Students, whether you like it or not, it’s that time of year again. First semester is finally over and second semester is quickly getting us into the swing of things again. For college students, especially freshmen, now is an important time to reflect on the first semester, to keep up with good habits, and to focus on areas where you can improve in semester two in order to ensure that your time away from home is as fulfilling and rewarding as possible. As I thought about my first semester at Denison over winter break, I’m happy to say that I’m thankful for how it went overall. I made close friends, found extracurriculars and job opportunities that I like, and took classes that I enjoyed and learned a lot from. However, I also made some choices that I regret and want to say goodbye to in second semester.
Something that I should have paid more attention to my first semester was my physical health. Being away from home allows college students to make their own decisions without being limited or prevented by their parents. Back at home, my kitchen almost never contained junk food and when it did, my mom would usually hide it somewhere. I would always look forward to going to my friends’ houses as a little kid because they were the ones with pantries full of Doritos, Oreos, Cheez-Its, and sugary cereals. So when I got to college, I knew I was free to eat whatever and whenever I wanted. On top of that, the overwhelming academic pressure that consumed much of my time and energy made me care less about what I put into my body and about going to the gym regularly.
When I returned home for the holidays, I was reminded of my old, healthier habits before going to Denison, when I didn’t fill my body with tons of junk food and frequent exercise was a priority of mine. I felt terrible and irresponsible for not taking better care of myself during my first four months of school. I felt not only as if I let myself down, but my family as well, because they were counting on me to consistently make smart, healthy choices.
So over winter break, I started making simple, yet effective changes in my life that I am trying to maintain during second semester. The following tips are not only helpful to college students, but to anyone currently trying to improve their habits:
Replace the stash of junk food in your dorm room with healthier alternatives such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
I know it can be tempting to take advantage of the numerous vending machines and snacks for sale in your dining halls on campus. Sometimes when you’re relaxing in your dorm, nothing seems more desirable than having chips or cookies while lying on your bed watching Netflix. However, for Denison students, Slayter market also has plenty of more nutritious and inexpensive options such as granola, yogurt, bell peppers with hummus, and apples that you can easily bring to your dorm. Also, don’t forget about the salad bar in your dining hall!
Limit your alcohol intake.
For college students, alcohol is often accessible and present in many social situations on campus. Apart from other obvious reasons to be cautious when it comes to alcohol intake, one reason that people often overlook is that frequent and excessive drinking can contribute to weight gain, as many drinks are high in carbohydrates. Not to mention that alcohol can also increase your appetite and give you unhealthy food cravings, especially late at night.
Take advantage of the gym on your campus.
If your school has a gym or any place to exercise, use it! For college students, it’s usually open long hours and it’s free, so why pass up the opportunity to stay healthy while not having to pay an expensive membership? Write out your schedule to determine which days and times during the week you are available to workout. Even better, ask a friend to do it with you! Working out with someone else will make you more likely to stay motivated and less likely to back out of going.
This tip may sound obvious, but staying hydrated every day contributes to weight loss. Drinking water increases metabolism, eliminates waste in your body, and decreases appetite. Remember to fill up a decent-sized, reusable water bottle before leaving your dorm. I use my Nalgene every single day and I’ve made it a habit of bringing it everywhere I go!
So college students, in the midst of all of your school work, activities, and social life, it is essential that you also remember to take care of yourselves! Make sure that you’re getting adequate amounts of sleep, eating right, and exercising. Staying in good physical health is also proven to be beneficial for your mental health because it reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. While making certain lifestyle changes may be difficult at first, I promise it will lead to greater success and happiness in the future.