Abby Brecher is a junior at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York where she studies Spanish and graphic design. She grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and currently works as a public relations intern in Manhattan. She also runs an extremely successful fashion photo blog at esophagi.tumblr.com.
The beginning of college is the beginning of a whole new chapter in life: new friends, a new environment, and a new lifestyle away from home. Nobody is there to nag you about the overflowing laundry bin, or remind you to make your bed. At first, the college way of life seems like a dream. For my first semester, it definitely was. I stayed up late, left my bed untidy, and did whatever my heart desired—including eating whatever I wanted. Cookies, cheeseburgers, and pizza galore… That only begins to describe the dietary choices I made. On a weekly basis, my friends and I would go into town and stock up on our favorite foods, including Oreos, sugary cereals, and an endless supply of candies.
Despite all the fun I was having in college, it didn’t take long for me to notice the negative affects my new diet was having on my body. A walk across campus became a rigorous exercise, and the concept of consuming something green and leafy was unimaginable.
I returned home for winter break and was greeted by a wake up call. After visiting my doctor for a check up, I saw just how badly my new college habits had affected my body. High triglycerides, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure were all issues I now had to face. The threat of diabetes and heart complications were now on my radar, and the long life I had ahead of me suddenly faced serious risks. The common stereotype of “the freshman 15” had taken a hefty toll on both my body mass as well as my overall health.
I knew that if I wanted to fight the freshman 15 I would need to adjust my eating habits, and start exercising. Upon returning to school, I immediately gave my snack drawer a makeover: out were the boxes of cookies, and in came the fruits and vegetables. I began taking advantage of my school’s gym, and started a 45-minute work out routine six times a week.
Although it was easy to add some leafy greens to my diet, it was definitely a challenge to avoid all of the delicious food that caused my freshman 15. Pizza is a common staple of most college students’ diets, and is also one of the most delicious foods around. I knew that it would be unrealistic to try and avoid pizza forever, so instead of trying to fight the impossible I found ways to keep my relationship with pizza alive. Rather than eat two or three slices, I limited myself to just one, and drank plenty of water.
While initially college had been an obstacle in staying healthy, it eventually turned into one of my greatest advantages. One of the biggest perks of college life is having free access to a gym and dining halls that offer salad bars included in the prepaid meal plan. After changing my mindset, it was easy for me to find the healthy opportunities around me.
¬The inclusion of exercise in my daily routine made an extraordinary difference to my lifestyle. The consistent movement made me feel healthier and stronger, and also taught me a major lesson: eating in moderation. It was still okay for me to go out with my friends and order a cheeseburger with fries, as long as I didn’t make it a daily ritual.
In addition to eating healthier, exercise also improved my energy and attitude. I moved throughout my day with ease, and no longer felt out of breath when I walked across my college campus. I felt happier knowing that I was making a routine effort to help my body and keep it healthy—and the results paid off. After 6 months of healthy dieting and exercise, I had officially steered my body in the right direction. The mounting health complications that once threatened my future had disappeared.
Although at times it was difficult to resist snacking on something sugary during a late night study session, the changes I had made to my lifestyle were surprisingly easy to carry out. I didn’t have to avoid going out with my friends, and I didn’t have to count calories, points, or participate in a wacky crash diet. The choices that I had made were all realistic, healthy ones that allowed me to enjoy my time in college without causing damage to my body.