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Fast food, coffee consumption, and the gym: A brief but detailed student guide to healthy(ish) living

At the start of every semester, I always make the same three promises to myself: I will bring my own food to school and resist the urge to subsist on Tim Horton’s; I will make time to go to the gym so that I don’t feel like a lazy slob; I will not have coffee every day, no matter how exhausted I feel.

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By Ashley Hayes (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: September 3, 2014

A serving of fresh fruit beats poutine any day. (jaclynjanai/flickr)

A serving of fresh fruit beats poutine any day. (jaclynjanai/flickr)

At the start of every semester, I always make the same three promises to myself: I will bring my own food to school and resist the urge to subsist on Tim Horton’s; I will make time to go to the gym so that I don’t feel like a lazy slob; I will not have coffee every day, no matter how exhausted I feel.

If I’m lucky, this lasts for the first week and partway into the second. Then you start thinking about midterms, papers, assignments, and — if you are even more unfortunate — the dreaded group project. Suddenly caffeine rules your life, the gym is a foreign concept, and a bagel from Tim Horton’s counts as breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I have learned that little changes make a big difference. If you are going to eat fast food, use a bit of common sense so you don’t risk heart failure while climbing the stairs in A building.


Fast food tips

First, do not supersize, under any circumstances! Even if it’s a great deal, eating to excess will just make you feel gross.

Second, use that smartphone glued to your hand and take a look at the nutrition charts of your favourite fast food places. Sometimes a salad isn’t actually the healthiest option (and a poutine is never the best option, no matter how good it tastes). 

Finally, while places like Subway and Pita Pit might seem like healthier options, you can load your wrap with so much meat and cheese and sauce that a Big Mac would pale in comparison.

Exercise schmexercise?

As far as exercise and being active goes, if you aren’t able to commit to the gym (cost is no excuse thanks to the U-Pass), then commit to small changes in your everyday routine. Instead of spending 15 minutes looking for the closest parking spot, park farther away and walk to class. If you get a break during class, stand up and go for a quick walk (and stay away from Tim Horton’s). Try and stretch whenever you get the chance — sitting in class or at a computer for hours on end can be hard on your body, so show it a little love whenever you can. Health and wellness experts all recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise three to four days a week, but if you can’t make that commitment, just try to move that body whenever you can. It will thank you later!

Cut the caffeine buzz

If you don’t want to rely on caffeine to be able to function, make sure you don’t get into that habit at the beginning of the semester. Anyone who has ever tried to cut out coffee or soft drinks will understand when I say that it’s pretty much the worst feeling ever. The crankiness and the headaches are brutal, and then suddenly you see cans, bottles, and cups everywhere you go, taunting and teasing you. If you must have a warm beverage, try to stick with decaf tea or coffee, but cut out the sugar. No more of this triple-triple nonsense! There are no good substitutes for soft drinks, other than good old-fashioned water. Stay well-hydrated and I promise you will feel better.

Catch some zeds

A bonus tip: get some sleep. Not in class, but at bedtime — whenever that may be. Even if you stay up until 4:00 a.m. every night, make sure your bedtime stays consistent and that you get enough sleep (seven to eight hours should do for most people). The one thing that will help you have a good sleep is to turn off your electronic devices before crawling into bed. I know that almost no one will take this piece of advice, but you will sleep better if you aren’t staring at your cell phone until the minute you close your eyes and go nighty-night. If you have trouble falling asleep, I would suggest reading one of your many textbooks … it works for me every time!

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