By Brieana Gaglioti
We’ve all heard it, we’ve all dreaded it, and I’m willing to bet that most of us have experienced it. It’s no secret why incoming college students gain weight their first year at a university. We’re all in a new environment with virtually unlimited access to poor diet choices. But after four years and about 50 pounds, I can tell you that there’s more to weight gain throughout your time in college.
When I was a freshman at Drexel, I lived in Race Hall. Any Drexel student knows that the walk to the main dining hall on campus from the residence halls is less than ideal. Whether it’s the thought of having to hike up 33rd Street slipping in the snow, or trying to juggle your leftovers up the hill in the middle of a summer day, no one wants to do it. Conveniently, there were dining options less than five minutes from the residence halls, and you’ve probably guessed it, fast food. Located in the very heart of freshman dorms was Chick-fil-A, Currito, Subway and a small overpriced market containing anything from ice cream to sushi to deodorant, and this place was always busy. Thinking back on it now, I realize that I wasn’t eating Chick-Fil-A every night because I necessarily wanted to. I was raised in an Italian family, and if my mother knew how much processed food I was eating at the time, I would have been in huge trouble (sorry mom). I was eating it because I was too busy for anything else. When I was in high school, we cooked dinner at my house. Everything was fresh and homemade, and although I kept a steady job in high school, I always had time for some form of exercise.
When you get to college, the amount of time that you have to take care of yourself mentally and physically gets buried under your term papers, your midterms that happen only four to five weeks in, and your finals that seem to start directly after you finish your midterms.
Sure, I ate healthy sandwiches from Subway, and I often opted for healthy options from the market – but I wasn’t eating fresh and balanced meals anymore, I was barely sleeping, and I certainly did not have the time to exercise for an hour each day in between working the two jobs that it took me to help pay tuition. Parents, or even some of my professors will say, “There are exercises you can do for 10 minutes a day that keep you in shape!.”
Within the past year, I have lost almost all of the weight I gained from stress, bad eating habits, lack of exercise and overall poor physical care. Let me tell you, I did not lose the weight with ten minutes of exercise and swapping out my chips for apple slices (If only it were that easy!) I lost the weight by exercising 45-60 minutes each day, taking the time out of my weekdays and weekends to prep my meals, and by spending a designated amount of time weekly doing things that made me happy.
Sometimes it isn’t about the things that you can do to take care of yourself in between writing your papers and studying for your exams. If I have learned anything from being in college, it is that your mental and physical health have a significant impact on how well you do in school and what you can accomplish. There are articles and quick tips dedicated to teaching young students how to balance school responsibilities and fitness, and I do not discredit their advice. However, I will always advocate from personal experience the benefits of realizing that on some days, it is more important to spend a much needed hour at the gym than it is to spend an additional hour studying for your exam.
The benefits of exercise and a proper diet are endless, so next time you find yourself reaching for pizza and skipping your workout to do homework- think twice about which is more important. If you choose an hour of fitness everyday and a proper diet, it is proven to help you get better sleep, encourages productivity, and might help you more on that exam than the extra hour of studying ever could.