“College is all about change.” Almost every senior in high school has heard that sentence dozens of times. Various interactions, obstacles, and everyday challenges experienced in College become habits that are carried with people the rest of their lives, but there are some changes that are not entirely wanted. The most notorious of these changes is the “freshman 15,” the most dreaded change that will affect them. Many early student think to themselves in high school, “No way that won’t be me. I am always playing a sport, there is no way I will gain 15 pounds.” But after 3 months of beer, late night food, a diet consisting of a cafeteria buffet and fast food, (on top of the little exercise) it’s apparent that the freshman 15 is almost unavoidable. Even if you don’t hit the 15-pound mark, our healthy habits that were more easily maintained throughout your life begin to slowly spiral downward, unless you are prepared.
When I was a senior in high school I was a starter on the varsity football team, and varsity lacrosse team. I grew up in a household that understood the impact that eating fresh vegetables and fruit can have on our bodies. I would not call myself a health nut, or a crazed athlete, but I would definitely say that I held habits throughout my daily schedule that would classify myself as an in-shape individual. I had a limited schedule, and my eating hours were always consistent. I would always have a full night of sleep, and my stress levels were not very high. I was living out a healthy life, with the occasional chips and salsa dinner, but overall was an energized person with the expectation that this would continue easily when beginning at SJU.
The biggest curse/blessing of the college experience is having the freedom of time. We are not each bound to the same place and the same time every Monday through Friday. Without having a steady schedule to live by, and coming home to a house where you are taken care of each night in terms of dinner on the table after a hard practice, it makes it difficult to continue these routines we have lived with our entire lives, not to mention the unrealistic social aspect of college. The new amount of free time became as much a burden as it was a blessing, mainly because it forced me to be responsible for managing my life, something that had always been organized for me through school, sports, choir, parents, and other extracurricular activities. After a long day of college classes, studying, and working out, we become too exhausted to make ourselves dinner, or get to bed at a reasonable hour, forcing students to eat the waste that is served at cafeterias and screw up our sleep schedule. I realized soon enough that I was not the healthy individual I had been only a few months back, and it was having a serious effect on my overall health. I would sleep for only a few hours a night several days of the week, and at very consistent times. I was consuming a more substantial amount of unhealthy food, and would drink alcohol throughout the entire week.
Over my 4 years as College student, I have only begun to develop a schedule that successfully facilitates healthy habits into my hectic life. I have realized that every individual has a limited amount of self-discipline, which makes sharing ideas on how to manage ones life so difficult. For example: where many advocate for self-change, others may say the situation you are in is the problem. In our current technological era, it is simple to share and discover solutions for everyday issues. There hours of YouTube videos, millions of pages, and even mobile apps that help construct an individuals life. However, I found myself looking for solutions to everything, physically, mentally, psychologically, and socially, that I deemed a problem. This, ironically, caused many issues. When a solution seems to not work for you, regardless of how disciplined you are to it, it can make you feel like there is something inherently wrong with you. This is what happened to me, and I can assure now, this is definitely not the case. We must realize that if we are going to treat our bodies like an enormous problem solving puzzle, we cannot expect perfection. The way we react to a new diet could differ completely different to another person. We need to realize that every single human is different. Every single person experiences the world in a different way: from metabolism to sleep, attention span to creative thinking.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Dr. Theresa Bowers about the importance of a healthy lifestyle in college. Dr. Bowers has six children of her own whom have graduated or are currently attending college. She speaks about not only what she believes are the most important to things to remember when entering college, but also how the habits we form in college will effect our lives more than we are aware of.
Question: What would you say is the most important thing that college students need to remember when entering college for the first time in regards to living a healthy lifestyle?
Answer: I think the most important thing is to get enough sleep – and regular hours of sleep – not multiple naps — this helps with making good decisions in social situations, helps combat depression, and helps academically.
Question: What small choices do you believe would go a long way?
Answer: Choose to surround yourself with friends who are like-minded and will help you to succeed. In terms of nutrition, try to eat your meals at the same time each day of the week.
Question: What common mistakes have you seen as a doctor, but also as a mother of 6 children who went through the college process?
Answer: Students who are not comfortable standing up for themselves and for their own beliefs…… trying too hard to fit in……. not making wise decisions when it comes to having fun —- not remembering that as a young adult every choice you make, whether socially or academically, has a great impact on the rest of your life.
Question: Do you have advice in regards to the school’s dining hall, and how to choose better options?
Answer: The dining hall should post calorie counts and nutrition information about all of their food – and not just in some pamphlet – but on the sign board so as you are choosing what to eat you at least know the nutrition involved. Most college students are aware of not eating too many calories, or too much fat, but when it is right in front of them —- it helps in making better choices.
Question: Why is health so imperative during those 4 years of our lives?
Answer: It has an impact on the future —- and habits usually begin in college that are difficult to break in later years.
I eventually was able to form better habits throughout my time as SJU, but I still have difficulty following those habits. I will be entering the “real world” in a month, and learning more about how to make healthy choices now is just as important as it was four years ago.