Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to Stay Fit in College

We've all heard the horror stories of the "Freshman 15" (or in my case the freshman 30). If you're heading out to college this fall, please don't let all the horror stories tarnish your excitement! Here are some tips I found to help ward off the freshman 15. I will be trying them this next semester so I challenge you to try them with me. 

1. Eat Breakfast- eating breakfast revs up your metabolism and gives your body the energy it needs to get through the day. I have found over the last semester that eating breakfast helps me score better on tests and helps me pay attention during lectures. 

2. Don't study at your kitchen table- If you study in the same place you normally consume your meals your mind will eventually subconsciously associate studying with eating as well. Try setting up a separate workspace in your room or walk to the library to study. 

3. Time management- Being in college can be hectic (trust me, I'm currently attempting to finish two bachelors degrees and a minor), but you still need to make time to work out. Take your textbook to the gym with you and study while walking on the treadmill, recumbent bike, or elliptical trainer. 

4. Avoid Vending Machines- Its super easy to run out to a vending machine during your break and grab an unhealthy snack like a candy bar or a bag of chips that will ruin your diet for the day. Try packing bottled water and healthy snacks such as raw almonds, an apple, carrots sticks, or whole grain crackers in your backpack instead. If you must go to the vending machine choose healthier options like mini pretzels, granola bars, or nuts. 

*** Bottled water can become super expensive over time, not to mention bad for the environment! When you're doing your back to school shopping, pick up a reusable water bottle (seriously less than $10 at Walmart or Target) and carry it around campus with you. This way, you will never be without a drink, you're saving money by not purchasing bottled water, and reducing your carbon footprint! 

5. Limit Alcohol Consumption- If you're anything like me, you'll pick a sweet and fruity mixed drink over a beer any day! This can add startling amounts of sugar and calories to your diet. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and has no nutritional value. Limit your consumption all together for the best results. Five shots of liquor can easily add up to 500 calories. Five 8oz margaritas can be as much as 2,500. If you're going to drink, stick to light beer or skinny cocktails (recipes to come later). Also, please remember the legal drinking age in the USA is 21, and is set a certain age for a reason! Please do not drink if you're under 21 and certainly never drink and drive!

6. Check to see if your school has a gym. I am fortunate enough to go to a school with a very large fitness facility complete with weight machines, cardio machines, an indoor track and pool. SIUE's campus also has an outdoor track, a lake with canoe rentals, an outdoor pool, sand volleyball courts, tennis courts, and several bike trails. All this is accessible with my student ID and the cost is already paid for with my tuition.

*** If your school has a fitness center, check to see if they offer fitness classes. SIUE offers yoga, aerobics, fitness bootcamps, spinning, Zumba, and belly dancing, most of which are free to registered students.

*** Don't feel like you're quite ready to hit the fitness center yet? Try simply walking or biking around campus. You could also try some of the thousands of free fitness videos on YouTube; you're online all the time anyway!

7. Avoid the late night pig-outs. This is easier said than done in college due to all the late night parties...I mean study sessions. Whether you are studying or partying, eating late in college is never easy to avoid. Try eating a salad and fresh veggies before going to that party to avoid eating chips and dip. Instead of ordering pizza or greasy Chinese food while studying, try eating carrot sticks with hummus, a personal sized homemade veggie pizza, or fresh fruits and veggies. Be sure to take only single portions to your study area with you to avoid over eating.

*** Its better to avoid eating while studying all together because your brain is preoccupied by what you're studying, not what you're eating. You have a tendency to over eat if you don't measure out your portions before hand. If you snack too much while studying, your brain will start to associate study time with snack time, and that's not good either. 

8. Find a Stress Reliever- It is so easy to turn to food when you're stressed out. Try finding something else that relieves your stress like jogging, taking a fitness class, photography, playing tennis, etc. 

9. Stay Away from Fast Food- again, easier said than done in college. On the SIUE campus alone we have temptations like Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Chick-Fil-A, Auntie Annie's, and Starbucks in addition to the usual cafeteria style fare. Try looking past all the neon signs, pizza, french fries, and cheeseburgers. You're likely to find broth based soups, yogurt, fruit, sandwiches on whole grain breads with lean meats, and a build your own salad bar. 

10. Find a Fitness Buddy- This could be the girl you sit next to in chem lab, your room mate, anyone! It just makes things easier when you have someone there motivating you to take a walk between class or to choose the salad over that slice of extra greasy pizza. 

11. Biggest Loser- Try getting a group of friends together (this would be so much fun if you involved other students living in your same dorm) and start your own biggest loser challenge. You could charge $5 of $10 to register, have weekly weigh-ins, and whoever loses the most at the end wins the "pot" (all the registration money).  

12. Add More Fruits and Veggies- Instead of filling your plate with pasta, pizza, and french fries, try filling at least two-thirds of your plate with fresh fruits and veggies. You'll feel fuller because of the nutritional content all while consumer less calories. 

*** You could also try using a salad plate opposed to a dinner plate and use a smaller fork. 

13. Be Careful with your Coffee- Many college students turn to the caffeine boost of coffee after a late night of partying or studying but be careful. Many coffee drinks are full of fat, sugar, and an entire day's worth of calories. One of my weaknesses is Starbucks and the fact that there is one right on campus does not help. Since I have decided to lose weight, I now limit myself to only two visit per week (opposed to the 5 I was making), normally for a pick-me-up while studying for an exam or writing a huge paper. I have also switched from my usual venti Frappuccino to a grande mocha light Frappuccino. The mocha light is made with non-fat milk and does not come topped with a mound of whipped cream drizzled with chocolate. A grande only has 130 calories. 

14. Keep Healthy Snacks in your Dorm Room- many college students who live on campus consume most of their meals in the campus dining hall, but its always a good idea to keep healthy foods in your dorm room too to avoid ordering that late night pizza. Try stocking up on things like bottled water, unsalted sunflower seeds, raw almonds, carrot sticks, hummus, air popped popcorn, fresh fruits and veggies, microwaveable brown rice cups, protein bars, etc.  

15. Make Your Own Gym- If you're like me, you get nervous going into a gym where all these slim and toned people workout. Try making your own gym. Grab some inexpensive workout equipment like a medicine ball, kettle bells, resistance bands, and a yoga mat to stash in your dorm room. They are inexpensive, easy to use, and don't take up much space. You can make up your own workout routines, or search for free routine videos on YouTube.


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