I remember the moment she opened the drawer. “Your mom lets you do this?” I asked. My friend gave me a strange look as though she couldn’t figure out what was so special about digging into the snack drawer after school. Now, if you grew up in a house like mine, one filled with raisin bran and carrots, you know what my heart felt when looking upon bags of chips and REAL candy (not dried fruit that everyone says is nature’s candy – that’s propaganda).

Fast forward six years and I walk through the dining hall doors of my undergrad campus only to feel the same thrill I felt so long ago. Finally getting to eat what you want, when you want seems so liberating; yet, this is just one of the causes of the notorious “freshmen 15.” Fun late nights, crazy schedules, and just plain exhaustion can make that dining hall pizza taste like comfort. I’m here to say, “PUT THE PIZZA DOWN” and follow these steps to stay healthy mentally and physically:

  1. Bottoms up!
  2. One of the best habits I created in college was carrying a water bottle to every class. Our bodies don’t perform the same when we aren’t well hydrated. In fact, you might feel especially tired or have a ‘brain fog’ that can inhibit how well you can focus in class.

  3. Climb the “ladder” of success.
  4. For fear of becoming lazy, I climbed the 13 floors to my freshmen dorm room every time I came back from class. Your plan doesn’t have to be this extreme, but think about how often you pass up the chance to work those glutes by opting for the elevator! If you are able, this is a great way to keep a foundation of endurance and strength.

  5. “Break” dance.
  6. Best way to bond with your roommate? Dance party. Put on a ridiculous song and choreograph a dance as a way to get in an hour of laughter, exercise, and stress relief. My freshmen roommate and I made this our study break during the more stressful weeks of exams and it felt great!

  7. Get swoll, Bro…
  8. Don’t be intimidated by your campus gym. There will be “those guys” that seem to live off of Muscle Milk, but in general, you’ll be one of the average people just trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Recreation center employees can help you navigate machines. There are also classes offered that make gym time less lonely and painful. There really is something special about sharing in the suffering… (ahem) I mean, enjoyment of a 6 AM spin class.

  9. Time out.
  10. Researchers have lately been pointing to “noise pollution” as a negative aspect of our environments. This concept of having too many sounds clouding a space or moment (i.e. car horns in traffic or the TV in the background) increases our levels of stress. Try to be in complete silence for 10-15 minutes a day.

  11. Create routine.
  12. While college life seems to be spontaneous and always exciting, you will eventually find that you slip into a routine, even if it is a routine of waking up late for class and forgetting about assignments. The point is, you can create a routine that makes it easier to choose healthy behaviors. For example, eat the same balanced breakfast every morning to keep you from going for the pancakes, go to the gym at the same time most days, or choose green tea over a latte when studying.

    Need inspiration? Watch these health gurus for tips and laughs: