The No-Nonsense Guide to Dieting in College, Made Easy, Part 1: Why is this important?

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By Ari Snaevarsson, Health and Wellness Columnist

I tend to target an audience that is into strength or physique sports or who simply want to get bigger/leaner/stronger/more athletic, so a lot of this advice is intended for that group of people. Nonetheless, nearly all of this applies to anyone who is concerned with taking care of his or her body. And if you do not consider yourself someone who subscribes to that group, I intend to use this section to completely engrave the point that healthy eating is the single most important investment you will make on campus.

It is my belief that every single college student with the mental capacities to do so should be eating a healthy diet on campus. We should keep in mind, though, that “healthy” develops a whole new meaning when placed in the context of campus life. The deep-rooted notion that one’s diet must either consist of pizza, hamburgers, and Nutella or egg whites, celery, and broccoli would be comical if not so tragic.

Unhealthy dietary habits have become nothing more than the makings of a joke on most college campuses. With all the regular stresses college brings, the thought of having to add in another one (especially with this ridiculous idea of what it means to eat healthy) is too much for most students.

Before I begin to break down the surprising ease of dieting in college, I want to use this section to drive home the point that eating healthy is a long-term investment. Saving money on all sorts of health care costs that can now be used on things you enjoy, along with minimizing or avoiding entirely the dreaded “college plagues” are only a couple examples of how tremendously helpful it is to care about what is put in your body.

We should talk about college stresses. I would lose count if I tried to recall all the times my subtle hints to begin going to the gym or eating healthier were met with “I do not have time, because I have too much on my plate already.” The incompetence of the phrase alone, in a society where childhood obesity is an epidemic, makes my blood boil.

The honest truth is, if your polka club is more important to you than preventing a host of chronic diseases, just stop reading this, and go read some polka blog. The best way to put all of this into perspective is to stop lying and saying, “I do not have time”, and start truthfully saying, “It is not a priority”. If you are allowed only a few things to prioritize in your life, your health absolutely must be one of them.

What is more, adopting healthy eating habits will reduce college stresses better than virtually anything else. Your brain will function more efficiently, you will feel fresher and happier, you will look better, and I can guarantee you the will power associated with making healthier choices will carry over into a multitude of aspects of your college experience (and beyond).

Speaking specifically to anybody who aims to lose weight, gain muscle, or increase athleticism, this is an all but unavoidable factor. The bottom line is that as long as you ignore dietary protocols, your progress in fitness is going to be laughably suboptimal.

An actual diet that works as efficiently as possible will not, contrary to popular belief, include a seven-day detox or a magic smoothie you must drink each morning or an “eat this, not that” mentality. A serious diet that allows you to meet your health, fitness, and weight loss/gain goals is one that fits into your life (not the other way around) and is sustainable.

To be sure, “dieting hard” by eating only lean meats and veggies for every meal until you eventually cave, which you will, and remember how good the occasional pizza or donut is, is the antithesis of sustainability. This black-or-white approach to dieting is why we see such astronomically high numbers of individuals who regain all the weight lost, and often even more, during their diet.

Likewise, a diet that disallows you from going out to eat with friends on the weekends or letting go a bit on vacation is a prime example of trying to fit your life into your diet, and that is a dangerous path to go down.

In the next segment, I will go over some general rules of thumb and meal plan advice. Once all of that is out of the way, we can begin to discuss how to compartmentalize nutrition, so we can turn this monster of a topic into a manageable, comprehensive guide.

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