We’ve all heard of the “Freshman 15”. The first semester of college has been documented as a period of high risk for weight gain (Vos et al., 2015). A lot of this has to do with students changing their eating, drinking, and exercise habits (Vos et al., 2015). The number “15” is a myth. In reality, students are reported to gain between 5 to 2 pounds on average in their first year of university or college (Vos et al., 2015). If you want to live healthy while going to school – it’s absolutely possible. Below are some College Healthy Habits you can use to keep your health in check while attending school:
Join Your School Gym
A lot of your tuition money goes into maintaining sports facilities, so you might as well take advantage of their availability. It’s cheaper and more convenient, especially if you live close to campus. You can hit the gym before or after your classes and get it out of the way.
Get a Bicycle
You can ride a bicycle to and from class or even to the grocery store. If you live on-campus, a bicycle would save you a lot of time and it will keep you healthy. If you live off campus, ride your bicycle to the bus and take it with you.
Pack Your Food
There’s a link between weight gain in college and consuming more fast food, take-out food, and less fresh food (Vos et al., 2015). If you don’t want to fall for the food court temptations, pack your own food. If you’re at school from 8 am to 5 pm – pack your lunch and snacks. And if you’re staying until 10 pm, pack lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Prepare Your Meals in Advance
This will help you accomplish the previous step. Prepare your meals for the week and freeze them. Be creative and buy what you’re craving. If you made your food at home, it will have less salt, fewer preservatives and you know exactly what’s in it. Not to mention, it’ll save you a ton of money. If you’re in the middle of a study session at home or just want to relax and watch some Netflix, pre-made food will save you time in the kitchen. It only takes one grocery trip and one day to prepare.
Here are some great resources if you’re new to meal prep:
Always Carry a Water Bottle
Your blood is 83% water, muscles 75% water, brain 74% water, and your bones 10% water (UCLA). So when you’re sitting in class, drinking caffeine, remember that things like coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate drinks contain caffeine which dehydrates the body (UCLA). Caffeine just like alcohol is a diuretic and causes the body to lose more fluids through frequent urination (UCLA). In fact, within a few hours of drinking a caffeinated beverage, 50% of it will be eliminated out of your body (UCLA). Your brain needs water to function properly so carrying a water bottle is a great way to make sure you’re keeping up with your fluid intake.
Make Your Own Fitness Calendar
Your school calendar is probably overwhelmed with assignments due dates, quizzes, exams and lecture hours. So, it’s a good idea to hang up your own fitness calendar. In it, you can plan the days you’re going to workout and your rest days. You can also put down your goals and your progress numbers.
Join an Athletic Club at Your School
Whether it’s swimming, tennis, soccer, basketball or any other sport, being a part of an athletic group will help you get more physical activity in. You don’t have to be good at a sport to join a club, as long as you make sure you’re showing up and getting involved with the sport. This could also prove to be good for your mental health.
Focus on Mental Health
Health is not just physical, it’s also mental. In college, students go through a lot of changes, stress, worrying and even homesickness. So, it’s important to pay attention to your mental health and how you’re feeling. Your school should have help readily available if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Make sure you talk to someone and to reach out for help whenever you need. We’ve all been there and there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
Have a Fitness Partner
Having someone with similar goals as you could help you maintain a healthy lifestyle in college. You can go to the gym or play a sport together. It helps when you both hold each other accountable and when you remind each other of your objectives.
Move to a Place with an Oven
This might sound funny, but the cafeteria food will not cut it. A lot of students end up moving to places where there’s no oven and that’s going to negatively impact their health. Microwavable meals are convenient, but they are not healthy. If you don’t know how to cook, then learn or ask a colleague who can cook to help teach you. Check out Sorted Food on YouTube. They make delicious food in a short amount of time.
Drink in Moderation
In a study done by Vos et al., it was shown that living independently and alcohol consumption were the main factors which caused significant weight gain in freshmen year (2015). That’s not surprising, considering how many calories are in alcoholic drinks. Drink in moderation. Granted, you’ll be in school for at least the next three years so don’t indulge in alcohol. And when you drink, drink responsibly. If you think you have been abusing alcohol or over drinking to deal with stress – talk to counseling services at your school.
“UCLA Website.” Student Nutrition Action Committee (SNAC).
Vos, P. D., Hanck, C., Neisingh, M., Prak, D., Groen, H., & Faas, M. M. (2015). Weight gain in freshman college students and perceived health. Preventive Medicine Reports, 2, 229-234.