“Beware of the freshman fifteen” is something many new college students heard before their departure to university in the fall. At the close of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 22nd-February 28th), conversations about eating habits might be on a lot of college students’ minds. Eating healthy and satisfyingly in college is a task than can be as difficult as an upper level class. Temptations are endless on campus; even worse, the college lifestyle isn’t necessarily inclined to make us think about what we are consuming. Unfortunately, in college it’s either do or die with eating the right way for your body. It’s easy to get lost in the grandeur of all you can eat dining halls, the cool restaurants in your college’s town, late night deliveries, and not having to eat in every night. However, all of this spectacle can be distracting from one of the most important aspects of all our lives: our personal health.
In college, there is not a lot of time to focus on much but schoolwork, extracurriculars, and social life. If one can fit time to go to the gym into that equation, that student is a paragon for others. How can a student care about eating healthy when Jimmy John’s can be delivered in less than fifteen minutes and a piping hot pizza is just a few clicks away? Dining halls don’t offer better options either; from cookies (they’re healthy if they’re vegan, right?) to gooey, savory mac ‘n’ cheese, to — let’s not forget — pizza bars offering many different delicious creations, it’s easy to resort to a quick, easy bite instead of weighing one’s options.
We college students live in a paradoxical world. While our lifestyles are geared toward quick fixes — pizza, French fries, soft serve ice cream, oh my — our media conditions our brains to think differently than our appetites. It’s hard for a student to fight those midnight munchies while believing an hour trip to the gym will cancel out his/her/their habits. It’s a dialectic that can’t be ignored: the stomach craves what the stomach craves, but the brain keeps shouting, “Be skinny! Be fit!” While the dreaded and anticipated “freshman fifteen” isn’t completely an accurate representation of how much college students gain while at university, in a 2014 study, Rutgers University researchers found that the average young adult college student gains about 3.5 pounds during their college years. The researchers noted that students’ weight typically only fluctuates a little during their first year of studies. So does that mean eating whatever one wants is totally fine? Not necessarily.
In a study that was reported in the scholarly journal Diabetes Spectrum, it was estimated that 20.6 million people under the age of 20 were diagnosed with diabetes in the year 2010. The cause of Type Two diabetes? Poor eating and exercise habits. While it’s important, in the words of Tom and Donna, to treat yo’self every once in a while to a delicious snack, it is essential to remember that ending every meal with a cookie (or two or three or six) can be really, really dangerous to your health. Take a walk to class instead of grabbing the bus. Make a point to find an exercise buddy who isn’t a die-hard if you aren’t. Forgive yourself if you don’t make it to the gym five times a week. Try to avoid all that sugary cereal to start your day. Get friendly with the fruit section. There are checks and balances to every eating habit. The key is to never let yourself get too carried away, because that’s unhealthy on both ends of the spectrum. Be lenient on yourself and your body will thank you. When you put good in, you will get good out in many areas of your life, such as your sleep schedule, your energy levels, and even your grades will probably show an improvement.
Remember that you aren’t at fault for the way the culinary scene in college is. Dining halls don’t necessarily cater (no pun intended) to the juice-detox disciples of the world or to the people who just want some really tasty veggies once in awhile. Don’t be afraid to have dessert even if your health nut friends’ eyes widen. Gorge yourself in all areas of the food pyramid; well, it’s probably a good idea to be mindful and balance your intake of each area’s offerings. Most importantly, forget about the freshman fifteen. You’re going to be fine. Some myths about college just aren’t true: after all, the showers aren’t as bad as everyone says they are, right?