By: Sarah Gerbig (Follow on Instagram!)
Heading off to college is a very exciting and scary step to take in your life. One minute you need permission to use the bathroom and the next you're expected to be 100% responsible for your schooling, chores, health and daily meals. The abundance of responsibility and added-stress that goes with post-secondary education can easily take a toll on your health. With these helpful tips, hopefully you won't have to witness the horrors of the "freshman fifteen" or any of the other unhealthy traditions that accompany the college life.
First let's talk food; more specifically your nutritional health. Your parents will no longer be your personal chefs meaning that you'll be expected to make healthy food choices every day.
- Eat a well-balanced breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating a nourishing meal upon waking up can provide you with the nutrients and energy needed to increase classroom concentration and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Bring granola bars to class. Avoid cafeteria-pizza-cravings by fighting hunger right away. Not only will you eat healthier, but you'll also save a lot of dough!
- Don't keep junk food in your dorm. Whether you're getting home late from a party or just feeling bored, you might find yourself eating everything in sight. So instead of keeping potato chips and candy around, try some veggie chips or fruit snacks!
- Don't drink soda. Avoid the unnecessary chemicals and sugars by drinking water instead. Your body will thank you.
- Avoid alcohol. Despite the common misconceptions about binge-drinking in college, you don't actually have to drink to be socially accepted or to have fun. I pinky swear! But if you must consume alcohol, drink equal amounts of water to avoid dehydration, massive hangovers and next-day breakouts.
- Don't eat when you're stressed. If you're stressed out, find a physical activity to take your mind off school and food. Exercise is a well-known stress reliever and you'll stay active while you're at it.
- Find the salad bar ASAP. Trust me, every college cafeteria has one. Skip the fried foods that will only make the taste-buds happy and eat something that tastes good and feels even better!
- Don't do lunch every day with your friends. Eating out constantly can be hard on the waistline and even harder on the wallet. Instead of catching up over a meal, go for a walk around campus together!
- Most importantly, eat everything in moderation. Just because there's an all-you-can-eat ice cream sundae station in the cafeteria doesn't mean you should use it every day. That being said, you're most definitely allowed to treat yourself every once in a while. Moderation is key.
Next we need to talk about our fitness. Most college schedules don't include mandatory gym classes like high school did every semester. That means you need to find ways to fit some exercise into your daily schedule.
- Take advantage of the gym membership that you pay for within your tuition. The gym isn't there to look pretty and eat your money; hit the gym and start sweating!
- Join a fitness or yoga class. While getting your daily exercise, you can increase flexibility, endurance and strength, while decreasing your stress levels. Some colleges will even give school credits for participation!
- Walk to class. Every little bit helps. Instead of driving from building to building, take an extra 10 minutes to exercise on your way to class. You and the environment will benefit!
- Join an intramural sport. Whether you enjoy ultimate frisbee, volleyball, dodge ball or ball hockey, you will meet some awesome people while engaging in some friendly-competition.
- Work out in your dorm. Sometimes you don't have time to make it across campus to go to the gym. But that doesn't mean you should neglect your fitness either. Try some jumping jacks for cardio and use push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches or chair dips for strength exercises. If you aren't motivated to create your own work-out routine, find one online!
Aside from your diet and exercise regimen, there are other ways of staying healthy while enjoying college.
- Volunteer to be the designated driver. Guarantee a safe ride home for you and your friends by choosing to be sober. What's the point of living a healthy life if you plan on gambling it away to drunk driving?
- Use protection. Period.
- Plan your week. Manage your stress and your schedule by making time for classes, study-time, work outs, meals and social outings. Hint: a dry-erase calendar makes it soooooo much easier!
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Getting efficient amounts of sleep can help to reduce stress, improve your mood, strengthen your immune system and aid in weight loss. Do your body a favour and get some shut-eye!
- Treat simple illnesses right away. Don't let an itchy throat or a cough ruin your week. Stop it in its place with some medicine.
- Find your BFFs. Surround yourself by positive people who would gladly be your support system and keep you grounded while having a blast in college. They do say that the friends you make in college typically become life-long friends. :)
- Stay connected with your mom and dad. Sometimes your parents can be more comforting and helpful in times of need than your friends ever could. Plus you owe it to them to check in every once in a while. (Tip: if you're extra nice they may even send you some extra spending money)
- *Cliché alert* Go to class. It's that simple. By going to class (the ones that you're paying for btw) you won't miss any notes, deadlines or important information that can only improve your final grade. If you go to class you will be better prepared for assignments and exams. Being prepared will reduce stress; less stress will leave you much happier guaranteed. It's really just common sense.
If you incorporate these tips into your new college life then you shouldn't have a problem staying healthy and happy over the next 4+ years. I truly hope that you will enjoy your college experience just as much as I am! Remember, this is the beginning of anything you want. <3