So, I'm sure most of us had a moment of panic thinking about the Freshman Fifteen or, at some point, have become worried about our bodies changing with our new college lifestyles. I'm here to tell you, it's okay to change and not be the "ideal perfect" image of what society thinks is the right body image. And it's simple to avoid the stress of trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle - making it more second nature to live healthily and actively without feeling overwhelmed that you feel forced to be living a certain way in order to look or feel a certain way.
It is easy to quickly feel overwhelmed and as if you're forced to work out regularly or eat healthier. It's all about moderation and doing what feels right. If you're really feeling sweets that day, go for it (of course there are healthy sweets, but indulge if you need to indulge)! It's worse to live with restrictions. Being conscious of what we're putting in our bodies is important because it impacts working out, our overall health, our mood, etc. Many colleges make the nutritional values of the dining hall food available online, so it is possible to create healthy meals for yourself and understand what you are eating. It's always important to eat a balance of foods but doesn't have to be as complicated as it seems. So maybe if you feel like eating unhealthy some days, balance it out by grabbing something healthy for later. And a simple way to be healthier is to have water with every meal instead of another drink. Drinking enough water is so important, and it has constantly been an issue for me - if anyone knows me, they know I consider myself a severely dehydrated person, so I make a conscious effort to be drinking a certain amount of water every day.
Just know the limits of when enough is enough - this goes for eating as well as working out. It's easy to become burnt out on working out because you pushed your limits too much. Personally, I realized I had been working out almost nine times per week until I ended up taking a two-week break because I had exhausted myself physically and mentally. You just have to find the right balance for you.
Going from playing sports since middle school, college has been a major adjustment just in relation to working out itself. I no longer had practices 6 days a week for months on end, and I no longer had an obligation that encouraged me to workout and also to make healthy life choices during those seasons. For many students who aren't continuing sports at the college level, it can be difficult figuring out your own workout routine and finding the motivation to workout. Especially if you are unable to continue an athletic passion of yours on your own, it can be arduous finding something else you like. Try new things, experiment with new workouts, and find out what works for you. Do some "soul searching" and figure out what will motivate you to work out and what will encourage you to push yourself.
Join a club sport...an intramural...a workout club or class offered...find a workout buddy to go to the Rec with...or work on ways you can learn to feel confident working out on your own!
(Sidenote: If you're a female at the college level and are looking for a great way to try new workouts and meet new people and focus on a healthy lifestyle, CHAARG is a national program that focuses on female fitness and breaking down the stereotypes/insecurities that are associated with females and the gym environment. It has been a great motivator to work out my first semester of college and has helped me become confident in the gym! We have already tried a variety of workouts like Pound, Zumba, Bollywood Dancing, and the workouts created by national CHAARG. It's also created a lot of friendships I don't think I would have made otherwise on campus - shoutout to the best Small Group ever! I highly recommend any college girl to try it out for a semester! And if your college doesn't have a chapter, it is easy to start one at your school! There are even programs for females after graduation too, I believe.)
Most importantly, though, in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle and workout routine, you need to be disciplined with yourself and need to make the effort to make necessary changes in your life. If you join a workout group that makes you workout twice a week with them, and you want to workout other days, plan it into your schedule and show up for it! Don't ghost your workout-self, they deserve the right attention too. Personally, I have made the effort to create a workout routine that I know I have time to workout every Sunday morning and that time is set aside for working out every week. But the only obstacles that get in my way are the ones I create myself, and the struggle we all face is tackling our own barriers that prevent us from doing the things we want. Many times it's feeling tired and so I want to sleep in or I don't feel in the mood to workout then, but when I push through those obstacles I always feel great after working out and proud of myself. So, many times it just takes remembering all the benefits that come from working out and how I feel afterward to get me to wake up and walk across campus to the Rec. (Especially now that it's cold, it's going to take a lot of willpower to get me to stay on top of going to the gym regularly).
Having a routine is essential to staying fit during college (and we all may have different definitions of fit). The next most essential part to staying fit and healthy is to stop comparing ourselves to others (at the gym, in the classroom, on social media, everywhere). We have to acknowledge and accept all our flaws and insecurities and make the most of them. And we also need to celebrate everything we love about ourselves even more because everyone can always use more self-love and appreciation! It makes such a difference when you workout! Feeling more confident in your own skin and in your own abilities at the gym makes your workouts even more fulfilling and allows you to explore different exercises that you may never have known you loved because you were once always too intimidated to try it.
Nowadays, there is too much emphasis put on "the perfect body" and it is ruining our self-esteem, whether you have a "perfect body" by society's definition or not. We never feel good enough in our own skin because unrealistic expectations are what is portrayed as "perfection". But we all have to accept that perfection is flawed and so are we. People always get caught up in feeling they have to work out because they are striving to look a certain way. Honestly, most times that doesn't feel like a good enough reason anymore to workout and be healthy - and it's not. We need to work out for ourselves. To become stronger. To be healthier. To build confidence. To prove ourselves wrong. To be the best version of us we can be. And there is no defined definition of what that is because it is unique to each of us.
Workout to get all the health benefits that come along with it. Workout to feel good about yourself. Workout to relieve stress and get a mental break. Workout because it is what you want for yourself, not because it feels like an obligation.
Staying fit in college, and in general, is always made too complicated, but it is simple. Be disciplined, set a routine, find what you like, be motivated, be supportive, and love yourself. We are already "perfect" by being ourselves and living to our greatest potential - staying fit is just another way we can go that extra mile to be awesome in our own way. Whatever size, whatever age, whatever your intentions are, we all have something to gain by making an effort to live healthy lives! And it's even better when we find a great support system and a group of friends to share that lifestyle with!