Sunny days and warm weather are just around the corner. Summer is a great time to start fresh and re-dedicate ourselves to a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve strayed a bit in the stress of finals and exams, let Her Campus help you get back on track. As you finish classes and pack up to move out, think about leaving these bad habits behind as well.
1. The Problem: Late night snacking
Whether you’re out at the bars or hitting the books, as the night goes on, you can get pretty hungry. Takeout menus on your fridge may be calling your name and you’re helpless to resist the temptation of that bag of pretzels in the pantry.
“Late night snacking is the worst,” says HC contributing writer Jessica Salerno, “especially when you’ve had a long and stressful day and the dining hall just isn’t cutting it.”
These late night snacks usually lead to an unhealthy binge and can also affect the way you sleep. According to Dr. Jackie Keller, founder of NutriFit, eating heavy or rich foods before you hit the bed can make you feel uncomfortable and make it difficult to get adequate rest.
The best defense against an empty stomach at night actually starts in the morning. Keller says studies have shown people who eat a good breakfast and continue to practice good habits throughout the day are less hungry and have better eating habits overall.
“If you eat well during the course of the day, then that unfed feeling that results in eating late at night goes away,” says Keller. “When 9:00 comes around, you’re done with food.”
Eating a fiber-rich dinner will help keep your stomach full until bedtime. Keller recommends preparing meals with foods like beans, potatoes, brown rice, or yams.
Depending on your diet, it can be normal to be hungry around 9 or 10 at night. Keller says that when you get late night hunger pangs, it is best to whip up a balanced snack. Light foods like half a peanut butter sandwich or yogurt paired with nuts are both healthy and won’t keep you from getting that good night’s sleep!
2. The Problem: Rarely washing your bed sheets
When you were a little kid, you hated making your bed… and now it’s no different. The hassle of changing your bed sheets is the last thing you want to deal with, but after reading this you might change your mind.
You would never wear the same clothes for four weeks straight or go without a shower for a month. In a way, not changing your sheets can be comparable to both.
According to FamilyDoctor.org, a branch of the American Academy of Family Physicians, you should wash your sheets and blankets once each week. Sheets should be washed in hot water and not in over-loaded washing machines.
For cleaner sheets between washes, experts are pretty unanimous in advocating that sleep should be the only activity taking place on your sheets.
You should avoid eating and wearing street clothes in bed. Crumbs of food only invite more bacteria between your sheets. Similarly, wearing the same clothes you’ve worn to class or to the gym in bed (like if you crash for a nap right away) only bring in more unwanted germs.
3. The Problem: Alcohol cals adding up
In college, it seems like anything and everything gives you an excuse to have a few drinks. At this point, I don’t think you need to be preached about the health risks of alcohol you’ve been hearing since middle school (impaired judgment, high blood pressure, liver damage, and so on), you know drinking is bad for you. But do you know how drinking affects you from a dietary standpoint?
According to collegedrinkingprevention.gov, the average 12 oz. can of light beer contains about 110 calories, and a shot (1.5 oz.) of 80 proof vodka, whiskey, or tequila, contains about 95 calories. Let’s do the math. If you’re drinking two or three nights a week and having a few shots and five or 6 beers your calorie count from alcohol can get as high as 9,000 every month! Imagine how that number would increase if you started drinking even more over the summer… and we haven’t even added in mixers!
In addition, alcohol affects your pancreas, an organ that helps you metabolize food. According to WebMD, your metabolism is key to calorie burning, so you’ll want to keep that in tip-top shape!
Drink less often! In the summer with the sun shining and fewer responsibilities on your shoulders, it may be tempting to drink more frequently. Instead, try to limit how often you drink, if only for the sake of that bikini bod you’ve been working so hard for.
Drink smart! Make drinks with low calorie mixers like diet soda or light fruit juice. Another tactic for cutting back calories is to alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks throughout the night. If you’re looking for some low-cal drink options, check out our article on the highest and lowest calories drinks.
4. The Problem: Leaving eye makeup on when you go to bed
Eye makeup, like all cosmetics, is exposed to bacteria and germs. Not only are those bacteria a health risk while wearing makeup during the day, you put yourself in greater danger by exposing your eyes overnight. The likelihood of irritation, itching, and even cornea abrasion (a scratch on your eye) increase the longer you leave makeup on.
Prepare before you go out by setting out a clean cotton ball or washcloth and soap. That way, if everything is sitting out, it will remind you to do this quick, but important task before you crash for the night. Gently rub away makeup with a cloth or cotton swab.
5. The Problem: Not getting enough sleep
Sleep is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. In the rush of exams, parties, projects, and procrastination, we’ve forgotten about the importance of getting some shut-eye throughout the course of the school year. Lack of sleep disrupts almost every physiological function including your immune system, emotions and eating habits, says Dr. Debra Greene, energy health expert and author of Endless Energy: The Essential Guide to Energy Health.
Greene says allowing yourself time to recharge can work wonders for a tired body or exhausted mind. Even if it is only for 10 or 15 minutes, that brief period of relaxation will leave you feeling much better than any cup of coffee or energy shot. One relaxation technique Greene recommends in a situation where you need a quick pick-me-up is a breathing exercise. She says to close your eyes and focus only on breathing and nothing else. “Instead of working against your body, work with it,” advises Greene.
While it isn’t always a realistic expectation to get eight hours of sleep every night, try to at least aim for six and catch up when you can with naps or even just allowing yourself a few minutes to rest, stress-free, says Greene.
6. The Problem: Drinking too much caffeine
Naturally, the issue of caffeine consumption follows sleep deprivation. It’s no secret that college students consume large volumes of caffeine and energy drinks in an effort to study, party, and pull all-nighters. In 2010, the rising popularity of energy “shots” helped energy drink sales increase by about 13 percent according to a market research report released in USA Today earlier this year. Unlike soft drinks, the FDA does not regulate the amount of caffeine in energy drinks or coffee. The stimulus that caffeine gives your body isn’t healthy nor is it sustainable.
If it’s hard for you to kick the habit of reaching for a caffeinated drink when you’re tired, instead, choose water or something a bit healthier than soda. Green Tea, for example, is highly recommended as an alternative to highly caffeinated beverages. Although there is a mild amount of caffeine, the benefits far outweigh any harm done by the caffeine. The nutrients and vitamins in green tea are known to prevent cancer, fight obesity and improve heart health, according to a WebMD article.
7. The Problem: Eating too much takeout
Sure, celebrating a birthday or going on a date to a restaurant is reasonable on occasion. It’s when you make eating out a consistent habit that you get into trouble. But the calories from a sub one day and greasy fries the next really add up.
Preparing your own meals is, of course, the preferred alternative. However, if cooking isn’t your forte or takes up too much time, plan ahead. Prepare a meal on Sunday (when you might have a little more free time) that you can re-heat or re-purpose. Chicken is a great staple that you can use in multiple meals. Grill a few chicken breasts early on and you can make different meals like quesadillas, barbeque sandwiches and salads throughout the week. Having easy alternatives to ordering pizza or calling for Chinese will help curb any temptation to order takeout.
8. The Problem: You’re always on Facebook
The weather is warmer and the sun is shining and begging us to get outside. We should listen. An article published in the San Francisco Chronicle raises concerns about a growing concern dealing with technology and multitasking. A study from UCSF shows that the constant from smart phones and social networks is actually affecting our memory and mental performance.
Unplug yourself. Limit the time you spend online keeping up with your friends’ pictures and wall posts. Instead use that time to actually hang out with those friends, take some new pictures and create new memories. Next time you go out with friends, make a pact not to check your messages while you’re eating dinner. How valuable is the time you’re spending together if half of it is spent texting other people?
9. The Problem: Not drinking enough water
If sleep is the foundation for health, then hydration is the cornerstone. Believe it or not, your body is almost always in a state of dehydration. This causes fatigue, headaches, and even over-eating.
Water is essential for your body to function properly. Improved hydration can boost metabolism and help your body absorb soluble nutrients like C and B vitamins. The benefits of proper hydration extend to how you feel and think says Keller. “If you drink enough water everyday,” she says, “you’ll feel better everyday.”
Since our sense of thirst is dull, we aren’t always aware that we need more water. The easiest way to get into the habit of drinking enough water is to always have some available.
“When no one is reminding you to drink, it’s easy to forget,” says Keller.
She says that sometimes we reach for food in response to feeling thirsty, without even knowing it. Proper hydration can cut down these cravings and lead to a healthier lifestyle overall.
The key to drinking enough water is simply to have enough with you at all times and make a habit of drinking it. Work a glass of water into your daily routine. That could mean pouring a glass in the morning after you brush your teeth or right before you sit down to watch a TV show in the evening. Get creative; the more often you can incorporate drinking water into your everyday tasks, the better. Before you know it, instead of reaching for a soda you’ll be craving that H2O!
If drinking plain water all day is too dull for your palette, there are a number of natural ways to add flavor but be sure to stay away from sugars or artificial sweetening packets. Keller suggests adding a lemon, cucumber, or an orange slice for a natural hint of flavor. Other methods include adding fresh mint leaves (which you can find at the store for about a dollar) or even a splash of your favorite fruit juice!
10. The Problem: You’re too busy to have fun!
During the school year we pack our schedules so airtight, there is hardly any breathing room. It’s summer, RELAX.
No more excuses. Get out and enjoy the summer sun, girls! With class and school behind you, your schedule should free up plenty of time for fun. Go for a run outside, watch the sunset on the beach, play pick-up softball with friends, just do something!
Try making a summer bucket list with your best friends. Get creative with it so you don’t fall into another dull routine. When you and your friends are struggling to come up with something to do at night, pull out the list and get ready to check something off!
A healthier you is a happier you. Hopefully some of these tips can help you turn around a bad habit or two and make this summer that much more enjoyable.