How to Stay Healthy in College

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

As you can imagine, as a health education major, I think health is pretty darn important. If your body isn't healthy, chances are your mental, social and emotional health will suffer as well, which can affect your entire lifestyle. Since going away to college is a huge life change, it can be pretty challenging to form and maintain healthy habits, but it's definitely possible and will leave you better equipped to handle the stresses of college life, in and out of the classroom. Here are my best tips to stay healthy in college:

Plan ahead.
"Those who fail to plan, plan to fail." It's cliche, but it's so true. Whether you're eating in a cafeteria for every meal or preparing your own meals, be sure to have a game plan. If you're eating in a cafeteria, have a general idea of what you're going to eat before you go in. Be sure to plan on getting enough fruits, vegetables and protein instead of loading up on comfort food everyday (although, it's okay to treat yo'self sometimes.)

If you're preparing all, or at least some, of your own meals, plan your meals each week. I don't have a rigid plan of what I'm going to eat every single day, but I make sure to have enough options that I can prepare a healthy meal at home.

I'd recommend having some snacks on hand, whether you have a meal plan or not. They'll keep you from getting too hungry by lunch or dinner time. If you have a fridge, stock it with healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, string cheese and Greek yogurt. Non-perishable, but healthy snacks include nuts, air-popped popcorn and dried fruit.

It's also a good idea to plan your workouts ahead of time. I'm not a rigid exerciser, but I usually try to get at least an idea of what I'm going to do each week so I don't fall into a rut (or forego exercise altogether.)

Out of sight, out of mind.
It seems simple, but I've found that being mindful of my surroundings is so vital to staying healthy. While it definitely applies to physical health (keeping your dumbbells and water bottle out instead of Oreos and Doritos will definitely help keep you on track,) it also applies to stress management. Keep your room clean so it won't stress you out and don't be afraid to stash any particularly stressful items (your calculus textbook, your W2 etc.) away if you'd like to forget about them for a bit while you tackle more urgent items on your to-do list (just be sure to schedule a reminder on your phone or write a note in your planner so you don't forget permanently.)

Get your beauty sleep.
It may seem obvious, but it's something a lot of college students struggle with. You need sleep to help your brain function well and be able to handle the stresses of everyday life. I'm the kind of person that absolutely does not function on anything less than eight hours, so I make sure to calculate what time I need to go to bed each night to wake up in time to get ready for class. Even if you can function on less than the ideal amount of sleep, it's a good idea to schedule eight hours every night. Some of my wiser friends even go so far as to set an alarm to remind them to start getting ready for bed.

Manage stress.
It's easier said than done, but managing stress is so important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I'll definitely do a more in-depth post on it, but for starters, you should make sure you don't spread yourself too thin in your obligations, get enough sleep and exercise.

Eat breakfast.
I know this has probably been pounded in your head since elementary school, but eating breakfast is so important, not only for maintaining a healthy metabolism, but also for brain function (which every college student can use!) Whether you make time to prepare an omelet, or simply eat a bowl of cereal (ideally something whole-grain and not too sugary!) the decision to eat breakfast is one you won't regret. While it's not ideal, even eating a granola bar on the way to class is better than nothing.

Eat often.
It's not a good idea to go a long time in between meals. First of all, you're more likely to binge the more hungry you are. Waiting too long also screws up your metabolism and, I, for one, cannot focus on an empty stomach (and also get pretty grumpy...no one wants that.) If you have big blocks of classes, be sure you've cut out a chunk for lunch or a snack.

Water up.
I always carry a water bottle and really recommend it. While I guess you could get enough water drinking out of fountains, it would definitely take more of a conscious effort than simply having a water bottle at your side all day. Hydration is so important for appetite management, metabolism, brain function and more, so be sure to get at least 64 ounces a day.

Take it outside.
I'll admit it: I hate most cardio. Running is a bit too tedious for my liking, I'm not a fan of going to the gym and I'm way too uncoordinated for any sort of dance cardio. However, I love taking walks because I get a breath of fresh air while observing the cool parts of my college town. I've heard of girls who record information they need to memorize and listen to it on their walks, but I usually just carry flashcards to study when I find a spot to sit and study for a bit. Going outside changes things up and makes studying more enjoyable (provided the weather is nice.)

Just five minutes.
Whether you think you don't have time to work out or really just don't feel like it, give yourself five minutes. A lot of the time, I'll turn on a Blogilates or Tone It Up video, complete it, think "That wasn't too bad and I'm already in workout clothes" and do a few more. You might not have time to workout an hour everyday, and that's okay. Do what you can with the time you have, and you'll still see results. (By the way, "Just five minutes" is a great mantra to keep for other areas of your life as well, whether it's doing homework or cleaning the bathroom.)

Keep in touch.
Maintaining a strong social network is vital to your health. Be sure to connect with your family and friends, whether they're new ones at your university, or friends you've had since high school (or longer.) While it may not seem important, it's a great way to reduce stress and stay sane.

I hope you found some new tips to try in this post! For more on living a healthy lifestyle, be sure to check out these posts:
Clean Eating 101: How to Eat Healthy
Eating Healthy on a Budget
How to Prepare Meals in Advance

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