Simple Tips for Health at College

This week is my spring break, holla! I’m working on my social health, visiting my childhood best friend at her school in Tennessee for the weekend, then flying to Tampa to spend the week with my roommate and suite mate. Not practicing very good financial wellness perhaps–but health is all about balance. A trade-off: decreased bank account balance for good times with friends. I’m learning–and I have  a lot to learn about finance management.

While talking with my friend’s friends, the conversation drifted to health, to lifestyle changes while at school. And being healthy physically at school is hard. There is nearly unlimited access to food–sugary, delicious, refined foods. There is less time to sleep–school work and social activities keep some of us from getting the minimum eight hours.

There are upsides, however! At school there is often the convenience of healthy food options if you know what to look for, and easy access to physical activity centers and gyms. My conversations with different college students prompted this post. I realize that not everyone is conscientious or knowledgeable about nutrition, and the noise about “healthy” or “low fat” can be confusing. In the future, I’ll elaborate on different aspects of nutrition and physical activity. I’m passionate about what goes into my body, and you should be too!

Tip #1 Banish negative self talk. No good comes from negativity about ourselves. Without self love, we have nothing–enlist the help of others and agree to ban fat talk, defeatist attitudes, and harmful criticism. When I think about all the time I’ve wasted being critical of myself, it irritates me. My time could have been so much better spent.

Tip #2 Find exercise you love, and do it often! Friends of mine obsess over Zumba, I’d rather shave my head. Almost. For me, running and yoga relieve stress and make me happy. Does your school offer exercise classes? Try a new one! I rediscovered Pilates at school, and it’s awesome. Aim for activity, even if it’s light. Calling your mom? Go for a walk while you chat. Heading to your dorm on the fourth floor? Take the stairs.

Tip #3 Set a time when “the kitchen is closed.” Staying up late, it’s easy to eat junk food at all hours. While it’s a myth that eating at night makes you gain weight, eating when you aren’t hungry does. For me, I don’t like to eat after 8, which is probably ridiculously early for some people. I haven’t been following this guideline closely, and I notice I sleep and feel worse when I eat late because it is typically mindless snacking–rarely is it healthy or conscious.

Tip #4 Meatless Mondays! (Or Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays) I’m a vegan, but I know most people aren’t! Setting a day to abstain from meat can prompt you to try new foods and eat healthier while helping the environment. If you’re already vegetarian, try a vegan day. Since becoming vegetarian and then vegan my range of foods has actually increased.

Tip #5 Don’t cut out foods you love. If you suddenly decide you’re going to cut out all ice cream, cookies, and desserts when you’re used to having three desserts a day, you’ll stick to your strict new regime for about two days. Then, you’ll inevitably end up having ten at once because you feel deprived. Continue to eat foods you love, but have smaller portions less often. If you know you’re going to have dessert at dinner, it can encourage you to eat well at lunch.

Tip #6 Get creative in the dining hall. My friends are always amazed with the creations I concoct. I’ll make a massive salad, top it with a veggie burger, guacamole, hummus, nuts and salsa and go to town. Or, I’ll take a stir fry and wander around the dining hall adding little bits that look good. If you like how healthy food tastes, you’ll be more likely to eat it.

Tip #7 Sleep! I get at least 8 hours a night. When I first got to school, I had a really hard time falling and staying asleep. If you have trouble sleeping at school, try to minimize light in your room. You can also take melatonin a half hour to hour before you go to bed, and try to get a routine that signals to your body you are ready to go to bed. For example, minimize screen time (tv, computer, etc.) for an hour before you go to sleep, or do the same thing every night before you go sleep. It’ll help. People who get more sleep perform better and have healthier body weights.

Tip #8 Eat breakfast every day. Eating breakfast kick starts your metabolism and regulates your appetite for the rest of the day. Try to eat within an hour of waking up, and have something with protein and fiber. I’ve been training myself to eat oatmeal despite my history of hatred for the mushy breakfast dish. I mix in peanut butter, puffed rice cereal or granola for something to chew on, flax seed, protein powder, and soy milk. Maybe it isn’t unadulterated oatmeal but it keeps me full until lunch and makes me feel energized! Studies show that people who eat breakfast have more energy, healthier body weights, and improved concentration.

What do/did you do to stay healthy at college?