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It dawned on me during a routine WebMD search to check if I had scurvy — a medical condition caused by a lack of vitamin C and poor diet that I typically associate with pirates — that maybe my eating habits needed a little tweaking.
I usually wake up seconds before it’s time to flee my home for class, feel my blood sugar drop about 30 minutes into note-taking and grab a midday coffee and protein bar to get me through the rest of the day. For dinner, I stagger into a cheap fast food place, nearly comatose with hunger, and inhale three times my weight in McNuggets.
While the rush of feeling like I’m going to faint everyday and the sluggishness and fatigue that stems from having ketchup and pizza sauce as my main source of vegetables is great, I wanted to take a closer look and figure out why I can’t seem to properly nourish my body.
I concluded that it’s in large part because I feel like I have no time for a “good” meal, my bank account is perpetually cents away from over drafting and I think I need quick energy like coffee and energy bars to stay alive.
It’s a running joke that college kids live off of ramen and Bagel Bites, but the consequences aren’t very funny.
Biology and nutrition lecturer Donna Louie said that a lack of nutrition in your college years can lead to detriments like low self esteem due to weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, trouble focusing, fatigue and even cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Louie does not think the average college student receives proper nutrition, and she attributes this to a few reasons.
“At this age, I think what’s in their mind is, ‘I’ll eat whatever I want because I’m free,’” Louie said. “I think they have a tendency to pick food that tastes good — fatty, sweet or salty foods that are high in calories and sugar.”
Dr. Louie added that students overeat because they wait too long and wind up starving, or they don’t budget enough time to make a proper meal.
“A lot of students skip breakfast because they want to sleep for as long as possible, but that’s what keeps your day going,” Louie said. “Because they don’t have time to eat, they eat quick, sugary drinks and sugary bars to make it through class… We consider those empty calories.”
OK, I get it. I’m one candy bar away from scurvy. But what’s a gal short on time and money to do when she needs to eat something that won’t take a year off her lifespan? Dr. Louie makes it sound a lot easier than my nutrient-depleted brain makes it out to be.
She stressed that eating breakfast was the most important thing to keep in mind, and I wondered if my mom had called her ahead of time to relay this information.
“Within the first hour you wake up, eat something with carbohydrates like bananas,” she said. “Buy some cereal; even a bowl of cereal is better than a latte. You need the nutrients: the vitamins, the minerals and the protein. Then go eat a wholesome lunch. Eat when hungry and stop eating when you’re 80 percent full.”
I felt healthier just listening to her. I guess a healthy lifestyle in college is possible. It might mean one less snooze on the alarm clock, but I think that’s an infinitely better alternative than health problems now and down the road.
Contact CU Independent Opinions Editor Lizzy Hernandez at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org or @literally_lizzy