With a change in willpower and motivation, it is perfectly possible to lose weight in college through exercise and a healthy diet. The so-called “freshman 15” doesn’t have to be a permanent part of the college experience, nor do your diet and exercise have to be so intense as to interfere with your studies and social life. In fact, there are many myths and untruths circulating on the Internet about the difficulty of weight loss or the need for drastic measures in order to lose weight in college. If you’re willing to stick to the basics, and following a few great tips and tricks, you should be well on your way.
Create a Balanced Meal Plan
If you are serious about losing weight, one of the best places to start is by planning your meals. Whether that means meal-prepping your meals in advance, or doing the chopping and supermarket shopping only (and cooking fresh food at every meal) is up to you. But knowing what you’re going to eat before you actually get hungry will go a very long way towards making sure you’re filling up on the right foods every time (or almost!).
Try batch cooking quick meals that are balanced in macronutrients (carbs, fats and proteins) in order to give your brain what it needs to study and learn. Feeling hungry or not-quite-satisfied are a fast road to distractibility and poor concentration, things you especially can’t afford as a college student. That’s not to mention that faddy, low-carb diets involve lengthy adjustment periods—and excess protein consumption is not sustainable or healthy for organs like your kidneys.
Phase out bad habits slowly. If you’re used to eating a lot of fat or sugary foods, aim for a gradual reduction, and substitution, rather than a cold turkey approach.
If you’re not sure how to create balanced meals, turn to what works and is science-based: Canada’s Food Guide is a great resource. The guide is created and reviewed by dieticians whose recommendations come from the available evidence on human nutrition. The Food Guide’s website also contains plenty of easy-to-make, nutritious recipes.
Don’t Forget About Fermented Foods
Whether it’s to lose weight in college, maintain your current weight, or achieve a general feeling of well-being (my main reason for doing the following), start including fermented drinks and foods in your diet. Ferments are rich in probiotics, and our species has been consuming them from time immemorial. Some evidence suggests that probiotics play a role in your weight by, in part, modulating your cravings! If you’ve been on a beer and pizza diet, chances are your gut bacteria aren’t the healthiest bunch, either. But there are things you can do to change that.
I personally love to start the morning with a small shot of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, either with a 1/3 cup of organic apple juice or just some lukewarm water. I also enjoy drinking kombucha, fermented tea, and occasionally eating sour kraut and vegetarian kimchi. Most supermarkets now also carry plant-based yoghurts, which are cultured in a similar way to dairy-based ones and are good for your gut!
Get Moving and Sweating
Healthy eating and exercising go hand in hand. Not only does exercise burn calories directly, but it also reduces stress—which might make you less likely to crave sugary foods.
Find a type of exercise that feels good to you, is really accessible at the drop of a dime, and makes you feel great (you’ll be more likely to go back to it). The daily exercise recommendation might be something like 60-90 minutes a day, but if you’re just starting out a consistent workout regimen, aim for 20 minutes a day, or five times a week.
You’re not doing just 20 minutes because you’re incapable of going for 60 or 90 instead, but because building habits is really tough business, especially with an important academic commitment in your life. Therefore, set yourself up for success by making your new fitness routine less intrusive to the lifestyle you have already been living! You can do that in a couple of ways.
The first, already mentioned, is to make it short and sweet.
The second way to make your fitness routine is unintrusive is to tack it onto another habit. This one’s a trick I learned from Charles Duhigg from his book “The Power of Habit,” no doubt one of the most underrated personal development books ever (yes, I know it’s a bestseller). So, for example, do you watch 45 minutes of Netflix in the evenings? Great, that’s a habit! Now, you can create a condition: “if I am watching Netflix, I spend the first 20 minutes on my stationary bike.” Some people call this the if/then technique.
More important than phrasing this as an if/then condition is to find a habit to tack it onto that is a keystone habit, something that you actually do every day. For example, if you only watch Netflix twice a week or very inconsistently, it’s not a good one to build with. Instead, you might be someone who drinks a cup of coffee every single morning. Use that—don’t drink it until your 20 minutes of exercise are up! (“If I am drinking my coffee, I have already exercised.”)
My Favourite Fitness Youtube Channels (Or Videos/Playlists)
- Life Full of Zest (Mat Pilates)
- No-Equipment Barre Sculpting Workout
- The Caribbean Workout Playlist (Absolutely love this series—you can also get some really good ones as a show “season” purchase on iTunes)
- 30 Minute “Wundabar” Pilates
- 25 Minute Pilates to Tone
- The “Pump it Up” Workout (There are different sections and you don’t have to do it all at once)
Losing weight in college is best achieved through a long-term commitment to a healthy diet and lifestyle rather than a crash diet or extreme exercising. By slowly incorporating new habits, you’ll first lose the bad habits causing the extra weight on your body, and soon enough the “consequences” will disappear, as well. 😊
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