I invited my younger sister Rachel to be a guest blogger on the site. She’s 19, a college athlete, and shares the same food views as I do. She has always been wise beyond her years and always fully dedicated to every path she takes. So, it’s no surprise that she has been successful with her real food lifestyle.
Here is her story about eating real (and vegetarian!) while living on a college campus.
Mmm… French toast, fried potatoes, and sweet pastries. I contemplated what to eat for brunch one morning as I stood in line in the cafeteria. My mind said, “Splurge! It’s the weekend!” but my body said “No. You’ll thank me later”. I listened to my body. I filled my plate with eggs, spinach, and beans with a side of cottage cheese and cantaloupe. Eating well in college is not as hard as most people think, but it does take self-discipline. Once you realize how well you feel, you’ll never turn back.
I can still recall high school days when I would get home from cross country or track practice and indulge in multiple sugary snacks and later in the night eat countless bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Rarely would I touch vegetables or anything green and obtaining enough vitamins and nutrients in the day never fazed me. When it came to food, all I cared about was if it tasted good.
But here I am today: 19 years old, a collegiate athlete, and a vegetarian. Sometimes I can’t believe who I’ve become, but I’m proud of myself for making these positive choices and changes in my life. Getting to where I am today was no easy journey, but it was a journey well worth taking.
Starting college, I was still in the high school state of mind when it came to eating. I was one of many young people to think, “My metabolism is so fast, I can just eat whatever I want!” Eating in a college cafeteria did not help when it came to me thinking that way either. Being surrounded by pizza, grilled cheese, and cookies every day made me crave these foods even more.
But the more I ate these foods, the worse I began to feel. The smell of the greasy cafeteria made me sick by the time first semester was over. Slowly I saw my eating habits begin to change. Instead of getting ice cream every night with the excuse that, “I’ll run it off,” I reached for the yogurt to feed my sugar craving. It was simple things like that that helped me become a better eater.
I began eating even better at the beginning of my sophomore year, but at the start of second semester, I made the biggest dietary change I ever have in my life; I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian (meaning I still eat dairy and eggs). I had never imagined being one, but I’m glad I am. I’ve only been a vegetarian since January 2014, but in these few short months, I’ve never felt better.
Being a vegetarian and eating well in college has not been easy, but it’s not impossible. There are days that the cafeteria will not have hummus that I oh so love, but instead of slacking off and eating bad, I’ll scoop some chickpeas into a bowl and smash them up with olive oil and pepper to create my own. When I get sugar cravings, I’ll eat a banana with peanut butter instead of a cookie. It all comes down to self-discipline, control, and being creative. Eating well takes effort; it’s not always as fast as grabbing a cheeseburger and French fries, but it’s worth it and just as satisfying.
I truly have noticed a difference in how I feel since focusing on what I’m eating and how many vitamins and nutrients I get in a day. I’m running faster, have more energy, and I’ve even noticed my hair growing more than usual (yay!). The benefits are endless.
It really is possible to avoid the “Freshman 15” and eat well in college. I slip at times and eat M&M’s or pizza, but I don’t let it become a habit. It’s good to treat yourself, but be smart about it. I love saying I eat spinach, broccoli, beans, apples, carrots, and many other real foods every day. Never, and I mean never, did I think I would enjoy eating beans (right, mom?). I’ve learned to love good food; there is no excuse not to try it.
I eat well, therefore I feel well. Simple as that.