We all know how it goes. You’re away from home for the first time. You’re completely in charge of your own meals. Mom and Dad always said you couldn’t have cake and Cocoa Puffs for dinner? Well now you can have the whole cake and no one is there to say a word.
Eventually, though, your body is not going to like all that damage. Learn how to end those bad habits now, so your future self won’t want to come back to punch you in the face.
1. Eating dinner at midnight
Eating a late dinner can screw up your body’s natural cycles. It can interfere with your sleep schedule, for one thing, but it might also be the reason that you’re having trouble losing some belly fat. Those who eat earlier dinners have been shown to have slimmer waists.
Late-night eating also ups the triglyceride levels, a fat found in your blood. High levels of this fat could lead to a heart attack or stroke. You may not be worried about a heart attack or stroke at your age, but your future self is going to be.
2. Skipping breakfast
There may be a few reasons why you are skipping breakfast. Maybe you eat a ton at night and are just not hungry in the morning or you know you had a lot of calories at night so you’re trying to make up for it. Or maybe you just don’t think you have time.
I know you’ve heard it before: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s true. Skipping breakfast can increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease and it can lower your cognitive functions. People who skip breakfast actually often weigh more than those who have a big meal first thing in the morning. If your excuse is time, check out these easy-to-make recipes that take no time at all. You can also prep a breakfast the night before.
3. Relying on caffeine over sleep
As college students, I’m sure we’ve all had nights where we’re sitting at a desk until the sun starts to rise and the only things keeping us company are a Red Bull and a couple shots of espresso. But even one all-nighter can have consequences.
You’ll have what’s known as sleep debt. You may think that sleeping the next night will fix everything, but it won’t. Because of sleep debt, your mental functions will be impaired for much longer than you’d imagine. And trying to replace that lack of sleep with caffeine is unhealthy. You can actually overdose on caffeine. Anything more than 400 mg, or about four cups of coffee, a day can lead to further sleep deprivation, a fast heartbeat, muscle tremors, and cardiac arrest.
4. Eating while distracted
Maybe you eat while watching Netflix or you’re always on your phone while you’re in the dining hall. Either way, you are likely consuming more food than your peers who don’t eat while distracted. People who eat while preoccupied with something else are more likely to be overweight than those who don’t. Considering making meal time an electronic-free time. Sit down with your dinner at a table instead of on the couch in front of the TV and turn your phone and laptop off.
5. Scarfing down your food
You only have fifteen minutes between classes, but you have three classes back to back to back so you have to eat something or you’re going to pass out by the end of the day. So you wait on line at Dunkin’ for a muffin. You finally get it and you realize that you’re down to seven minutes. And your next professor doesn’t let you have food. What do you do? You scarf it down so fast you’re not even sure if they gave you chocolate chip instead of blueberry.
Eating fast is a bad habit to get into because, the next thing you know, you’re doing it when you don’t have to. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to know it’s full, so those who eat fast are likely to be eating more than they need.
6. Replacing your dinner with drinks
Alcohol can get pretty high in the calorie count. One beer is around 153 calories. If you want a heavier drink, like a Pina Colada, you’re looking at 490 calories. But when you’re out with your friends, you don’t want to hold yourself back from having a couple of drinks because of the calorie count. So you skip eating a lot during the day and you feel better drinking at night, but that’s a really unhealthy and dangerous move.
For one thing, those are all empty calories. If you didn’t eat during the day, you’re probably going to be severely lacking in the nutrients your body needs. Another thing is your body needs some food to absorb the alcohol. If you are drinking on an empty stomach, you’re going to be drunker a lot faster and you won’t be prepared for that.
7. Drowning in too much sugar
I don’t think I should even have to tell you at this point that added sugar is bad for you. It’s addictive, it contributes to heart disease, it may be linked to cancer, and it’s definitely linked to diabetes and high cholesterol. But that pint of Ben and Jerry’s you’re diving into during your movie marathon is so high in the stuff, and so is that Greek yogurt that’s masquerading as healthy.
Check the nutrition labels before buying. It should get easier to tell what’s healthy when the new nutrition labels roll out where added sugar has to be written.
8. Replacing your meals with treats
At my school, there’s a fridge in almost every dorm building where you can get a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Of course, most of us don’t have freezers in our dorms big enough to actually hold these pints, so if you’re going to buy it, you have to finish it that night. That means we’re looking at around 1200 calories for the evening.
A lot of us try to remedy that by not eating anything else for the day, but, as with alcohol, that’s completely unhealthy. Not only are you basically pumping added sugar into your system by eating that whole thing, but you’re also getting very few nutritional benefits. You get calcium and protein, so it’s better than pouring down the drinks, but the disadvantages of so much ice cream definitely outweigh the advantages.