College is inherently unhealthy. We’re exercising our minds but we’re trashing our bodies. We run ourselves ragged staying up late to study, we make poor choices at the dining halls and at fast food restaurants, and we sometimes just can’t help drinking ‘til that potted plant looks like a toilet. And why shouldn’t we? We’re in the prime of our lives! Time to “learn from our mistakes” and “experiment.” But just because it’ll be a while until we’re all worrying about cirrhosis of the liver and type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean we should treat our bodies like crap. This week’s column isn’t just for those of us trying to lose weight. If we all made the effort to be just a little healthier each day, we’d all be a little happier in the long run.
1. Drink more water
The benefits of drinking more water include clearer skin, a healthier bladder, and less eating. I’ve heard many varying guidelines on how much water to drink a day. The standard is eight 8-oz glasses, so try to aim for that if you can. Your urine should not be a vibrant yellow color- I read in a magazine once that it should be the color of ‘light straw.’ That’s ok if you live on a farm but for the rest of us, how about this: If you’re thirsty, drink water. Then drink some more.
Tips: Get a sturdy water bottle that you keep filled and with you. Every time you pass a water fountain, take a drink. If you don’t like drinking just plain water, get some of those fabulous Crystal Light packets that you can put into individual water bottles.
Beware: Just any liquid won’t do. Caffeinated beverages will actually dehydrate you. And you all should know that alcohol doesn’t count either. Also, if you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and it bounces back slowly, you’re moderately dehydrated. That’s bad.
2. Take a multi-vitamin
Though most studies agree that vitamins and minerals are best gotten through eating actual food, I doubt many of you regularly eat nutrient-rich superfoods like pomegranate, kale, flaxseed, and kudzu root — I certainly don’t. So on the many, many days I forget to eat my spinach, vitamins are a form of insurance.
Tips: If you’re like me and don’t like swallowing big pills, you can either get a liquid vitamin (blech) or do what I do — get a children’s vitamin and just double up on the dose. Gummy Vites and Flintstones Gummies are quite excellent. I never liked the taste of Flintstones Chewables, but if you do, more power to you.
Beware: Don’t take more than the correct daily dosage, and do your research before adding various supplements. Some vitamins like A and D are fat soluble, meaning they get absorbed into your fat cells and any excess is stored in the liver. If too much accumulates, this can be harmful. Also, if you take more than the dosage of water soluble vitamins like vitamin C, it’s just a waste because you’ll just pee out the excess — literally pissing away your money.
Maybe you know someone who is always bouncing their knee up and down, or who can’t sit still for more than a little while. ADD aside, people who are really animated are more likely to be slender. They’re burning a lot more calories with their nervous habits than you are just sitting at your computer, watching videos of people calling off their American Idol hunger strikes. Moving more is my main message, but I think it’s a lot cuter and less threatening to say fidget than exercise.
Tips: If you’re really overwhelmed with your schoolwork, instead of reaching for that snack, get up and do 10 jumping jacks. Exercise releases stress and tension, and who doesn’t love that? Any exercise AT ALL that you can incorporate into your routine is fantastic, and your body will thank you.
Beware: Don’t make yourself nervous just so that you’ll fidget. That raises stress levels which can actually cause your cortisol level to rise, meaning higher blood sugar and a higher propensity for your body to cling to its fat stores.
4. Think before you eat
I saved this one for last because it’s not exactly easy for many people- it definitely wasn’t for me. This is one of the most basic rules of dieting and one of the most important. It’s a beneficial rule for everyone to follow, whether or not they need to drop a few pounds. While ideally we should all be thinking before we do ANYTHING, thinking before putting anything in your body is especially preferable.
I suppose I knew this tip all along but it was articulated to me in those words when I attended a friend’s Weight Watchers meeting. If you like the idea of a support group (that mostly consists of middle aged women and sometimes their husbands, not gonna lie) then maybe Weight Watchers is something you can consider. Their patented points system requires minimal work on your part. However, it will make you gasp when you’re alotted 25 points a day and those 3 slices of pizza you want cost 21.
Tips: Don’t read or surf the net while you eat, otherwise you’ll just blindly shovel in the food. I’ve been totally guilty of this. Also, if I’m craving something that’s less than healthy, I’ll picture doing something else that I really enjoy — riding a rollercoaster, getting a manicure, going to a Duran Duran concert — and if I think doing that other activity would give me the same feeling that eating that cupcake would, I’m better off trying to find something else to do.
Beware: Don’t get too hung up on the consequences of eating a little worse than you intended. You can always do better at the next meal. And definitely try to keep complaining your food woes to a minimum. If your friends are trying to enjoy their milkshakes and all you can do is pick at your salad and wistfully say “You’re soooo lucky you can eat that,” then all it will do is make them feel guilty and you feel deprived. I’ve been guilty of this many times. Just remember — nothing tastes as good as being fit and healthy feels.
And yes, that last sentence is another Weight Watchers gem of wisdom. Those old ladies have been around the block a few times and know what they’re talking about.