Things I Learned in College: Diet and Exercise

Hello, again.

Now, if you are a freshman/soon-to-be-freshman in college, then here’s one big, important thing that you need to know once you go in: your body will change.

I’m not saying that you’ll go through puberty (you probably have stopped somewhere during your teen years, anyway), but rather the diet and exercise lifestyle that you choose to follow.

And I guarantee you, your diet/exercise regime will most likely change, for better or for worse.

Let’s back it up with some examples:

Take me, for instance. Throughout high school, I was pretty active: I ran cross-country and did track and field, as well as ate regularly every day. I was also younger, and so my metabolism was pretty damn quick to burn off that extra helping of rum cake during the Christmas holidays. I wouldn’t say that I was eating the healthiest that I could have, but at the same time it wasn’t as if I was scarfing down hamburgers and pizza and chugging soda (and I don’t even like soda). Basically, I ate normally, with the occasional dessert on the side.

However, once I entered college, my diet/exercise lifestyle went on a slightly different path. I was still exercising, but even more so now; I would go to the school’s gym almost every day and work out, lifting weights and running on the treadmill.

As for diet, I became more aware of what I was putting into my body, after hearing all of those horror stories about the notorious “Freshmen 15” (which refers to the weight gained during the college years due to being away from home and on your own. So the “15” is like fifteen pounds, although I’ve heard that some people gain more or less than that. But I’m digressing). I wasn’t going to allow those extra pounds creep in, and so I worked out regularly and paid attention to the food that I was putting into my body.

I lived in the dormitories for the first three years of college. Which meant that I had access to their dining halls. It was so convenient, instead of having to cook for myself. I also didn’t even need to wash the dishes, since the place had workers to do so. Seriously, I was spoiled. 😛

Whenever I ate in the dining halls, I was selective of what I got. Admittedly though, the first week or two of the school year I tried everything, down to the crappy white cupcakes at the dessert bar. But once I became familiar with the layout and menus (which changed every day), then I carefully chose what I ate. Oatmeal and granola yogurt for breakfast. A salad, rice, and fruit for lunch. More salad and pasta for dinner, with the occasional dessert (still have a sweet-tooth to be satisfied!).

Now you might think: wow, that’s all you ate?! And I answer: no, not all. True, most days I would eat just that much, just because I typically don’t need much to fill me up. Don’t get me wrong, I love food, I love to eat, but only the good stuff. And I usually get full pretty quickly anyway. There were some days, though, when I would splurge (typically Fridays) on a second helping of pasta, or a extra side of dessert. But for the most part, I just controlled what I ate.

Why did I do this? Well, one of my goals as a college student was to stay healthy and not gain the Freshmen 15. But…now as I reflect on this, I think that it became a bit too…stringent. Meaning, I was so focused on what I needed to eat that it kind of took the joy out of eating. Even after I ate, I would still crave more, and usually junk food. I would dream about going out to the billions of eateries in the surrounding college town, which offered fares such as gourmet pizzas, Thai food, pastries, heck, even Iranian cuisine! I was obsessed with food, even though I had plenty of food to eat in the dining hall.

Would you say that I had an eating disorder? I would say probably not…at least not conventionally. I didn’t have symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating. But I would say that I was almost OCD about what I ate, which now to me seems really irrational.

Now in my fourth and final year, my eating/exercising habits have changed slightly since my dorming days. I live in the apartments now, and so I have to at times cook for myself. I make basic dishes like pasta and all, so it’s not like I’m starving. But I care less about what I eat now, considering that what I have in the pantry at the moment will be what I eat for dinner. I have less choices in terms of food, unlike the millions offered in the dining halls. Living outside of the dorms has made me more independent, and more accepting of eating different things without having to sacrifice my body weight and health. To be honest, I did gain a bit of weight over the four years, but not a ton; really, it’s inevitable as you get older, and really, some of it comes from muscle. My exercise routine has changed a bit over the years as well and so my body shape has done so, too. I used to run regularly, but due to an injury during second year (and which it still hasn’t been resolved), 😦 I have switched to other modes of exercise like ellipticals and swimming. I’m still at a healthy weight, and so I’m good.

I’m going on way too long with this, but basically, I want to say that college does change how you eat and exercise, whether for the good or for the bad. I’ve known people who had been couch potatoes in high school now work out regularly (and have gotten into incredible shape!). I’ve also known those who went the other way, which isn’t necessarily bad, since being an adult with both school, work, internships, and what not leaves us less time to take care of ourselves. That’s life.

You don’t have to immediately start working out once you enter college. If you’ve always been athletic, that’s fine. But for those who could care less about exercise, as long as you take care of yourself, that’s all that matters.

And with that, I wish you a good (healthy!) day. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Things I Learned in College: Diet and Exercise

  1. Pingback: Things I Learned in College: People You Meet at the Gym – The Finicky Cynic

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