Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Staying Health-Conscious in College

New city, new friends, new classes, new life. No parents, no busy work, no students there simply because they are required by law, no more 8am-3pm days of class without a break. Best of all? Total freedom.

There's no question about it; college is awesome. But as fun and rewarding as it can be, the college lifestyle can be devastating for your overall health. Everyone talks about the "freshman fifteen" but no one likes to talk about the 15 lb. weight gain that happens sophomore year...junior year...senior year...Over a 4 year degree, that means you could enter college weighing 125 lbs. and graduate weighing nearly 200!

Maintaining a balanced diet and exercise routine can help combat excessive weight gain in college. Here are some tools that will help you get your degree without packing on the pounds.

Nutrition Tips:

1. Always eat breakfast. Whether you scramble out of bed at 7:55 to get to your 8 am Chemistry Lab without time for food or just think your stomach doesn't wake up until noon, you need to eat something to get your metabolism going for the day. Aim for something with a balanced percentage of carbs, protein and fat. A great on-the-go breakfast is making your own trail mix. Mix 8 natural almonds, 1 cup of Kashi GoLean cereal, and 1/3 cup dried cranberries into a Ziploc bag. Even if you wake up late, you know you'll have something on hand to start your day off right.

2. Eat 5-6 small meals a day. Eating frequently will not only keep your metabolism at a steady rate, but it will prevent you from getting super hungry and eating everything in sight. It's easier to turn down that midnight pizza order when you feel full from throughout the day.

3. Pack snacks to take with you. Late night cram sessions in the library and dinner-time group project meetings may leave you craving fast food or stuck getting something out of a vending machine. Protein bars, nuts & dried fruit, and bags of whole grain cereal are just a few ideas of things that can easily fit into your purse or backpack.

4. Drink water. Don't let your body trick you into thinking you're hungry when you may actually just be thirsty. Drinking water helps keep you hydrated and full, especially when you are inbetween meals. Avoid empty calories from beverages that have no nutritional value such as sodas, alcohol and sugary juices.

5. Just because it contains the word "salad," that doesn't automatically mean its healthy. Dieters are naturally drawn to salad bars because it seems safe. However, dining hall salad bars are loaded with high-fat options including creamy dressings, bacon, cheese and butter-drenched croutons. Choose dark leafy green lettuce, load up on veggies, add 4 oz. of grilled lean meat, and serve oil-based viniagrette dressing on the side.

Fitness Tips:

1. Leave yourself enough time to walk or bike to class. You know you're going to have to sit through class, so be active while you can. Walking between classes will be a good stretch for your legs and give you enough of a mental break to help you go back into learning-mode for your next class.

2. Play intramural sports or get involved in group exercise classes at your campus gym. These are great ways to meet new friends and stay in shape at the same time.

3. Take your phone calls home outdoors...(or to a treadmill if it's too late at night.)strong> Between your parents, siblings, friends at other schools, etc., you're going to have several phone calls to make each week. Instead of sitting in your dorm room, head out for a walk while you catch up with friends and family. Every little bit helps!

4. Choose your electives wisely. Every degree program has a certain amount of free electives. Do you really need to sit through the History of Rock 'n' Roll? Try weight lifting, swimming or dance to get activity for class credit instead.

5. Watch out where you work. If you're biggest weakness is high-fat Mexican food, it's probably not a good idea to wait tables at On the Border. Or if you tend to snack when you're sitting around, a desk job may not be the best fit for you. Explore different opportunities, and try to find a job that won't leave you constantly inactive or tempted.

Remember, college is your first time out on your own. You are setting your personal habits for the rest of your life. Take this opportunity to get off to a fresh start that will benefit you for a lifetime!