When I started here at Syracuse University, I noticed two things. One, the outdoors is a scary place. Granted, I should’ve expected that, coming to one of America’s snowiest cities to pursue my degree. Secondly, college dining halls serve a lot of garbage. Throughout high school, former students would come back, telling tales of the ominous and “unavoidable” Freshman Fifteen. They made it sound like it was a part of the college experience. Living on your own, taking challenging classes, and attending sporting events was on the same level as binge-eating in the dining centers. Something didn’t seem right.
Truth is, the Freshman Fifteen is completely avoidable. And you aren’t missing out if you don’t fill your tray with greasy pizza, fatty burgers, or sugary sodas. A few simple switches can make you feel less stressed, more energized, and ready for those formidable exam weeks.
The day before we had to move into our dorms, I scouted out every fitness center on campus, paying special attention to ones that were near my classes or near my residence hall. I made it a point to work out for 45 minutes every day, knowing that was an ambitious goal, considering new seasons of Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones were waiting for me back at my dorm and ordering pizza was always an option.
Much like my favorite television programs, after two or three workouts, I became addicted. The high after a rigorous workout is energizing and exhilarating. It keeps your blood flowing, your heart pumping, and your mind focused. But that was only part of my battle plan to fight the Freshman Fifteen. Eating healthy had to follow my new exercise routine.
With an excellent pizza place around the corner, a cafe that serves delicious Belgian-cut fries, and plenty of unhealthy options to devour in the dining halls, I knew constructing a healthy diet would be a challenge. For some reason, when doctors would tell me about the importance of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it never sounded appealing. I don’t want to eat rabbit food for the rest of my life – wrap sandwiches in lettuce and not get to enjoy any ounce of flavor.
Believe it or not, most college dining centers have healthy options. Unfortunately, they keep them hidden, because they know students will come back if there is food that they like. Watching peers come back to the table, plates piled with french fries and sugary desserts, I knew that I did not want to fall into that trap.
I went to my dining hall’s sandwich bar and tried to construct the healthiest sounding sandwich I could imagine. Hummus, 12-grain bread, packed with veggies and a few slices of swiss cheese. It looked like an absolute monster, but after one bite, I was in love. Healthy food can taste good. And unlike its unhealthy, greasy counterpart, it can make you feel good. It powers you through a study session, refuels you after a workout, and makes you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Approach health as a lifestyle, and you’ll find yourself more focused, sharp, and ready to conquer anything that gets in your way.