Recently, there has been a big influx of high school graduates embarking upon a new four-year career at the University of Hawaii and obviously at colleges and universities throughout the world.
This transition presents numerous new challenges to these kids.
Yes, college is a time to explore new beginnings, new horizons and new roads to finding success and fulfillment. We all know that the key to a successful college career includes doing well academically, developing a fulfilling social life, enjoying participating in intramural sports if athletically inclined and not a scholarship athlete, and above all, maintaining good health to support this active college lifestyle.
Unfortunately, and not just for college kids, the perception of what is “healthy” can vary from one person to another and can greatly affect their lives.
One of the greatest fears of college freshmen is the dreaded weight gain commonly called the “Freshman 15”. Later in life it’s called obesity.
This fear can become the driving force behind health-related decisions for anyone and dealing with this weight-gain fear in the wrong way can damage both health and the capacity to succeed academically. Later in life it can damage the capacity to make a decent living.
So, three factors can support a fit and healthy body weight and the active mind needed to get the most out of a college education, a pleasurable social life, and a life unencumbered by drugs and surgery.
The big three are adequate nutrients and calories, getting enough sound sleep and maintaining physical fitness with moderate regular exercise.
Good nutrition means consuming an adequate diet that provides all the essential phytonutrients and antioxidants needed to form the basic foundation for good health by keeping the immune system strong and healthy.
When individuals attempt to achieve or maintain an attractive body weight by restricting calories too severely, they can trigger a starve/binge condition that is the body’s natural response when calories are too low.
The best way to avoid this starve/binge pitfall is to always consume a healthy breakfast. Research has proven that those that eat breakfast stand a way better chance of having a better body weight. Skipping a meal usually creates a natural binge response that leads to overeating later in the day.
For me, a healthy breakfast means oatmeal sweetened with vanilla rice milk that does not contain canola oil, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas and apples. And, if possible, all organic.
Generally speaking, consuming inadequate calories and not meeting adequate protein needs decreases the ability to maintain a healthy proportion of muscle to fat, which can compromise the immune function, increase the risk of illness and impair brain function necessary for academic and job success.
For the psychos out there that feel that oats do not supply “enough” protein, substitute quinoa for the oats, as quinoa is a complete protein.
One final word on the dietary aspect is this: no matter what you choose to be your way of eating, at least one meal a day should consist of, as Dr. Joel Fuhrman put it, “G-BOMBS”.
G = greens (as organic as you can get. Oh yeah, a cucumber is green as are bell peppers. The red ones started as green ones). B = beans (hummus makes a great salad dressing along with some balsamic vinegar). O = onions (for me, Maui or sweet onions “brok da mout” – Hawaii pidgin for yummy). M = mushrooms (my favorite is Shitake). B – berries (yes, you heard that correctly. They are an incredible source of antioxidants). S = seeds and/or nuts (your call).
This one daily meal will give you enough phytonutrients and antioxidants to strengthen your immune system like crazy.
The second of the three, getting enough adequate sound sleep, is essential for optimal brain function as well as emotional stability.
Sleep research has proven that an ongoing sleep deficiency can compromise memory, decrease alertness, lead to poor decision-making and be a contributing factor to obesity. At the other end, too much sleep can be symptomatic of both physical and mental health problems.
Last, but certainly not least, maintaining a consistent and moderate exercise routine promotes good physical and mental health because of several factors: it increases calorie needs, which assists in weight control; it builds and maintains muscle tissue and also increases calorie needs while at rest; consistent exercise helps to promote good brain function along with mental and emotional stability.
Also, many types of physical activity incorporate social interaction that contributes to building a social network that can last a lifetime.
For a college student, establishing good eating, sleeping and exercise habits can contribute to a lifelong routine that benefits health, mental productivity and social richness.
For you that gave up on these years ago and decide to start again, it will give you a new lease on life.