For a college freshman, the myths that surround their new lifestyles seem to abound. You really do have to go to class, you don’t get to drink beer all day, and your parents will still know what’s going on.
One thing that is most definitely not a myth and will catch up with you faster than shower fungus is the Freshman 15, or the Freshmen 15. It’s very real, very unhealthy, and totally avoidable.
What is it? It’s this 15 or so pounds that college freshmen pack on. Their lifestyles completely change from their home environments. Their sleep habits are off, they’re probably not taking a gym class, and their diet consists of soda, pizza and whatever they can grab with their meal points while cruising through the student union.
How do you avoid it? By doing the opposite of everything mentioned above. The college student lifestyle is a chaotic one, and so that’s easier said than done. Here are a few ways students can maintain balance and still feel like a regular college kid – just a thinner, healthier one.
Avoid Fast-Food. Campuses are littered with restaurants that accept meal points. Don’t use them. Ever. And if you do, choose grilled items and vegetable sides.
Pack Snacks. Whether you’re leaving the dorm or apartment for an hour or eight, leave prepared. Pack fresh fruits or veggies, dried fruits or nuts, or carry an insulated tote with hummus, string cheese, yogurt or a turkey sandwich. Packing a healthy lunch is really simple if you plan ahead.
Drink Water. With your tight college budget, you’ll appreciate the zero-cost and zero-calorie impact water has. Use a refillable bottle and save yourself from the price and sugar content of a soda, energy drink or vitamin water.
Sleep Soundly. Cramming for exams at 4 a.m. is bad for grades and your body. You need sleep. Make a sleep routine for yourself and follow it on most days of the week – recognizing that there will late nights on weekends and the occasional study group that runs late.
Stay Active. If you live within a mile or two of campus, walk or bike. You’ll save money on permits and won’t have to fight for the one parking space that’s rarely available. Plus, you’ll burn calories and get to take in your school’s gorgeous setting.
Play Games. Not board games or video games, but outdoor games. Most colleges and universities offer intramural sports, organized athletics that are completely recreational. Everything from football to volleyball is usually available. Plus, as a freshman, it’s a great way to meet people outside your dorm hall.
Eat. Sounds simple enough, but not eating can do as much damage as eating the wrong things. Be conscious about the food and drink choices you make. More and more college cafeterias are switching to fresher, leaner, more wholesome menu options, so take advantage.
Dine In. As mentioned, avoid the restaurants whenever possible. You won’t have a lot of space in the dorm, but you can keep some basic sandwich makings or even low-sodium soups on hand for cheap, healthy meals.
Join the Gym. Read your tuition bill carefully, there’s likely an activity or gym fee on there. Take advantage of the service you’re already paying for.
Limit Alcohol. Besides the good time you envision, alcohol also provides a lot of empty calories. That means consuming a lot of calories with zero nutritional benefit. Stick to light beers or wine, avoid sugar-filled mixed drinks, and have a glass of water in between drinks.
Follow these tips as a college freshman and you’ll create a foundation for healthy eating habits throughout your college career. The only baggage you want to leave college with is your student loans – not an extra 15+ pounds around your waist.