1. Drink water – Eight glasses a day is easy when you carry a bottle of water in your backpack. Dehydration leads to false feelings of hunger which means you’re eating when your body really doesn’t need it. The best part is its 0 calories!!
2. Out with the bad – Eliminate processed carbohydrates/white starches (rice, pasta, bread) and soda. White starches have no real nutritional value. Not to mention they make you feel fatigued and bloated. Opt for 100% whole grain bread and pasta or brown rice. And pay attention to serving size on the nutritional facts label, you will be surprised how small a full serving really is. Pop is also the number one item to nix off your list. Sodas are full of sugar and empty calories (no nutritional value). They actually make you feel hungrier then you really are.
3. Mix it up – Workouts should be a mixture of weight training and cardio. My biggest pet peeve is when I see women at the gym everyday on the elliptical but never doing any weight training. Ladies, you will not bulk up! Muscle burns more calories than fat. Cardio is important but you need to tone. Adding muscle to your body will actually make you look slimmer.
4. Best meal of the day – Always eat breakfast and, no, a power-bar on the way to class does not count! Opt for high protein foods like eggs, an egg white omelette with spinach and tomatoes is an ideal way to start off the day. Whole wheat oatmeal with blueberries (one of the highest antioxidant foods) is also a great choice. The oats digest slowly and keep you full longer. If you’re going to have carbs make this the meal you eat them in. Starting off your day with a wholesome breakfast revs your metabolism for the rest of the day.
5. Bulk up – Eat 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The average woman barely eats 3 servings a day of either. This number is depending on how many calories you eat and burn in a day. This means the more you burn the more you eat. Your body needs fuel to burn calories so you need to give your body the right kind of fuel. Try incorporating broccoli and spinach into your diet, the green color of these veggies means they are packed with essential nutrients. And an apple a day keeps the fat away. Apples are high in fiber which keeps your digestive tract regular and keeps you fuller longer.
6. Eat often – Having 5-6 small meals a day is ideal for losing and maintaining weight. Eating often keeps your metabolism revved all day long without feeling starved. Again, pay attention to portion size. Pack a mixture of unsalted nuts and a small handful of raisins in a baggie and eat it in class. Eat an apple on your walk to another class or munch on a string cheese in the library. These are a few healthy snacks that are easy to throw in your backpack in the morning.
7. Cheat in moderation – Never deprive yourself (but refrain from eating after 8). If you forbid yourself to have something, it’s going to make you want it even more. If your friends order a pizza and your frothing at the mouth just looking at it, go for it! But eat just one slice and skip the crust, dips and breadsticks. Eventually it won’t even look that good anymore and it will be easier and easier to say no (true story). But try not to cheat after the sun goes down. Your body goes into relaxation mode and your metabolism slows down. Any food you eat right before bed will stay with you instead of being burned off like when you’re awake.
8. Protein, protein, protein– Most women do not get enough protein in their diet. Protein feeds muscles and helps make them stronger. Protein is especially important for women because it helps our body function better. Get your protein from real food, not nutrition bars that are pack with the wrong kinds of protein and a ton of sugar. Eggs and lean meats like chicken are great sources of protein and will keep you more satisfied then a bar would.
9. Watch alcohol intake – I’m not going to tell you not to drink in college, but I will tell you ways to keep your calories in check when you do. Remember that approximately one light beer, one glass of wine and one shot of alcohol is equal to about 100 (empty) calories. Now add the sugary pops and juices and you’ve got yourself a diet disaster. The worst part is the drunk munchies. Your body is consuming calories with no nutritional value. My drink of choice at the bar is a vodka soda with a splash of cranberry. Vodka is less sugary then darker liquors, soda has 0 calories and the splash of cran gives it enough taste to enjoy. And try to limit yourself; nobody likes to have their head in the toilet by the end of the night…instead drink a glass of water and eat a flinstones vitamin right before you go to bed. This will help the dehydration effect that the alcohol has on your body.
10. Make nutrition and fitness a lifestyle – You can’t be on a diet your whole life. Losing weight is not a race and it doesn’t happen overnight. Learning to read nutrition labels, exercising daily and making sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs will ensure you a healthier and happier life. The sooner you make it a habit the less you will think about it. And once you reach your goal weight you need to maintain it, so going back to bad eating habits will only put all the weight you lost back on and statistics show plus some.
My last bit of advice is don’t stress about the number on the scale. Water weight alone can make you fluctuate a few pounds and that is not an accurate representation of how fit you are. Muscle also weighs more than fat so you might stay the same weight but look leaner. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) instead. This number takes into account body fatness with age and height which will tell you more accurately what is normal for you specifically.