Spoiler alert: it's not as easy as it looks!!!
The truth about maintaining a healthy lifestyle is that it's really, really hard. For most people, their freshman year of college is the first time they have really been on their own. Along with being on their own comes the freedom to choose how they want to live their life. The "freshman fifteen" is one of the most common issues plaguing college freshmen, and it's mostly due to the fact that college dining halls offer an abundance of unhealthy food choices for just one meal swipe. But, with the right attitude and a little motivation, college can be a time to work on becoming a healthier person in general. I am no fitness or lifestyle guru by any means, but here's how I (somewhat) stayed healthy during my freshman year of college.
It takes a lot of motivation to go to the gym every single day
I was lucky enough to live in a dorm that was only about a five-minute walk from the gym on campus, but that didn't make it any easier for me to get out of bed and go. My advice to a college student trying to get their exercise in every day while balancing their busy schedule is to find a friend to work out with you. It's a lot easier to go to the gym when you have someone in the same boat as you.
Scope out the healthiest food options on campus
Dining halls on college campuses don't always have the healthiest options, but it's not hard to find places that do. If eating at places other than dining halls isn't in your meal plan, fear not, you can still eat healthily. Most dining halls always have a salad bar and options other than cheeseburgers, chicken strips, and fries. Because of my meal plan, I was able to eat at all the restaurants on campus, but if I wanted something quick and easy, the ol' reliable "comfort food" section at The 90 (a dining hall at the University of Kentucky) rarely let me down.
FIX YOUR SLEEP SCHEDULE
This was probably the hardest change for me to make in college. I'm sure everyone can relate to the late nights spent at the library (shoutout to Willy T) and waking up for an 8 a.m. after a rejuvenating two hours of sleep. The easiest way to get a good night's sleep is to plan your homework and studying accordingly and try your best to stick to that plan. Of course, extracurriculars, Greek life, or sports may play a huge factor in your college life, and it's not the end of the world if you get off schedule. If you have a plan before things start to get hectic, it will make your life so much easier when you have to adjust your priorities. Also, melatonin.
Give yourself a break every now and then
You may be pushing yourself the hardest you've ever pushed to make Dean's List, to get that 4.0, or to pass your finals. You're not invincible. You'll eventually crack or have an existential crisis (or a few of them). If you feel like there is too much on your plate, take a step back and reevaluate what's most important and what's best for you at that point in your life. It's not the end of the world if one piece of your grand design doesn't fall into place. Use that as motivation to work harder or plan better next semester.
The "freshman fifteen" only possesses you if you let it
My dorm provided free Raising Cane's chicken at least once a month. Do you realize the emotional distress that puts a girl under? Going from home cooked meals almost every night of the week to having a buffet of fried foods at my fingertips was a huge adjustment for me. My family has always eaten dinner at abnormally late times in the evening, so getting in the habit of eating dinner between 6 and 7 p.m. was actually beneficial for me. I ended up losing weight in college because my eating habits at home were that bad.
Self-control is so important in your freshman year of college. Although everyone should strive to eat nutritional foods, if you slack off, it's not going to kill you. No one is going to notice if you gain a few pounds. If you're happy with the way you look it shouldn't matter how much you weigh.
Don't be afraid to try new things
Sometimes we get stuck in the same old routine and life can get boring. The beauty of a college campus is that there's always something going on. Your college campus is literally your oyster. If you feel like you're just going through the motions, it never hurts to branch out and go outside your comfort zone. You might find something you love and realize you have passions you otherwise never would have known you had. This can lead to new friendships, new goals, new connections, and you might even realize you love something so much you want to change your major (it happened to me).
Keeping junk food in your dorm is great until it's not
I can't even begin to explain the unconditional love I have for Honey Buns. I tear up if I think about them for too long. Although I would die for a Honey Bun every now and then, I had to force myself to pretend they didn't exist when I made trips to Kroger. It's good to keep a few necessities in your dorm, like quick breakfast foods or some go-to sandwich ingredients, but keeping junk food in your dorm can become really bad, real quick. I learned this the hard way during an intervention after I noticed I kept a family size box of Goldfish by my bed and grabbed a handful (more like seven handfuls) of them whenever I pleased. No doubt they're the snack the smiles back, but it is absolutely preposterous to keep them positioned in such a way that I didn't have to get out of bed to reach them.
Listen to your body
This kind of speaks for itself. If you've eaten salads every night for the past week and the thought of taking another bite of lettuce repulses you, it's not going to hurt to eat something different. If you're like me and can eat salad maybe once a week without becoming repulsed, find other foods that work for you. If treating yourself to Chick-Fil-A every once in a while makes you happy, then treat yourself to Chick-Fil-A. Although it's true that if you put good in you get good out, I promise you will be fine if you eat a 12-count nugget meal when you're dying to have one. If you've been grinding at the gym for a week straight but your body needs a break, listen to your body. If you don't take a break every now and then, you'll quickly get burned out on exercising.