College is where real-life stress brings its A game. It’s when lots of us leave home for the first time. There are paper deadlines and exams and other stresses that you alone must face. Under pressure, it’s dangerously easy to let healthy habits slide – especially now that you no longer have your parents looming over your shoulder with a running commentary about how Cheetoes are the devil’s hors d’oeuvres. Of course, such freedom comes with a price. If you don’t want that price to be the dreaded “Freshman Fifteen,” these common sense tips are a good reminder of how to stay committed to your health.
- Limit the Starchy Sludge
While cramming for that Econ mid-term at ACU Online or whichever undergraduate program you are in, that gooey pile of mac and cheese starts to look like a much-needed hug on a plate. Ditto on the mashed potatoes and cheeseburgers. Unfortunately, that plate of instant comfort will eventually bite you in the butt – or at least take up residence there if you make a habit of it. Sure, you can let yourself have a small side helping of comfort food, if you must. Just don’t make it the main event.
- Fill up on Fruits and Vegetables
You know they’re good for you – so act like it. Eat lots of ‘em. Period.
- Save Sweets for Special Occasions
Sugar is crack. And contrary to what Will Ferrell’s character in Elf said, it does not single-handedly represent all four food groups. Save the cake and ice cream for birthdays and special celebrations. (Getting an A on that aforementioned Econ mid-term might qualify. Maybe.) Yes, this is a harsh one, but you’ll thank me when you can still zip up your jeans after finals are over. Oh, and P.S.? Buying a brand new pair of jeans that aren’t the next size up is an even more satisfying reward.
- Don’t Drink Your Calories
Obviously, sodas can provide that amazing (albeit fleeting) caffeine and/or sugar high, but the temporary spike to your energy levels will have you crashing that much harder later, and wreak havoc with your concentration and memory. (Not acceptable losses on the academic path.) Ditto for fruit juice – eat the real thing (like a whole orange) for the fiber that’ll fill you up properly. Liquid calories are not satisfying or filling, yet they still count. They’re just not worth the collateral damage that comes with ‘em.
- Break a Sweat Outside of the Cafeteria
What you do outside this den of inequity matters as much as what you do inside of it. Make time to hit the campus gym, or even just take a quick walk – on a regular basis – instead of reaching for that platter of nachos. When you’re taking the time to take care of your body via exercise, you’ll be way less inclined to self-sabotage with your food choices.
Don’t let stress eclipse your capacity for common sense. Just like a great education, learning to make smart food choices now is one of those investments in yourself that pays off big down the line.