It is an all-too-familiar fable that has been told far too often: the infamous “freshman fifteen.” You hear the horror stories of all-nighters becoming every-nighters, messy desks, once-a-month laundry days, and interior design consisting primarily of empty cups of instant ramen.
It is the same trope that, at the end of a semester, makes going home feel so much more glamorous than it ever felt before moving out — but until then, college life is a hustle.
Some of the biggest, and often most overlooked, challenges for students as they move out of their homes and into their college dorms involve diet and exercise, as those are the two most economically draining and time-consuming facets of maintaining good health.
However, challenges do not necessarily need to become detriments, especially not at ASU.
There is no shortage of resources offered by the University for students to stay healthy, be it through advocating exercise, the number of wellness campaigns around campus, counseling resources and diverse options at dining halls and on-campus restaurants.
Take the Sun Devil Fitness Center, for example. The expansive gym has a lot to offer, including numerous clubs and classes; eventually everyone can find a fitness program or routine that works best for their lifestyle.
Not a gym rat? There are plenty of other ways in which students try to stay fit, between biking, walking, running to classes, hiking "A" Mountain, signing up for intramural sports or even going for a swim at the pools at either the SDFC or in Vista del Sol.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for students, however, is maintaining a balanced diet. In a lot of cases, students gravitate towards instant meals because they are cheap and convenient.
However, many of the dining halls on campus offer a diverse range of food options for students to choose from.
But for the many students who did not purchase a meal plan, it becomes a struggle to be both a financially savvy and a healthy shopper.
“Part of it is that they’re busy, and making food for themselves, taking time to shop and cook, and taking time to make choices to support their health is challenging on top of studies," said Michelle May, M.D., a faculty associate who teaches mindful eating at ASU and founded Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Programs and Training. "I know of students in my class who have talked about how difficult it is because they’re on a tight budget as well.”
Furthermore, a lot of students also try and follow restrictive diets on top of their restrictive budget, which can lead to deprivation as well as increased stress on top of schoolwork.
Instead, May said that students should strive for balance. The all-foods-fit approach to diet is the idea that every type of food can fit into a balanced diet, so long as there is moderation and variety.
Moderation eliminates the need for restrictive dieting on a limited budget, and emphasizes the psychological as well as the physical benefits to eating food.
Whether students eat at dining halls or shop and cook for themselves, maintaining a balanced diet should take priority over trying to cut certain things completely out of it.
Consistent exercise and healthy eating habits, however, do not necessarily equate good health.
“Often times, people tend to see exercise as punishment for eating or as a way to earn the right to eat,” May said. “Exercise is much more effective when students view it as something that relieves stress, helps them sleep, and keeps them happier, rather than as a calorie burner.”
For busy, overworked and stressed students, the key mainly lies in finding ways to take a break and incorporate exercise into their schedule.
ASU offers plenty of health-promoting resources, making it easier than ever to avoid succumbing to unhealthy stereotypes surrounding college students.
The general takeaway? Keep the healthy things in life just that: healthy and stress-free.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @karish2021
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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