I’ve always been an active kid. I danced for 10 years, played soccer for 13 and ran as a member of my high school’s varsity track team for four seasons. Coming to college was a huge lifestyle change for me. Not only did I have to live in a new state and adjust to a college schedule, but I also no longer had the same time for extracurricular activities like I once did in high school. I could no longer workout for two hours every day, or go to meets or soccer games on the weekends.
As a result, the lack of free time took a toll on my body.
I’ve never had high self-esteem when it came to my physical appearance. After gaining some pounds during my freshman and sophomore years of college, however, I started to feel even worse about my size. I didn’t feel comfortable in the clothes that I wore. I became more critical about how I looked in the mirror and in the pictures I took with my friends.
Although I tried diets here and there, none of them seemed to stick. Without being able to exercise when I wanted to, I wasn’t seeing the results that I wanted.
I recently went on a three-month diet called WildFit, after being asked to participate in the program by my boyfriend and his family. They wanted to do it together to encourage one another and hold each other accountable.
The program more or less aims to redirect your intentions behind your eating habits, and condition you to make smarter eating choices. As each week progresses, you start to strip the types of foods away from your diet. Added sugars, dairy and carbs are just some of the categories you sacrifice during your time on the program.
It was a challenging three months, and there were definitely a few different points when I fell off the wagon. However, it allowed me to change the way I thought about food.
One of the main lessons I took away was that the quick, easy choices I make on a daily basis were usually the most detrimental to my diet.
When I’m running out the door in the morning to attend my 9 a.m. class, I often grab free cereal, a granola bar or a Pop-Tart in the lobby of my apartment. Although these “breakfasts” are quick and convenient, they aren’t the best way to start my mornings. Instead of grabbing whatever is in front of me, I now try my best to at least have a colorful first meal of the day. It now typically includes fruit and something more filling, like yogurt or oatmeal.
Another “hack” I took away was that eating out takes a toll on both your body, and your wallet. Well, this I already knew. However, I didn’t fully learn my lesson until I was forced to make my own meals under my restricted eating plan.
Because I live downtown in my college town, getting to-go food from a nearby restaurant is too easy. Oftentimes when you eat out, you never fully know what is in the dishes you eat. Whether it involves high amounts of sodium or added sugars, buying food from a restaurant is always a gamble.
Now, I do my best to make as many of my own meals as I can. This way I know almost exactly what goes into every meal that I make.
The next time you contemplate Chipotle for dinner, think of ways to make your own, healthier “burrito bowl” at home. One of the best perks of making your own meals is that you often have leftovers throughout the week. That way, you can get the most out of your money.
What I realized was most important for my health, however, was working out. I realized that what my body was truly craving the most was going to the gym and getting my adrenaline pumping. I get so stressed at school sometimes that I forget how great it feels to go on a run or lift some weights, even if it’s only for thirty minutes.
Most colleges have recreation centers open for students. Even if you live in an apartment, there’s a good chance you have access to a gym. Make the most out of the equipment available for you. If you struggle to get motivated to go to the gym, think less about how physically taxing a workout may be. Instead, focus on how much stress you can relieve moving your body and jamming to some of your favorite songs.
By no means have I mastered any of these lessons. However, I learn each and every day how I can best take care of myself during my college years. By making just a few lifestyle adjustments, you can not only avoid or reverse your freshman 15. You can also change your lifestyle to a healthier, happier one, too.