With the school year finally upon us, college students are at risk for much more than the odd poor grade or missed 9 am class.
First time students can become easily tempted by the freedom that being away at college affords. And, as a result, they can develop some seriously unhealthy habits that disrupt their sleep, eating habits, healthy weight, or worse, lead to the contraction of an STD or an early pregnancy.
Don’t fall under the spell of these ten worst college behaviors…
1. Mindless Study-Eating
You might think that you’re getting into the swing of your dull anthropology text when you’ve actually just gobbled down an entire bag of cheese balls. Eating while distracted makes you eat robotically until you overeat. The same rules apply to eating in front of the TV or computer. Instead, eat separate from distraction so you can pay attention to how much you’re actually eating, and opt for healthy foods, like fruit, veggies, and lean proteins when you do snack.
2. Energy Drinks
If you regularly get your pep to pull an all-night study session from a can of Red Bull, you’re actually bound to become dehydrated and exhausted. Caffeine-charged energy drinks contain ingredients like guarana, ginkgo, caffeine, refined sugar, and ginseng, which zap your body of fluids and leave you jittery, dehydrated, fatigued, unable to concentrate, and downright irritable. So try revving up with plenty of sleep and water instead.
3. Stress Smoking
I get it; smoking is a social activity. It makes meeting strangers less awkward when you reach for a cigarette and ask to borrow a light. However, once addicted—and you will become dependent on nicotine—you’ll start reaching for a smoke every time you feel the stress of an exam or heavy essay load. Do yourself a favor and learn socializing skills that don’t damage your lungs and ruin your health.
4. Late-Night Noshing
Late-night meals are often a necessity when you pull a string of all-nighters to study or get midterm projects completed on time. However, eating late into the wee hours of the morning can leave you even more sleep-deprived, depressed, and prone to weight gain. After a week of pizza and take-out egg rolls, it’s wise to reset your meal and sleep patterns by forcing yourself to stay away and eat during normal waking hours, and then fall asleep on the right schedule.
5. Sedentary Learning & Studying
Sure, you might run for the odd bus or between classes on campus, but college is mainly made up of two habits—learning in the classroom and studying at home—both of which find you sitting on your butt and not moving for hours at a time. The key is breaking up a sedentary lifestyle is getting short bursts of activity in between, so try walking or riding your bike home from campus or going for a 30-minute run between essays. You will be more energized and productive because of it.
6. Sleepless Nights
Too many sleepless nights will find you exhausted, but they will also cause your immunity to become compromised. Suddenly you’ll be prone to more germs, illnesses and viruses lingering around your dorm. So try not to cram too many late-night study sessions into one week, and take a multivitamin if you’re not eating a balanced diet at the campus dining hall.
7. Turn into a Couch Potato
After an exhausting day of algebra and statistics, you probably want to go home and watch episodes of True Blood until you fall into bed. However, this routine of sitting to learn, sitting to study, sitting to eat, and sitting to watch mindless television will turn you into a couch potato—and fast! Instead, incorporate some non-computer and TV time into your day. Attempt walking or biking to campus, hit the campus gym (often it’s free), or take a walk around your neighborhood with your roomie.
8. Stocked Up on Processed Foods
The average college kid has a pretty unhealthy fridge…no wait, there’s nothing in there. All of the ramen noodles, boxes of macaroni and cheese, bags of chips, and powdered drink packets are in the cupboard where you can store the processed stuff. This processed diet will only lead to high blood pressure, increased stress, and weight gain. Instead, opt for healthier food options at the grocery store, by choosing a balanced selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and low fat dairy products. This way, you’ll reach for healthier meals and snacks at home.
9. Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is an issue for younger and younger children, but it’s extremely tempting in college when kids are trying to fit into certain social circles. College parties and keggers encourage the heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time—often resulting in vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, dehydration, and in severe cases, alcohol poisoning. Instead, stick with a group of friends you can trust and watch out for each other at parties. And, find other forms of entertainment that don’t always include drinking.
10. Casual, Unprotected Sex
Casual sex is common on college campuses. However, doing so without a condom leaves you prone to contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or becoming/causing a pregnancy. If you are sexually active, talk to your doctor about minimizing your risks with a combination of contraceptives—including condoms and the birth control pill (for women)—to avoid becoming pregnant or infected with an STD.