How to be healthier at uni

It’s a hard trap to steer clear of – but here’s how to avoid the freshers’ fifteen during your time at RoHo

One thing I secretly dreaded when I came to uni last September was something I wasn’t sure I could control: the Fresher’s Fifteen, the more or less fifteen pounds a student is likely to gain during their first year.  Prior to the term’s start I kept a healthy eating routine and exercised a few times a week, so surely it wouldn’t happen to me.

I was wrong, and it has nothing to do with how healthy I was before I arrived.  I moved into Kingswood and within three weeks found that my abilities to eat healthy every day and get a varied workout in were very limited.  8bar9 has one really good salad, and the rest was various comfort foods like cheesy chips & beans and curly fries.  After a few of those lunches and several dinners that displayed a small salad bar competing against jacket potatoes and lasagne, I could feel and see the ounces sticking with me.  Living in catered halls is the most difficult, with no kitchen and minimal food storage place.

For every first year uni student there are adjustments that need to be made to daily life, and countless number of other things to be concerned about: getting an idea of the workload from a student’s course, figuring out where things are around Egham and Englefield Green, and enjoying the new social life.  It’s overwhelming and most often healthy habits get put on a shelf.

Second term however, life has adjusted.  Although it isn’t always possible to be strictly healthy seven days a week, or to go to the gym every day or hit the pavements each morning, there are several small habits that you can incorporate into your daily life to make it overall healthier.

  1. Short, quick, in-room workouts.  Wake up 15-30 minutes earlier and get a small workout in, even if it’s just some jogging in place followed by ten reps of four or five different exercises that don’t require equipment.  You will be more energized for your first lecture and over time you will findthe exercise easier as your muscles get back into shape.                                             
  2. Replace, do not eliminate.  You don’t need to stop having snacks altogether.  Replace crisps and chocolate bars for salted peanuts and a banana.  Followed by a half to a full glass of water, the more nutritious snacks will actually last longer and you won’t be craving another bag of Salt & Vinegar in an hour.
  3. Water.  It sounds like something your mother would tell you, but don’t dismiss it.  If every morning you woke up with a full plastic bottle next to you and downed it before even getting up, your stomach would already have a more accurate sense of how hungry you are instead of leaving it up to your eyes.
  4. Don’t stock the unhealthy foods.  And to make that happen, don’t go to Tesco hungry.  Have one of the healthier snacks mentioned and some water before you go.  The aisles of Mars Bars, Pot Noodles, and Digestives will tease you much less.  If you don’t have those snacks in your room, you won’t have them to eat.
  5. Replace coffee with herbal tea.  Don’t think this is encouraging you to abandon caffeine––as a student, I don’t know if I could cope.  If the box doesn’t say “caffeine-free,” it has it.  You will still be woken up and the tea will cleanse out toxins more efficiently than water.
  6. Take the walk instead of the bus.  This especially applies to the sorry students of Kingswood.  Walking to and from campus once a day at least gets a two mile walk in and over one five-day week it fits in ten miles more movement than the week before.  For the on-campus students, the walk to Tesco is just as effective, especially considering the trek back up Egham hill––an underestimated thigh muscle challenge.
  7. Have protein and veggies once a day.  Even if you’re going out tonight, or running late for a lecture and quickly had a muffin for breakfast, try to have one meal a day consist of some any meat, fish, eggs, or beans (just a few options) and some vegetables.  It will have given your body nutrients that are still good for you even if every other food has been less than ideal.
  8. Let yourself off the hook.  Sometimes the only thing you can do to take care of yourself is enjoy a big plate of chips with ketchup, and when those days happen let yourself just enjoy the food, because there is no reason to feel guilty about being conscious of your health.