Opinion

Students Adopt Unhealthy Lifestyles During College Years

Many Incorporate Poor Diets and Nutritional Decisions into Life After College



opinion_food“You look…different.” I feel as if these three words are the most used and heard during a person’s college years. Being told that your physical appearance has changed can either be positive or negative. However, it tends to be the latter during a person’s four years away from home.

For some people, the phrase is almost anticipated when they return home to family and friends for Thanksgiving. College is meant to assist in growth, but it should not alter your lifestyle in unhealthy ways. Students are faced with temptations everyday that can cause harm to their personal well-being. This made me wonder: is college the beginning of unhealthy lifestyle habits for the rest of our lives?

The daily schedule of a college student is constantly changing. Sleeping, eating, exercising, and socializing routines are always varying. The demands of college interfere with the perfect routine that each student desires. Although daily schedules are not always the most convenient, a person’s overall health should not be put at risk for long-term issues due to poor decision making throughout his or her college career.

I have created the “College Student’s Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits Wheel” that focuses on the four biggest issues that I find to be problematic.

The first section of the wheel is poor nutrition. Food selections on a college campus are a tough transition from home-cooked meals and five-star dining, but healthy options are always available. Most students find that there is “not enough variety” at on-campus locations. I felt the same way during my first few weeks of freshman year, but I learned that there were better options than macaroni and cheese and pizza. At that year’s Thanksgiving, I certainly was told that I looked “different.”

Your body is meant to be fueled with nutrients that sustain your health. Being creative with the food options allows you to develop a more diverse and fun way to eat healthily. Practicing poor eating habits throughout your four years at college encourages the same behavior to continue post-graduation. Such poor choices can lead to health issues that may be irreversible if unchanged.

The second section is lack of exercise. Our bodies are meant to move. Physical activity is just as important as classes, homework, and work. The excuse that there “isn’t enough time” is setting college students up for a lifetime of pushing aside opportunities to exercise. There will never be a perfect time during the day when your schedule, mind, and body are completely in sync. Make the time to exercise. Prioritizing is crucial in allowing yourself time for physical activity.

Many of us are so focused on the present that thinking of how skipping workouts affects our long-term health is irrelevant. Establish a plan that incorporates physical activity into your daily schedule. Doing so will encourage you to continue consistent exercise habits after college.

The third section deals with drug and alcohol usage. I encourage having a healthy, balanced social life. Spending time with friends and meeting new people is an important part of developing essential social skills. However, those things should not revolve around excessive alcohol and drug use. Severe unhealthy habits such as alcoholism and smoking begin during college years because of the desire to socialize. Prioritizing is once again important when managing your social life. If you enjoy drinking with friends, plan a night during the week to go out with them. Make sure it doesn’t interfere with your exercise or eating habits.

Drinking has a huge effect on our food choices, especially late at night. Most of our selections tend to be poor in nutrition because of the craving for greasy and fattening foods. Being smart with what you drink and eat is vital to maintaining a balanced social and health life. Dependence upon alcohol and drugs to enjoy yourself may develop into bigger concerns for your longterm health if responsible decisions are not made.

The last section is the one I find most challenging: lack of sleep. Sadly, I have gotten used to the dark circles under my eyes and hourly coffee runs. Sleep is just as important as exercise and nutrition. The three work hand-in-hand. If one suffers, the other two cannot pick up the slack. With my schedule, I find it difficult to get more than six hours of sleep each night during the school week.

If you find it a challenge as well, do as I do: make time to sleep. Just as you need your exercise and smart food selections, giving yourself a set bedtime and wake-up call allows your body to anticipate when to be tired and awake. Long-term health problems can arise if inconsistent or very little sleep habits are adopted during college.

Your body is the most sacred thing in your life. Risking the health of it not only puts your current self at a disadvantage for not performing at 100 percent but also your future self. Start thinking about your long-term health when making decisions based on food, exercise, sleep, alcohol, and drugs.

IMAGE TAKEN from johnbarban.com