news articles, for students to access about curbing college weight gain, sometimes it is inevitable to gain a few pounds.

Just remember the choices you make today will affect you tomorrow, so staying healthy in college is important. So push yourself to eat smart, exercise right, and in the long run you will be happy you made the choices you did.

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Kait Freeberg

Kait Freeberg

Kait Freeberg is a junior at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo pursuing a degree in journalism. At school, Kait can be found interviewing people or hitting the gym. As the Colleges Against Cancer president, Kait helps to fight cancer and she educates her peers on the disease. Apart from school she works two jobs, enjoys traveling, and cooking for her roommates.