Many people look back on college as the best four years of their lives. It is a time to discover new passions and live without parents for the first time. Unfortunately, college also tends to be the place where all dreams of a healthy lifestyle go to die. Sometimes it seems like there is a gaping black hole of pizza, alcohol and honey barbeque chicken wings lurking around every corner. After gaining the freshman 15 in a record four weeks during my first semester of college, I decided to re-evaluate my college lifestyle and find a way to still have fun without waking up feeling like a beer truck had hit me every morning.
Here's my no-nonsense guide on how to get healthy in college:
1. Do not late night eat. Ever. No matter what anyone may tell you, Panda Express at 2am is not a good idea. You will hate yourself in the morning. If you are prone to falling off the bandwagon after a long night of frat party flirting, set an alarm on your phone with a message. Hopefully the words "DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EAT THE ORANGE CHICKEN CHOW MEIN" will deter you from hours of self-loathing and heartburn the next day.
2. Remember that alcohol adds up. You can sabotage an otherwise healthy lifestyle if you toss back countless shots, mixed drinks and beers multiple nights per week. Try to stick to a healthy lifestyle throughout the week and then reward yourself on Saturday! You'll probably have more fun if it feels like a special occasion that you've earned. On Sunday morning, remember to eat a protein-packed breakfast to combat unwanted hangover cravings.
2. Treat exercise as a welcome study break. In college, we all spend a lot of time being sedentary -- studying, binge-watching Netflix, etc. Try to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to moving around, but do something that you like! If you abhor the treadmill, don't force yourself to plod along for 30 painful minutes every day. Take a yoga class, walk a mile to your favorite coffee shop, or join an intramural sport. Also, take advantage of having free facilities at your disposal -- a luxury that you will likely not have once you enter the real world.
3. Stick to a few essential dining hall rules. With all of the diet tips and tricks out there, it can get overwhelming to try and remember everything that is good or bad for you. In the dining hall, eat as many colorful vegetables as possible and reserve 50% of your plate for veggies, 25% for protein, and the other 25% for a whole grain.
4. Pick either lunch or dinner to have dessert. Not both. And if you're planning on drinking that night, skip dessert altogether.
5. Manage your stress. Designate time to be unproductive. Chances are, you'll actually be more effective when you try to accomplish a task if you've relaxed a little bit and cleared your mind. You're also less likely to eat your feelings if you give yourself a little time to breathe and regroup each day.
5. Sleep. You'll feel better, look better, think better, and you'll be more appealing to be around if you aren't irritable and snappy due to combined five hours of sleep over a three-day period.
6. Inspire your friends. If you make exercising and eating healthy a social event, it will be much more fun and easier to stick with. Go for group hikes or walks when it's nice out and share healthy creations with one another in the dining hall. Once you get into the habit of being healthy in college, it is manageable and fun!