Monday, August 20, 2012

How to lose weight in college

It all started on a Monday when I was running late for my oh-so-early 7:30am Spanish class. After getting off the highway, I realized I had a few minutes to grab a quick breakfast. The yellow arches called my name and I ordered a breakfast sandwich, a hash brown, and a water. Not too bad. One time. No biggie.

I ate the sandwich on the road, and then, bit into the hashbrown. Oh that crispy, sparkling hash brown. 

The next morning I woke up in plenty of time to eat breakfast. But. That food was just so good yesterday, why not? As I rolled through the drive-thru for the second day in a row and contemplated my order, I thought, why not just get four hash browns instead of a whole meal, since I really just love the hash browns?

And that, folks, is how my college hash brown addiction was born. 

For almost a year, every Monday thru Thursday I rolled up for my greasy quadruplets, making my steering wheel shine with their residue. 

This is the story that came to my mind when one of my readers asked for my advice on how to lose weight and stay in shape in college. I thought this was awesome because a) I was so excited for someone to see me as someone who could give health advice because I was not very healthy in college and b) I've always wanted to say in my blog "please consult your physician before starting any diet or exercise program." So first of all, please do that. Because I'm not a health expert.

But I am an expert on overcoming a hash brown addition (and losing the freshman 15 that came with it). I'm hoping that sharing what I did will help that reader and you think more about how to overcome the bad habits that sneak up on us all when we're busy, and find your own best ways to get healthy in college.  

How I lost my freshman 15 and started being healthy

  • Reading: I read three books that completely changed my outlook on food: The End of Overeating by David Kessler, Food Rules, and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. In short, these books taught me that diets never work, that eating healthy is a mindset (i.e. a lifestyle), and that food and health is really a lot simpler than it is made out to be. These books helped me focus on eating food that was fresh, and whose ingredients I could actually pronounce. 
  • Eating: I love food and couldn't bear to deny myself of my hash browns, and luckily the books I read also confirmed that I could still have a hash brown once in a while, and in fact that I should so as not to get frustrated and want to forget trying to eat healthy altogether in order to indulge. Moderation really lives up to its hype. 
  • Exercising: I really don't like exercising. I've tried a million different things and almost always give up after a few months. I still haven't found that perfect thing that I do without fail, but what's kept me going is I never stop trying. My favorite things are personal trainer apps (I highly recommend the free Nike Training Club app), Zumba, and the elliptical while watching TV at the gym. And when things get really busy, I always try to force myself to move for 5 minutes as soon as I wake up (e.g. jumping jacks, sit-ups). Keep your requirements to a minimum and keep trying until you find something you like doing.
  • Customizing: I have never been more healthy or in shape in my life and I owe it all to the things above, most especially to changing the way I think. Trying to change the surface things just doesn't work. You have to want to be healthy deep in your brain, you have to have a totally selfish reason, and then it has to simply become who you are. It isn't a short term thing. So college is the perfect time to start building those good habits, because life will only get busier and healthy choices will only get harder and harder to make. There are so many great options out there - but none of them will work unless you are excited about them. Find out what works for you by continually learning.
A few other things I've customized for myself that I enjoy
  • I only drink water, and drink tons.
  • I pack small healthy snacks (e.g.nuts or healthy fruit snacks) everywhere I go so I'm not tempted to make bad choices or pig out at meals. 
  • Whenever I want something delicious, I get it! I just try to keep the portion modest and be mindful of whatever else I'm eating that day.
  • Towards the end of college, I started packing my lunch and other snacks diligently. It was cheaper, healthier, and I actually enjoyed it more.
  • I took a dance elective my last semester of college and it made a huge difference. It's what introduced me to Zumba.
  • I learned to love fruits and vegetables and try to eat them every day (i.e. juicing and dipping carrots into ranch dressing. Mmmm). 
Maintaining a healthy weight in college should be enjoyable. That's how you know you're doing it right :)

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