We’ve done a lot of articles about how to maintain a healthy weight in college. It got me thinking if we we’re covering this topic too heavily (sorry about the lame pun), but I think it makes sense to talk about it because college is hardwired into our hive brains as a time to discover what works and what doesn’t work. Not that it’s a bad thing—there’s plenty of time when we’re older to get stuck in our ways. For me, learning what works has been a six year long journey, ever since one summer when Hot Pockets consisted of about two-thirds of my diet and I gained forty pounds. I had to teach myself everything about nutrition because Health class in high school focused on STDs and smoking for whatever reason. So it’s time for a little honesty, which I feel a lot of nutrition blogs tend to leave out: there are no hard and fast rules that will get you to your goal. Maybe it’s for brevity or to seem authoritative, but there’s bound to be variation in what works, and it would be nice if more health advice admitted that. Some people are suckers for salty foods and some crave sweet stuff. Some people love to eat to their heart’s content and then exercise like mad. Here’s a list of golden rules all the health magazines repeat ad nauseum that haven’t worked for me, and may be worth experimenting with:
Eating breakfast. This only makes me hungrier throughout the day. Thinking about food so early in the day keeps it in my mind somehow, no matter what I eat.
Treating sweets as a “special” treat. You know what takes the specialness out of something? Doing it every day. Eating a small bag of Reese’s Pieces daily keeps my sweet tooth at bay because I know I’ll have some tomorrow and the next day. Studies have shown that a little sugar actually jump starts the brain when it comes to focusing. The brain runs on glucose, and simple sugars are the quickest way to get glucose to the brain.
Strength training and cardio (together) religiously. I used to work out for an hour and a half 5 days a week. Looking back, that was completely insane (for me). Exercising for the sake of exercising is one thing, but managing my eating properly makes my week a lot less hectic trying to schedule in gym time. Quick bursts of cardio have been shown to be effective at maintaining general fitness, and if I don’t feel like doing one or the other, I don’t let that stop me from going.
Eating six small meals a day. This one was probably the worst offender of all the diet tips I’ve gotten. Six small meals a day left me constantly thinking about food, and snack sizes may as well be called “teasers.” Who eats 3 crackers and a slice of cheese? No bro, that’s not how eating works. If I’m going to go through the hassle of preparing a snack and get a taste of that yummy goodness, I always eat more than I intended. Snacking fail, diet tip fail.
Don’t skip meals. Skipping a meal may not be “health optimal” but let’s face it: no one is eating at the optimal level at any given point. I’ve fasted for most of the day a few times by accident and I didn’t chow down on twice the amount at my next meal, because my stomach can’t hold twice the usual amount of food.
Protein, fat, and complex carbs at every meal. Again, “optimal” is great but if you’re throwing in another food to achieve perfect nutritional nirvana, it can backfire because you’re also adding in extra calories. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea how to accurately assess that ratio, anyway.
I’m a healthy skeptic (ouch, another bad pun) of advice because I’ve driven myself crazy trying to follow all the rules over the years. I hope this helps!
I’m reading The Americans