Girl VS Food: College Edition
Who will be victorious?
If you’re a college student like me, you’ve probably heard the Urban Legends (except they’re not really Urban Legends because they’re true) of college weight gain. Everyone likes to warn us about how to avoid the dreaded “Freshman Fifteen”, but no one really tells us how to avoid it. Well…they try, but fitness magazines and newspapers throw around words that bore us and cause us to tune out. I’ll get super excited about a post that’s supposed to help me stay fit in college, until one of two things happens:
A) They use some nutritional lingo that goes way over my head, leaving me lost and uninterested
B) They say something way too drastic, like “No carbs.”
Let me tell you, you do NOT have to sacrifice the simple joys of carbs in order to stay fit in college. Here are my hints and tips from one college student to another about some of the ways I have been trying to stay healthy amidst the temptation of a dining hall filled with an unending supply of sweets, treats, and angelic sugary temptations.
1) Limit yourself. It sounds simple, but doing it is way harder than saying that you’re going to do it. Let’s be honest, saying that you will never leave the dining hall with an ice-cream cone is just not being realistic, unless you can’t have dairy, or maybe you just enjoy denying one of life’s beautiful pleasures. You do NOT have to break up with dessert, just don’t make your relationship a daily thing. I tell myself that I can have 1 dessert from the dining hall each week, and then I allow myself dessert 1 time outside of the dining hall. That way, if I go home to celebrate a family member’s birthday party, I don’t have stare longingly at the cake like a little kid pressing her face up against the glass of a frosty toy store window on Christmas Eve.
2) No more “My diet starts tomorrow”. Trust me, it never works. This might seem like a simple solution, but it really just because a vicious cycle. You might decide on a YOLO moment with the girls to go do an I-HOP run for some savory chocolate chip pancakes accessorized beautifully with fluffy white whipped cream and sweet, sticky syrup….but ask yourself how you will feel about it in the morning. Chances are, the second after you finish those beautiful pancakes, you will beat yourself up a little for eating them, and then you don’t really end up enjoy the food anyway. But in order to avoid guilt and feed (literally) our indulgences, we laugh as we swipe our finger through the remaining syrup on our plate, stick our finger in our mouth, and pull it out saying, “Our diet starts tomorrow!” Well, it probably won’t. Your diet might momentarily start tomorrow….until you get to the dining hall the next morning and see that they’re serving Belgium Waffles, sweet and sticky cream cheese cinnamon roles, or something equally tempting. Just ask yourself in the moment, “How will I feel about this decision an hour after I eat this?”, and base your decision off of that.
3) Say no to stress eating. This one can be pretty tricky, but if you cushion your embarrassing social mistake or failed midterm with Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy, you’re going to get into the habit of craving junk food and reaching for it every time things go awry…and that will leave you feeling even worse about yourself. I have tried to condition myself to go for a walk when I get stressed out, hit the gym, change my outfit, or paint my nails while I sip some tea out of one of my favorite mugs. Choose comfort that doesn’t have the guilty strings of calories that goes along with it.
4) Get active. Yeah, you knew this one was coming. Most colleges offer a gym for free, so why not take advantage of it? After all, you’re already being charged so much money; you should indulge in all of the perks you can get! Exercise is a way to boost your self esteem, make you feel more productive, and it also helps relieve stress! It might not be fun during it, but you’ll be so happy you did afterwards! Don’t have enough time to change and work out? Try going for a walk! Did you know that walking a mile and running a mile will burn the same amount of calories? The only difference is that one of them takes up less time and involves more cardio. You don’t even have to take off that super cute outfit you’re wearing or mess up your hair! Grab a friend and catch up on life while you take a walk! It gets your mind going, and you get to take in all of God’s gorgeous creation while you chat!
5) Get an accountability partner. This has been so helpful for me. I have two close friends on my floor who help keep me accountable. I work out with one of them (when our schedules line up), and we also gently help each other through an internal struggle about whether or not we should get that ice cream cone on the way out of the dining hall. Doesn’t it seem like when one person at your table goes and grabs dessert, it justifies it for everyone else to do the same? I totally struggle with that. I know that if I have my accountability partners, there will be at least two other people besides me who do not go running to the dessert table after dinner, and that is enough to keep me grounded from consuming my weight in chocolate cookies. Another thing that comes along with an accountability partner is the ability to be open about your self concept and body image. Everyone gets down on themselves at some point, and it really helps if you are able to verbalize those feelings…instead of eating them. Your friend will likely struggle with the same things, and it feels good to get those thoughts out in the open, because then you aren’t weighed down with the guilt of eating that fifth cookie at the floor mixer. My friends Sara and Kelly have been amazing with helping me want to stay healthy and stay honest.
6) Be smart with dorm room stacking. If you have a weakness for Oreos (like I do), then do NOT keep them in your room! It’s like handing a credit card to a Shopaholic like me. It sets you up for failure. Make Oreos a treat, not an “all the time”. Plus, then when you actually have an Oreo, it’s a lot more special! My roommate Macy introduced me to the joy that is pretzels and peanut butter. We keep pretzel rods in our room, and when I am in a hurry and need to get a quick snack to suppress the hunger, I snap a pretzel rod in half, dip it in the peanut butter, and go. It’s quick, it’s super tasty, doesn’t break the Cal-o-meter, and the peanut butter serves as some protein to keep the hunger away for a longer time period. Keep hummus in the fridge, and dip veggies in it or a handful of pita chips. Another way to deal with dorm snacking is to abide by the “handful rule”. If I am desperately craving some teddy grams, I slip my hand into the box, pull out one handful, drop it into a cute bowl, and then seal the teddy gram box and put it up on the highest shelf. This way, you get to indulge, but you don’t accidentally end up eating half the box while you study.
7) Set a deadline. If you want to pack on the pounds, one easy way to do that is by late night snacking. If you eat right before bed, you are allowing all of those calories to sit inside of your stomach all night long. When you sleep, you aren’t moving around like you are during the day either, so you’re aren’t burning off as many calories. I try not to eat after 8 pm, unless I haven’t had dinner yet and just got out of work/just found the time to eat. If you are hungry before bed, try having a cup of tea instead! Try Chamomile, it’s soothing and it has antioxidants with zero calories!
8) Breakfast. Breakfast is so important! It will wake you up before that 8 AM class, and it will also jump start your metabolism! Try eating eggs or a whole grain english muffin with peanut butter and jam. They have protein, which will keep you full longer!
9) Easy on the liquids! One way to quickly cut back on calories is to monitor what you’re drinking. Try cutting out pop. Instead of that glass of diet coke, try a refreshing glass of water. Instead of hitting the latte machines for a french vanilla cappuccino, get some green tea (Side note, green tea has zero calories AND it will boost your metabolism)! The only drink that I allow myself to get from the dining hall is water and some tea…and NO, sweet tea does not qualify as tea, I’m talking about zero calorie, health boosting hot tea. If you occasionally want to reward yourself with a glass of chocolate milk while you do that last minute cram before your 8 AM history midterm, go for it! You do you, girl!
I hope that these tips were catered (puns, sorry) to college students, and I wish you the best! Girl VS Food….you can win!