Freedom! Tasting if for the first time can be so sweet. Whether you’re commuting from home or living away for the first time, college is probably the first time in your life when your schedule is almost, if not entirely, your own!
Which means you’re likely to be calling the shots when it comes to your eating habits, sleeping habits and most of all, your health care.
But your health does not go on hiatus once you go to college. In fact, the stresses of studying, making new friends/roommates and possibly having to work to support yourself while attending classes can put health care on the back burner for some students. Ironically, this is when you need to attend to your health the most!
Your brain needs to be in top form to get the most out of your classes and to participate in activities that might not have been available to you in high school.
First things first: get that health center card! The glorious thing about college whether it’s local, private, four-year or 10-year is that it most likely offers student health care at a steeply discounted price. In many cases, it’s even mandatory and included in the price of tuition. Institutions of higher learning aren’t stupid! They know that a healthy student body leads ultimately leads to on-time graduating classes!
Don’t just use the resource when you’re sick – find out what kind of nutritional programs, referral services and prevention programs it offers. Stop in every once in awhile and pick up any literature it might offer. Even if the health care program at your school is not equivalent to the Mayo Clinic, they most likely have the latest information on health trends, drug interactions or breakthroughs and mental health.
And speaking of mental health: a lot of literature and well-meaning family and friends will advise you to “avoid the freshman fifteen” pounds or “don’t drink too much alcohol.”
This is truly good advice, but studies have shown that more importantly, a new student doesn’t have the social and emotional support when they first start college, or even later in their college career.
Make it a priority to find and establish a network of friends, teachers and counselors – maybe it’s colleagues if you’re working your way through school – who can provide a strong shoulder to lean on during good, bad and just plain different times. Having someone to talk to and give advice is key to feeling secure and building self-esteem during tough test times, relationships and financial crunches.
Don’t hesitate to seek out a spiritual outlet, whether it’s a church group or synagogue, or something non-denominational like yoga or a meditation class.
Back to the weight issue: the temptation to stock up on cheap, carbohydrate and preservative-laden foods has always been a hallmark of college careers. It seems much easier to order a pizza or chow down on freeze-dried noodles during those late-night study binges!
It’s time to move on to the 21st century. Fresh fruits and vegetables are usually just as inexpensive, if not more so, than pre-packaged foods. Farmers markets are increasingly available in urban and rural areas, and make for a nice study break in addition to acquiring tasty new foods. There’s too many “quick cooking” shows, cookbooks and online recipes to have an excuse to not take 10 minutes to throw a healthy meat or vegetarian dish together. And if you’re smart enough to get into college, you’re smart enough to know this will give you more energy to study and avoid getting sick or overweight!
Because let’s face it – freedom is only a thrill if you’re healthy enough to enjoy it!