Transporting that futon from the car, up the building steps and into your dorm room – that will be tough. Leaving the comfort of home and family for a campus full of strangers in what is likely your biggest life milestone so far – that won't be easy. Taking Harvard University's Math 55 class, deemed on the school website as, "probably the most difficult undergraduate math class in the country" – that may be a bit of a challenge for those who sign up.
But being healthy in college? That doesn't have to be so difficult. You can do it; here's your guide.
Build relationships. College is a whole lot easier (and more fun) with an on-campus support network. Here's how to build it:
- Before you even pack the car, find five people to be in your "corner" – like your trainers in the boxing ring, says Harlan Cohen, best-selling author of "The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College." Dig around the college website or ask alumni, and scout out professors, advisers, resident assistants, tutors, orientation leaders or staff of an academic resource center who you can count on. "Those people are already there for you," Cohen says.
- Make friends by doing what you love, Cohen suggests. Passionate about painting? Sign up for an art class. Reigning debate team MVP in high school? Join the college debate team. Chances are, you'll meet people who share the same interests.
- Someone who may (or may not) become a friend is your roommate, should you choose to have one. The relationship you have with your roommate can greatly affect your happiness at school, so take a look at these tips from U.S. News Education for getting along with him or her.
[Read: The Do's and Don'ts of Friendship.]
Eat healthy. Even with late-night pizza places and limitless soda refills in the dining halls, you can eat wisely in college. Here's your plan:
- Befriend your dining hall, not because many of them have endless supplies of soft serve, but because just as many offer salad bars, vegetarian options and fresh fruit. Take advantage of these healthy choices by filling your plate with colorful, nutrient-dense foods.
- There are many reasons why the plea to "drink responsibly" is worth repeating, including the fact that, you know, alcohol is illegal for folks under 21 and can be unsafe if abused. For those of any age who choose to imbibe, calories are at stake, too. Keep healthy snacks nearby to avoid that 2 a.m. drunk call to Jimmy John's, and remember that calories from alcohol alone add up quickly. (To see what constitutes a single drink, check out the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website.)
- Here's something college students should drink lots and lots of: Water. You can lose a lot of water without even realizing it while walking around campus. Loading up on H20 fights off dehydration and hunger. Make a habit of bringing a water bottle to class and around campus.
Work out. The freshman 15 is not inevitable. Make these healthy exercise choices:
- Forgo that ride to class or cross-campus bus and walk as much as you can. Walking is perfect for gym-wary students looking for low-intensity, practical workouts. Bonus: You can learn a lot about the campus layout as you trek from building to building.
- You're more likely to make time for exercise if others hold you accountable, so look into intramural sports or recreational clubs. These opportunities help you continue activities you love and learn new ones. Plus, you may make a few friends in the process. No club for the sport or activity you're interested in? Find others who feel the same way via message boards and flyers and make your own club.
- When the weather is unforgiving or your schedule is too packed, you may need to squeeze in a dorm-room workout. Look into exercises with resistance bands and stability balls, both of which are available at most major retailers.