10 tips for staying healthy in college
The notion of gaining the "freshman 15" is overwhelmingly prevalent in American culture, but studies show that weight gain is associated with drinking alcohol and getting older, not necessarily the college lifestyle. In fact, a study found that “fewer than 10% of students gained 15 or more pounds in their first year, and 25% even reported losing weight.”
The first semester away from home can be daunting — making new friends, adapting to a new environment, establishing interests and habits away from the influence of one’s family. This is the perfect chance to embrace new-found freedom! Instead of being terrified that moving away to college will automatically mean that you're destined to gain weight, focus on being and becoming the best person you can possibly be with these 10 tips for a happy and healthy semester away from home.
1. Educate yourself
Learn about the nutrition of your on-campus dining options! Make sure you know where your on-campus health center is. Most colleges and universities offer a way for their students to educate themselves on the food options they provide, and encourage students to visit the health center when they aren't feeling their best.
2. Avoid driving around campus
Harness campus walks as part of your daily exercise! Unless your high school was huge, or your college campus is smaller than a square mile, chances are you’re walking a lot more in college than you did before, and usually outdoors, which leads me to my next point.
3. Drink water (but don't force it)
Staying hydrated not only promotes weight loss, but also increases memory function and stabilizes moods. Don't overdo it, though! Needing eight cups of water a day is a myth that's been dispelled. Be sure to listen to your body about how often and how much you need.
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4. Take advantage of your on-campus gym facilities
If your school includes a student membership to their gym, make the best use of it. And I honestly mean learn about the facilities — don’t limit yourself to treadmills and ellipticals.
5. JOIN A CLUB SPORT
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I cannot stress the awesomeness of this enough. A club sport helps hit the trifecta of health, friendship, and happiness. First and most obviously, you get your physical exercise. In terms of emotional health, you make friends (or a family, if you’re lucky). And in terms of mental health, you get all of the endorphins that come with being loved and working your body.
6. Realize the effect of alcohol
Heck yes, college is the time to explore endless possibilities, and if you choose to experiment with alcohol, I encourage you to do so in an environment that is safe (both physically and emotionally). However, it's important to realize that there are no nutrition facts on your average bottle of alcohol, so be aware of what you’re putting in your body. Most standard drinks (0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol), contain upwards of 100 calories per serving, along with other negative health effects.
7. Don’t starve your body — of food, of healthy activities, or of positive attention
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Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Far too often, we associate health with our figure, diet, and exercise routines. While these things are all part of establishing healthy habits, they're by no means a complete picture.
8. Make sure you know where the counseling and psychiatric services on your campus are, and don't be afraid to use them!
USA Today found that teens are developing eating disorders as they enter college, which may or may not be a result of fearing the mythical weight gain, but it's surely a result of poor mental and emotional health. These aspects of your health are vital elements that must be considered when establishing healthy habits, especially like managing your stress and getting a good night's sleep.
9. Find a solid set of friends
I know, easier said than done, but this is exactly why you should consider a club sport, or even call old friends from home when you’re feeling less than stellar, to make sure you have an outlet for your feelings.
10. Celebrate you!
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Celebrate the fact that you finally get decide who you want to be for yourself, and deciding which behaviors you want to adopt is a critical step in independence!
Ultimately, the point of college (and, I would argue, life in general) is not to obsess over our figures and bodies, but rather to enjoy the great things that life has in store. Our bodies are the vehicles that carry us through all our daily activities, and just like any other vehicle, a certain level of maintenance is required for things to run smoothly, regardless of the make or model, shape or size, of said vehicle. Once this maintenance is taken care of, move on with your day. Allow your body to take you on all the adventures that your first year of college has to offer!
About the author
Sabrina is an upcoming sophomore at the University of Richmond, majoring in international studies and minoring in education and society, with plans to revolutionize global education standards. She is involved in the Virginia Eta chapter of Pi Beta Phi and the women’s ultimate Frisbee team, loves elephants and pistachio ice cream, and has her own blog.