I consider myself pretty active. I enjoy the outdoors and I typically workout 4-5 times a week. When I entered college, even though I remained active and fit, I struggled with weight gain. My weight fluctuated throughout college, and it wasn’t until this past year that I finally dropped all of the weight that I had been hanging on to since my freshman summer semester.
But since my eating patterns hadn’t shifted much, and my fitness routine was actually suffering due to a really intense work and school schedule, I was baffled that the weight kept falling off.
What had changed since freshman year? Not my eating. Not my exercise.
The biggest change in my lifestyle was my decrease in alcohol intake. I went from drinking at least one night during the week and both weekend nights to going out for a drink with friends maybe twice a month.
And don’t get me wrong: I’m not leading into a “stop drinking alcohol” bit. But I did want to emphasize the negative impacts I experienced from drinking alcohol so often, both on my eating habits and on reaching my goals.
So let me break down some of my habits from previous semesters for you.
In college, the weekend usually started on Thursday.
A typical night goes something like:
It’s some girl’s 21st birthday celebration (Waltz/sign night) in which you drink 2-3 drinks at the pre-game, plus 1 or 2 shots.
1-2 drinks at the bar. Maybe another shot. A slice of pizza (or 2) when you get home
The next morning… AKA, Friday:
You stumble to your class, exhausted from poor sleep. You manage to grab a cup of coffee on your way out the door.
After class, you head straight to “Fried Fridays” at your sorority house and make a “salad” topped with fried chicken fingers and add a side of curly fries. You skip dinner (yikes) to get to happy hour early before the crowds.
2 tall boys or split a pitcher of a mixed drink with you and your friends. A shot of tequila for your other friend’s 21st (someone is always turning 21 in college, aren’t they?!). Free hotdog from the church on your way home. Delivery from Jimmy John’s because now you’re starving.
Let’s be real. You might even head out to another bar for more drinks if your roommate is up for it.
And it’s only…Saturday?
If it’s football season. You know this means tailgating.
A mimosa while you get ready, 3 beers at the tailgate, another grilled hotdog because it’s free, maybe a few shots if you’re feeling frisky.
After the game you’re feeling a bit drained from the last 2 nights but you push on because #yolo. 3 vodka waters, 2 tequila shots, and throw in a slice of pizza on your way home too.
You wake up at noon, miss breakfast, and are super dehydrated from the night before. You go for a big greasy brunch full of eggs, bacon, maybe pancakes, and add a mimosa. There’s no chance you’re hitting the gym today, so better to start planning to hit the gym tomorrow.
So why does all that matter?
Here’s the thing: college is supposed to be a time for fun, but it’s also learning about responsibility and self control.
Drinking not only adds calories, but also dehydrates you, causes any number of hangover symptoms, and crushes any hope of hitting the gym (or class!) the next day.
I was waking up with not only the migraines that come with a hangover, but also with a horrible sour stomach. Sometimes it would even lead to nausea and dry heaving. I would be taken out completely the next day, and sometimes couldn’t even hold water down to re-hydrate. Every time was the same “Why did I drink so much?” speech to myself. But it was the only social life that I knew how to live among my college friends.
I was losing motivation to be in the gym and felt myself resigned to going through the motions instead of enjoying my workouts— something I thought I truly loved.
But once I started to get serious in my school and work schedule, I knew I simply didn’t have the time to waste being hungover. Getting to bed at a decent hour, avoiding late night snacking, and waking up early to seize the day were leading to higher energy levels and an increase in my productivity. I had more energy to go all day in school, and waking up early (even on the weekends!) allowed me to have more time to dedicate to the gym.
Overall, I have felt so much happier, healthier, and fit because of it.
If you’re trying to balance your social life with your fitness goals, know that it is going to be a challenge. But that’s the key: balance. I was letting alcohol and drinking completely overshadow my health.
How can you work towards changing your habits?
That doesn’t mean you have to let your health overshadow going out with friends. Just be mindful. How can you do that? Simple; it’s not all or nothing.
- If you are going to drink, make sure to eat a full and balanced meal beforehand.
- Pick clear spirits mixed with soda water and lime over sugary mixed drinks.
- Hydrate with glasses of water between drinks.
- Avoid late night snacking!
But if you really want to reach your goals, know that skipping the drinks every once in awhile and volunteering to be the DD for the night, could finally help you get there.
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