I’m gonna get real with you all today (actually, I always try to be ‘real’ with you guys, as evidenced in my weird and awkward blog posts here, here, and here). Staying healthy in college is tough – very tough. You’re constantly surrounded by delicious temptations – pizza, ice cream, candy, oh my! – and you’re stuck with sub-par cafeteria food, which usually means turning to unhealthy snacks to satisfy your grumbling belly. Unlike high school, where a lot of us had some sort of scheduled after-school physical activity, college leaves you solely responsible to make time to exercise between your busy classes and stacks of extremely dry books to read. It takes a lot of self-discipline to get to the gym. Sure, maybe you lucked out and have a kitchen this year, so cooking your own meals is ideal. But realistically, do you have time to cook every night? Or the motivation? What about the money? ‘Cause healthy food ain’t cheap. I could go on, but can you see the dilemma of being healthy in college? Can you relate?
Today I rounded up some of my favorite blog photos taken around my college campus, both from freshman year and this year (the original blog posts are linked at the end of today’s post). When I started college, I was very fit, and I still had strong, toned legs from running cross country in high school. However, as my freshman year went on, I started to gain weight, unsurprisingly, because I had stopped exercising. My diet also drastically changed. By December of 2018, I weighed the most I ever had, and I realized how unhealthily I had been eating at school. A change was definitely in order. Fast forward to the end of freshman year, and I lost some of the seven pounds I had gained during the first half of the school year, but I still lacked all the muscle I once had in high school. My body had changed, and while it was difficult, I tried to accept that.
Now, as a sophomore, I try to use my freshman year as a reminder to stay on top of my health. To be clear, I’ve never been (nor will I ever be) a total health-nut. I have the utmost respect for those people, but I just love dessert and cheese too much. So instead, I try to find balance. Exercise as much as I can; treat myself when I deserve it. But somehow, given everything I learned my freshman year, I’ve found it so much harder to stay healthy my second year of college. Is it because my classes require more time and effort? Is it because I live so much farther from the gym this year? Is it because I love making excuses?—Oh, wait…
Whatever the reason, staying healthy in college is so difficult, but it’s SO important. School is already such a stressful time as it is, and eating crap and sitting in a desk all day will only exacerbate it. To be completely honest, I’ve been kind of miserable this school year, and I attribute a lot of that to my lack of exercise and nutrition (oh, and sleep). So as I spent my walks to and from class the last few weeks pondering how I could be healthier, I decided to share my findings with all of you. I hope you can find at least one tip to help put you on the right track the remainder of this school year. It’s never too late to start a healthier lifestyle!
Besides finding the motivation, I think the hardest part of exercising in college is finding the time. So, a reminder to you, anything is better than nothing. Wanted to go for a half hour run but only had 15 minutes? Better than nothing.
Another issue I have is the cold and snow. By the time I finish classes, it’s already dark out and/or slippery outside. On these days, I usually run stairs in my building. I run 5 flights of stairs 5 or 6 times. Again, it’s not much, but it’s a whole lot better than doing nothing. Other exercises you can do in your room include jumping jacks/jumping rope and sit-ups, leg lifts, push-ups, etc.
My new favorite mode of exercise is walking at a steep incline on a treadmill at the gym. But the kicker? I do it while watching a show on Netflix on my phone! That way I walk for about an hour (the length of the show) and get to do something actually fun to relax after a long day. (If you’re going to spend time watching Netflix anyway, might as well do it while exercising.)
My last tip for exercising is to always take the stairs. I’m still trying to get into the practice of this one, as I live on the fifth floor in my building and usually just take the elevator. Taking the stairs every time will make a difference though! Plus, it’s something small you can do each day, especially on those days when you might not have time for a full workout.
Regarding Cafeteria Food…
Living off cafeteria food can be really difficult, especially if you’re a picky eater or if you have allergies (like me). The only stuff you’re interested in eating most of the time might be the really unhealthy items, like French fries or pizza. One trick I’ve learned is to have a few back-up meals planned in the back of my mind, based on what’s always available in the cafeteria. For example, there’s always a salad bar, which almost always has celery. Peanut butter is also a constant item. So, peanut butter celery sticks (i.e. ants on a log without the ants) is a healthy alternative to fries that I know will always be available in the cafeteria. Another example is a bagel with peanut butter and banana slices. Or veggies with a little bit of ranch? Finding a few healthy items that are always in your cafeteria can help you stay clear of some of the greasier options.
I have a major sweet tooth, so rather than keeping candy or cookies in my room, I always try to steal a piece of fruit from the cafeteria every time I go. That way, I can stockpile some apples or oranges for when my cravings flare up. Another good alternative for sweets is a small yogurt. This doesn’t always work for me (I have chocolate chip cookies in my room right now, for example) but I try my best to reach for healthier alternatives instead. Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to totally ignore your sweet tooth!
Regarding Late Night Snacks…
I don’t know about you, but most school nights I stay up pretty late… whether that be to study or to write a blog post. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the cycle that after about 10 pm you start to get hungry again. The late-night munchies can be killer in college! Something that works for me (but won’t work for everyone), is brushing my teeth. Yep, I try to brush my teeth after having a little snack around 8 or 9 pm. That way, I won’t be tempted to eat something later than that since my teeth are already clean. It mostly just boils down to me being too lazy to brush them again! But like I said, this trick really only works if you’re anal about brushing your teeth before going to sleep and if you are lazy.
Of course, if you want to hear an annoying parent adage, you can always try drinking some water instead when you’re hungry late at night! Sometimes chugging enough will make my stomach upset and take away the hunger, ha. (But for real, as annoying as parents are when they say this, sometimes water will help.)
Sometimes, we just can’t resist the late-night munchies, or those delicious brownies from the cafeteria, or a late-night bowl of cereal. And that’s okay! Something I learned from countless health-related articles is to do a small activity to earn that treat. For example, you want to go to the Ben and Jerry’s just down the street. You consider taking a Byrd scooter for the 2 blocks, but instead you decide to walk so you can earn that ice cream cone. Another example is, surprise surprise, taking the stairs as you head to your room (to chug the soda in your fridge) rather than the elevator. Any little exercise, like 100 jumping jacks, 30 crunches, or 10 push-ups, before dessert can help you feel better about yourself and help you feel like you earned that treat.
Regarding What You Eat…
My last tip is to keep a food log. Now, I don’t want you to mistake this as a calorie counting log because those can be very unproductive and dangerous (have you seen To The Bone on Netflix yet?). Rather, keeping a small notebook, or even a note app on your phone, to write down what you eat each meal can make you more cognizant of what you’re putting into your body. In a way, it’s a guilt-trip to help you see how much crap you’re eating and make you turn it around. Usually when I eat unhealthily, I don’t think much about it because I can’t see any immediate consequences. Keeping a log helps with that visual and forces me to realize what I’m eating, as well as how it might affect me later. But again, this tip might not be the best for everyone. I’ve just found that it has sometimes helped me in the past.
Phew, this turned out to be quite the long post… But I wanted to make sure I shared any and all wisdom I’ve learned over the past two years and even over the past few weeks. Health is always a journey – a constant battle. Most of the time when I write posts like these, they’re to help myself just as much as they are meant to help you! My point being, I definitely don’t have this college health thing figured out. But with these tips, and whatever tips you all leave in the comments below, I hope to constantly get better!
I rounded up some cute and affordable workout gear for you to shop to help motivate you on your health journey. I hope you found a useful tidbit in today’s post, and as always, I’d love to hear any questions/comments/concerns in the comment section below. Thanks for stopping by today, and have a wonderful Monday!
Miles of smiles,
Original Blog Posts in Order of Appearance: