The healthy college experience: A good ‘fit’ for every student

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer

After enjoying three wonderful months with our younger daughter home from college, tomorrow we pack up the car and head back to North Carolina. My heart is as heavy as the boxes and suitcases I helped her carry down the stairs. While perhaps not a traumatic as last year, when she began her freshman year away, the transition is never easy, nor should it be.

This summer our young lady visited Africa for two weeks, interned at a financial corporation here in town for nine weeks, and in the midst of it all, embarked upon personal training. The lessons she learned were insightful and life-changing, in a variety of ways; we like to think of them as a “bag of tricks” that she can take with her as she goes through life’s journeys.  The cerebral and emotional lessons will ideally propel her through her upcoming coursework at the university; the training tips, I hope, will help her stay on a healthy track while navigating what we all know can be dangerous and difficult pitfalls when it comes to campus life.

If you have a college student in your household, you are well acquainted with the dynamics of trying to remain “fit” while trying to “fit in”.  The combination of dining hall fare (not always the healthiest offerings) and the easy access to junk food and alcohol make it challenging to hold onto the progress that was made over the summer, when Mom was preparing quality meals at home and the gym was the place where all your friends gathered.  It is at this point in time, while you and your teen are packing up clothes and books, sheets and comforters, that you can have that very important yet delicate conversation about how to stay healthy as the college semester gets underway.

Regardless of what the dining halls may be serving, a mini-fridge can easily be stocked with fresh fruit, cut-up fresh veggies, hard-boiled eggs and low-fat yogurts. A small investment in a thermal lunch sack ensures that healthy items can be carried with even the busiest of students all over campus, to be enjoyed throughout the day. Dorm-room snacks don’t have to be a deal-breaker, either. Choices such as low-fat granola bars, baked whole-grain crackers or rice cakes (or even celery stalks) topped with peanut butter, and microwave popcorn can cure those late-night munchies without adding much guilt.

If your student is attending a sizeable college, traversing the campus guarantees at least some daily exercise.  In addition, most universities pride themselves on offering state-of-the-art fitness facilities and group-exercise classes are often taught throughout the day and evening.  There is no reason that the good habits that were forged over the summer cannot be continued right on into the fall semester…and beyond.