Category Archives: College
My Packing for Dorm Life post has been, by far, my most popular on this blog. After four years, it still drives the most traffic to my site – 37% of you found Strong Like My Coffee by searching this topic or finding it’s link on Pinterest! After nearly half a million views, I quickly realized that my “Healthy College Girl” theme was resonating with a lot of my readers. Every single summer for the past four years, my blog’s page views sky rocket….the back-to-school preparation begins and my fellow healthy college girls seem to be researching healthy grocery guides, meal ideas, and tips for finding balance in college before heading off to school soon!
I did the same thing. Pinterest was just getting popular right before my freshman year at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. I looked up dorm decorating ideas, ways to increase storage in tiny living spaces, tips on living with a roommate for the first time, and study tips. But what really interested me were the posts on avoiding the notorious Freshman 15, ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a social life as a freshman, and advice on fitness and nutrition as a busy college student.
After a couple years as a student-athlete, a lot of what I learned was through trial and error and experience. I navigated my way through campus dining and the all-you-can-eat buffets. Sometimes I made my own healthy salad and other times I gave into Temptation Station…AKA the dessert cart, which was stocked up on every type of cookie, pastry, and donut along with a soft-serve ice cream bar.
Some of the most important points I learned about prioritizing health in college:
- Getting enough quality sleep affects your academic performance, your athletic performance, and the nutrition choices you make throughout the day. Oftentimes when we are tired, we crave instant sugary snacks to boost our energy. Quality sleep keeps your brain sharp, your muscles repaired, and your energy levels more stable.
- Lose the “get my money’s worth” mentality in the dining halls. Quality over quantity.
- Pre-plan your “treat” days. Completely restricting certain foods (like that ice cream bar) will most likely lead to a total binge when you’re having an off day. Planned indulgences will keep you from feeling deprived without totally going overboard.
- It’s not just about diet and exercise; reducing stress is a major component of a healthy lifestyle. There are many stressors in college – roommates, finals, frat boys – which can have an impact on our motivation to workout and the foods we crave. Every finals week, I craved allll the sushi, macaroni and cheese, and frozen yogurt. :) Finding healthy ways to cope with stress is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can offer – one that I am still working on myself, one year post-graduation!
- Alcohol and abs don’t mix. Not to sound like a buzz kill, but alcohol consumption has a drastic impact on our bodies. Beverages contain empty calories of carbs and sugars, but alcohol also has an inflammatory effect on the body. Moderation is key! I definitely enjoyed my 21st birthday and a few fun nights downtown, but I also happily volunteered to be designated driver and substituted fruity water. Balance!
I continued to post content relevant to this theme for the past four years. As I noticed my page views beginning to climb again last week, I thought I would put together a “Round Up” of my favorite Healthy College Girl themed posts in one spot. They are in order of my personal favorite! Each link will open in a new tab :)
- 6 Tips for Navigating Through Campus Dining (Guest blog post for Quest Nutrition)
- Healthy College Girl’s Travel Guide
- Observations from a College Campus Gym
- Healthy Study Snack List
- College Girl Grocery Guide – dorm edition
- College Girl Grocery Guide 2.0 – apartment edition
- College Girl Meal Plan
- List of De-stressors
- Sweet Tooth Cures
- By the Time You Turn 22…
Hopefully you found something helpful here! It’s been a year since I graduated. Now that I’m living 1,000 miles from “home” with a brand new marketing job and real life responsibilities, I feel like I have to “re-learn” my own healthy habits. Post-grad life is mostly just figuring it out through trial and error. Figuring out how to balance the normal adult chores and errands, work, enough sleep, healthy meals, workouts, play time, and whatever surprises come up. Having a supportive family with similar goals certainly helps. Surrounding yourself with positive people is probably one of the most important components of your health.
Let me know what other kinds of content you’d like to see, or any healthy tips of your own! Tomorrow marks my two-month anniversary of moving to Idaho and we have an epic day adventure planned. Full recap on Monday! :)
I finally broke up with my “Student-Athlete in love with health and fitness” tag line in the blog header above. About time, considering I only graduated….11 months ago. It took me a ridiculously long time to settle on “Post-Grad Life – Balancing Health & Happiness.” Finding a new direction takes time, y’all!
The timing of this is so appropriate and unplanned, since most of you are in college yourselves and graduation season is just around the corner!
Now that I’ve officially cut ties with my student-athlete title (no looking back now!), it’s time to fully embrace the unpredictability and freedom that come with that first year out of school. There are unlimited directions. You can eat gummy worms for breakfast. You can move to a new city. You’re probably going to want to update that resume.
Having goals for our career and lifestyle once we earn that degree is expected, but make sure you aren’t getting caught up in what everyone else is doing. Figuring out post-grad life isn’t a race or a competition; try to focus on working towards your own goals instead of comparing everyone else’s. Especially not what they’re showing on social media – you have no idea what else is going on behind the scenes of that strategically and perfectly curated post!
We see other people’s individual achievements and take them as a collective goal. What I mean by that is we see one friend with their dream job, someone else with the most gorgeously decorated loft apartment, another friend with a daily habit of $15 Whole Foods smoothies, a different someone with the most flawless make-up and hair, someone else in the most inspiring relationship and yet another who seems to spend everyday on a hammock at the beach sipping sangria (with a ridiculous bikini bod, to boot). And as a natural human instinct, we want all of these things too! We take these individual accomplishments and expect ourselves to achieve them all. But the reality is – no one has them ALL at the same time.
I think that social media, “reality” television, and our generation’s culture in general have provided a false sense of reality for a post-graduate. Of course there are the lucky select few who are the exception to this rule. In general, though, the vast majority of recent college graduates (or just those in their early 20’s) should expect to put a lot of time, energy and sacrifice into working towards the lifestyle that they admire. Dream jobs don’t land in your lap, and oftentimes they require a great deal of tedious or dirty work at first. Expensive habits like daily fancy coffees, superfood green juices and bottles of champagne can only happen if you pay your utilities, gas, phone bill, etc. first. (If you have to prioritize, hint: electricity > organic donuts.) And things don’t happen exactly as you picture them in your head. Exhibit A:
I’m just going to use my own personal experience because I know a lot of my friends relate and you might too. Right before graduation, I had the fantasy goal of moving across the country, renting my own apartment, decorating it like Lauren Conrad, throwing adorable and elaborate parties, working out on the beach, finding the dream marketing job for a non-profit company with co-workers who would all become my best friends, meeting a guy straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, running an uber-successful health and fitness blog and never feeling an ounce of stress.
There’s nothing wrong with GOALS and we should all have an idea of what lifestyle we want to create for ourselves! But expecting it all to happen the day after graduation was my downfall. I felt like having a gap between graduation day and this fantasy life meant I failed. I was disappointed that I’d have to move in with my parents until I worked everything out. My expectations were so far-fetched that I let myself feel disappointment and failure RATHER than feeling damn proud of graduating college, appreciative of my parents for all of their support, and excitement towards the possibilities of my post-grad life. No More! My parents have helped me become more realistic, and even though my personality type will always have pretty big goals and dreams for myself, I know that nothing is instant and that the time and work we put in will make it worth it. And taking a little time after graduation to figure it out is okay!
Now that I’m wrapping this up, I hope this doesn’t come across as “make your dreams smaller” or “don’t aim so high.” My original post-grad southern life on the beach is still my dream/goal/plan! I’m just saying expect to work for your goals, you have to earn that end result, and don’t set such strict deadlines. Don’t be so hard on yourself, or compare your journey to anyone else’s. It’s not a race.
And P.S. The majority of these types of posts are things that I know I need to remind MYSELF, so I’m not writing this as a mentor or a preacher – I’m right there with ya. :)
Thoughts? Post-grad experiences? What are YOUR goals?
A few months ago, I was asked to write an article for another blog that related to health and fitness in college. I came up with “6 Healthy Tips for Navigating Campus Dining” and now I’m sharing it on my own blog because it’s perfect for the back-to-school season! A Monday seems like the best time to give ourselves some healthy reminders, especially if you had a particularly splurgey (<– new word!) weekend. Which, hello, it’s COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON, so it’s understandable. ;)
6 Healthy Tips for Navigating Campus Dining
By: Kenzie Estes of stronglikemycoffee.com
I remember my first dinner in the campus dining hall my freshman year of college. It was called “The Hot Spot” and the buffet of food was completely overwhelming. My eyes widened as I tried to take in the wall-to-wall counters of food lined with a salad and sandwich bar, pastas and pizzas, stick-to-your-ribs mashed potatoes and gravy, Asian stir fry bowls, and everything in between. Freshly baked cookies under vanilla soft-serve would have made the “Freshman 15” a very real experience had I not been so devoted to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Nutrition is particularly important to me in college because I was recruited to my university’s NCAA Division 1 Track and Cross Country team. Even without my athlete status, continuing to make healthy choices in school is incredibly important to thrive in your new environment with the stress and workload that comes with being a student.
1.) Leave the “Get My Money’s Worth” mentality outside.
Buffets and their unlimited offering can invoke a mental need to get the most bang for your buck, which has more to do with quantity than nutritional quality. Focus on building a plate that is full of color and nutrition. If you have a difficult time choosing your meal, remember that everything will be there again tomorrow!
2.) Pre-plan your plate.
Have some sort of idea of what you are craving before you enter the dining hall to avoid having to examine all of the food. Without a plan for your meal, you might end up “sampling” a little bit of everything (been there, done that) which can add up to more calories than you realize.
3.) Pick one splurge meal each week.
It’s also important to note that it is not healthy to completely deprive yourself of the ice cream station or cookie cart either. If you occasionally treat yourself to something indulgent or plan a “cheat meal,” you are likely to stay on track with your health goals.
4.) Use entrée plates as a base & add to it.
Oftentimes buffets offer a variety of pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and soups because they are widely popular and simple to feed the masses. One of my favorite ways to pack a nutritional punch in cafeteria meals is to grab fresh vegetables or salad bar ingredients and mix them into the pre-served entrees. Stir a handful of spinach and carrots into a bowl of soup, and tomatoes and bell peppers into a plate of pasta. Cut up an apple over a salad or slice a banana into your oatmeal or cereal.
5.) Be picky.
Don’t eat something just because it’s there. Be selective with what you put in your body! If it’s not amazing…skip it.
6.) DON’T be afraid to bring your own ingredients!
A friend of mine has a bag of chia and flax seeds in her purse to add to oatmeal or cereal. Many times I’ll bring in Quest protein powder and a shaker to mix with almond milk. Salsa, pepper and liquid amino acids can spice up any dish if your campus’s cooking is particularly bland. And of course I always have my own powdered coffee creamer.
Brunch in the Hot Spot was always my favorite way to start a Sunday morning. Everyone comes in their pajamas, some bring notes to study, some just talk with friends. Everyone cozily enjoys their omelets and coffees before Monday kicks in. With a little effort, your college dining experience can be fun and healthy.