In every aspect of life, maintaining a balance and doing things in moderation are what lead to long-term success and happiness. Although it may not always seem like it, staying healthy while in college is very possible. With the right steps and by forming good habits, it eventually stops becoming something you’re actively trying to do and one day you’ll realize that it has become second nature.
You don’t need to cook every single meal, stay in every night, or exercise seven days a week. By trying to do all that in addition to the stress of everything else that comes with college, more often than not, it won’t lead to success and joy in the long haul. Alternatively, a good general rule to follow is the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time you adhere to your plan, and the other 20% you’re free to indulge in a meal you can’t live without, go out to dinner and drinks with friends, and other things that might otherwise be considered “off limits” in order to add flexibility. This elasticity assists in making a healthy lifestyle easy to live with.
Eating well is usually the hardest thing to do, especially when you’re busy or don’t have access to a kitchen. Oftentimes your schedule has you on campus for six hours straight and by the time you’re done you’re too exhausted to make something, so you just grab some fast food or snack on nutrition-void food. This is where meal and snack prepping comes in handy! With healthy options in the fridge or pantry (or drawer if you’re in a dorm), it is infinitely easier to make a smarter choice that’ll provide countless benefits, both mentally and physically.
Some items that are perfect for college students who are trying to be healthy on both a time and monetary budget are protein powder (a $32 jug of powder seems like a lot up front, but it ends up equating to around $1.18 per serving), fruits, vegetables, and nuts. It’s important to have foods that not only you enjoy eating, but are also convenient. If you’re satisfied, you will be less inclined to overeat and also find a healthier lifestyle much easier to stick to!
Another important thing that many of us struggle with is drinking enough water. One good trick is to always keep a plastic refillable bottle with you at all times. Proper water intake has a plethora of benefits, like improving skin, controlling appetite (people tend to think they’re hungry when they’re really just thirsty), increasing energy, decreasing bloating, and enhancing brain functioning, to name a few.
When it comes to drinking alcohol, be smart, and do it in moderation. It’s important to know your limits, and when you do drink, do it in a safe environment with trusted friends and be 100% certain that you know what is in your cup.
The benefits of exercise are enormous. It decreases stress, increases confidence, improves energy levels, and provides a nice temporary escape from the stress of everything! The best way to make a habit is to incorporate it into the rest of your schedule. Write it in your planner with the rest of the things on your to-do list or make plans to exercise with a friend so 1) bonding and 2) you’re each held accountable.
Vary your workouts; weight lift on some days (I can’t concisely express how great weight lifting is), run on others, try out a spin class, do yoga, go on a hike with friends on the weekends, or swim laps. Set goals for yourself (I’m trying to hit 225 pounds on my deadlift), set a new PR on my distance running (I’m running a full marathon in May – scary!). One of the best feelings in existence is working towards a goal for months or even years and finally achieving it. After hitting that first goal, the addiction is born and proliferates from there.
Ultimately, the main proponents of a maintaining a healthy lifestyle in college are being balanced, doing things in moderation, and developing a feasible routine. For prosperity and bliss in the long run, be practical with your goals and the time that it will take to achieve them.
Always remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s best to think of it as a lifestyle change or adaptation rather than a “diet”, because diet is tied to the notion that one day it’ll be over. In the end, do what is best for yourself and your own personal happiness!