College weight gain. It happens to all of us. Submerged in labs, lectures and late-night study sessions, we tell ourselves we’ll deal with our bodies in four years. Grad school? Med school? Forget it — by the time most graduates finish up, they’ve added another 15 pounds per year.
Ever wonder why those graduation gowns are like tents?
Now you know.
While college weight gain is almost expected these days, you can survive school without coming out a blimp. Just follow a few simple nutrition commandments:
#1 – Look Deep Into Your Food Future
I’m not going to tell you not to eat on-the-go. With work, school, extracurricular activities and squeezing in dates or time with friends, it’s not even remotely plausible. But I am going to tell you not to eat on the fly. Planning meals ahead of time is the only way to make sure you eat healthy in a hurry.
#2 – Conquer Grocery Shopping
It’s not enough to go to the grocery store instead of the drive-thru — there’s trouble lurking down those aisles! Start with Karen’s Food Rules blog, where she translates Michael Pollan’s nutrition bible for you in plain (and free) English.
If you can make it to the open air market, even better. Delicious food awaits you — the kind that has been grown with care instead of weird stuff, and that only had to travel a few miles to get to you.
There’s more to the farmer’s market than fruits and veggies, by the way: you’ll find locally-made honey, bread, cheese, yogurt, salsa and pastries, too.
#3 – Show Mealtime Some Love
At least once a week, make a ritual of eating a meal at home. I’m talking the whole shebang, like MindfullyEating talks about: set the table, invite some friends over (or not), and really experience your food. Putting some thought — along with ingredients you’ve hand-picked — into your meals helps you stay in touch with your food and your body.
#4 – Make Your Own Treats
In college, when I heard people talking about eating healthy, I rolled my eyes: who can subsist on a diet of vegetables alone? How naïve I was… Though you’d better have a handful of them in there, nutrition is about so much more than raw produce. A balanced, healthy diet even includes cheating (10%, I think they say?).
The trick to healthy-ish indulging is to make your treats yourself. It’s healthier, and it also ensures that you aren’t just craving fries and a shake because studying chemistry sucks.
When you’ve made pizza from scratch, you know you really wanted pizza — and you really deserve it!
#5 – Forbid Processed, Frozen and Fast Food
Working full time and going to school full time, I did what most students do: I ate 7-11 breakfast, Arby’s lunch and frozen TV dinner. Despite riding my bike to school, traversing campus and going to the gym almost daily, I gained 15 pounds in college.
Within three months of graduation, the extra weight was gone, even though I had completely stopped exercising (naughty, I know). That was the first time it really occurred to me: junk food isn’t just a “guilty pleasure” — it’s d@*% nasty.
Next time you think about packing Volcano Nachos to study group, the four-digit calorie truth awaits you at Freshman15Funk.
#6 – Get Cracked Out the Healthy Way
I refuse to dog on coffee. I love it, and it’s been proven to have some health benefits, too. Same with tea. But when you get into multiple cups a day like I did in college, you get into big, twitchy, dehydrated, achy-muscle trouble.
Unplug the caffeine IV and ride out the day with natural energy boosters. I speak from experience: you will sleep better, feel younger, and drop about a pound of sugar out of your diet every day. Save that second cup for emergency zombie days only.
Honestly, why wait until you’re a professional to eat healthy? No “I’ll start tomorrow” excuses — make the most of your college years by being healthy now.
Oh, yeah, and if you ace only ONE nutrition rule in college, make it this one: eat the most important meal of the day!
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