How I Lost 40 Pounds as a University Student

School can come with a lot of stress and even some unhealthy habits that we don’t notice right away. There’s the freshman fifteen joke that circulates in university culture but I think most people fail to take it seriously. If you don’t know, freshman fifteen is an expression about first year students gaining around 10–15 pounds from excessive drinking, eating out and other unhealthy habits. It becomes all about staying up late to study or finishing assignments, stress eating and a lot of eating out at fast food places. It can also feel like there’s not a lot of time for things like the gym, cooking or other forms of stress relievers to keep up healthy habits. These were all things I felt in my first year of university but I did find a way to get on track. If that’s something you want to achieve then this is the article for you! 

First, I want to disclaim these are things that worked for me and I cannot guarantee that what I did will work for everyone because we are all different. The important thing was that I didn’t force myself to go on a really strict diet or a really strict workout plan. Most of the time, we fail because our goals are unrealistic for beginners and are so hard to obtain, which can end up making you feel worse about yourself. Everything starts with mental reminders. You have to get in the habit of training yourself to make these new choices into habits. It will be hard but it’s about the small little things we can achieve more quickly that helps you get started and really motivates you.

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  1. 1. Meal Prepping on Campus

    For some, the idea of meal prepping sounds awful. If you’re in first year living on res with a meal plan, it will be hard but I promise that it won’t be impossible. Changing your eating habits is one of the most important changes to make when you start your journey. Now that there’s a grocery store on campus, you have some better options. Treats has so many healthy options from salads, wraps and boxes for great meals to even smoothie bowls as a snack. Freshii is located in the Lassonde building and it has a similar menu idea as Treats if you want to switch it up! The New Student Center just opened a Mia Fresco which also offers things like salads and wraps, along with other quick and healthy stuff. You can get your own personalized container of fruit at Berries & Blooms and grilled paninis at Qoola, along with some of their smoothies and salads. If you want to eat your meal at a sit down place, look at the menu from Underground or Shopsy’s ahead of time to find a salad you would like or even take a look at their veggie burgers. Get a small side of yam fries if you are craving something greasy. I know Pita Pit and Subway don’t sound healthy but you can make it healthier. Try the veggie options on whole wheat, skip the cheese and ask for sauces on the side or for half sauce. For protein, stick to chicken or turkey and just load up on all the veggies. Lastly, I’m going to suggest Booster Juice which have dairy-free items along with the option allows to get almond or soy milk swapped in! The ones with protein are delicious, filling and a great snack for any time of the day. There are lots of other places to eat at York where you can still find something healthy.

  2. 2. Meal Prepping at Home

    If you live at home, or live somewhere with a decent kitchen, I promise that eating healthier is gonna be better than it seems. Think realistically. Know the things that you like and know the healthy things that you absolutely hate. If you’re a really busy person in the morning, try making a smoothie to go. It won’t take more than ten minutes and it’s much better than getting McDonald's or eating something really sugary in the morning. If you commute to school and can pack lunch or snacks, bring your own fruit like bananas or grapes; something that isn’t too messy and are great to snack on any time of day. There are microwaves in both student centers so you can pack a healthy pasta, chicken and rice or even a salad for lunch and you’ll be good to go. If you buy lunch on campus, refer to any of the places I mentioned in the above paragraph for a healthy meal! If making packed meals is super hard for you, I suggest picking a day in the week that you are free to make a bunch of food and prepare your food in advance There are tons of ideas on Pinterest or Instagram to follow whether you eat meat, are vegetarian or vegan. Meal prepping will save you money too so you don’t have to buy lunch or dinner on campus. My go to meals are smoothies for breakfast, avocado toast for lunch and for dinner, I meal prep salads with some chicken, veggies and things like rice or quinoa. There's a million different ideas and options out there for healthy foods!

  3. 3. Exercise Plans & Goals

    This part of being healthy can be really intimidating to people. Know that there are other ways of being active and getting healthy than just strictly going to the gym. The membership for Tait MacKenzie is $15 and if you want to participate in all the drop in classes, it’s $75 for the whole year! There are things like yoga, pilates, spin class, boot camps and other activities available. If you want to start slow, walks, jogs, runs or even bike rides around your house and area that you live in are great. If there are parks or nice trails by you, that’s an added bonus! There’s a lot of myths about exercising for women. Everyone’s body is different and if you have money, consulting a personal trainer for even one session is super helpful but if you can’t afford it, that’s okay too. I usually do a well balanced workout, starting with any type of cardio for 30 minutes to one hour. Depending on what I’m doing, I’ll use weight machines or dumbbells for 15 to 30 minutes. A key thing to remember is to always warm up and end with a stretch, especially if you’re using weights no matter how light or heavy they are. If you work out at home, YouTube has an endless amount of videos to try. I specifically like the channel Fitness Blender which has over 500 free workouts for all levels, lots that don’t require any weights! You can also buy four to eight week workout program packages and meal plans if needed. There is an endless amount of fitness accounts on Instagram to follow. Whether it be inspirational or purely workout tips, I highly recommend taking the time to follow some that you really like and find helpful! While you’re exercising and getting fit, make sure to set realistic goals. Whether it’s trying to run a mile faster than your regular time or building up to using and lifting 10 pound dumbbells instead of five pound, remember that it takes time and dedication in the gym. Don’t force yourself to do things you aren’t ready for. It’s okay to hit a plateau in progress or your goals. The only thing that matters is that you feel good after your workout.

  4. 4. Daily Choices

    Instead of stressing about everything in the future, think about the day to day like your coffee choices and usual snacks. Popular Instagram account @themacrobarista shows some amazing healthier options to your favorite coffee drinks and how to order them. You can also try choosing a day out of the week wherein you only drink water. Try things like protein bars or energy balls instead of relying on a chocolate bar for an extra boost of energy. Another suggestion is to switch out a large iced cappuccino or your favorite sweet frozen drink for a Funky Monkey at Booster Juice. If you love Starbucks Frappuccinos, they can be made with plant-based milk and less syrup. Ask for no whip on top to cut back even more on extra calories too. You can also try making homemade frappes, frosties, smoothies and other blended coffee drinks or treats to try some healthier options and save some money. There are a ton of different ways to switch up your daily favorite foods or drinks and make healthier alternatives.

  5. 5. Tracking Habits

    Out of everything, I think this was the most important thing for me. It was really useful to visually see what I was eating that made me feel good versus what made me feel bad. The same went for exercising as well. Some suggestions I have for keeping track of your food intake is to take a picture of everything you eat in a day. Make a photo album for it or make a folder in your notes to keep track. If you want to go into super specifics on calories (such as how much food to intake to meet a certain goal) I suggest using the app called Lose It! I found it really helpful to log my food and exercises in it to help me reach my goals in small increments. If you’re ready to become super dedicated to health, another option would be to make a healthy food or fitness account on Instagram to track your progress and keep you accountable! If you don’t want to use anything digital, get a journal to write out these habits and goals that you’ve set out! Lots of people bring fitness journals to the gym to write down the plans and new goals that they have achieved in their workouts. Another suggestion I have is to do a track and reward system. Every time you hit a goal, you can treat yourself to something you want, however big or small.

  6. 6. Emotional Changes

    I think something that a lot of people don’t tell you is that even though you’re losing weight, you might not exactly be super happy. It can definitely be an emotional roller coaster with all these changes in your life. There were times when I was really hard on myself and times in my life where I thought I would never be able to reach these goals, ever. It’s definitely a lot of thoughts to process when you, as a person, are changing. Remember to stay positive as much as you can and feel okay with taking days off if you need to. Be okay with saying no to other obligations or to people so that you can work out and focus on yourself. It’s about balancing a lot in your life while you are on the journey, especially as a university student. It’s really easy to get caught up in school and late nights. Do as much as you can to remind yourself to stay on track and make time to prioritize your health and well-being.

I hope that this article helped in giving you a sense of what changes go down once you start a path to a healthy life or goal. In my personal experience, the journey is going to be long and hard but well worth it. It’s a great achievement for yourself once you start seeing the results that you’ve worked so hard for. Definitely do your own research and consult professionals, such as your doctor, before you dive head first into this. I hope this article also made you feel inspired! If I can lose 40 pounds, you definitely can too!