There are tons of diets out there - vegan, paleo, low carb, low fat - anyone can pick a diet. Anyone can read up on *what* to eat.
But has anyone ever told you *how* to eat?
Maybe you're having trouble keeping your diet, or maybe you just want to make your diet more effective. Either way, here are some basic, (mostly) painless behaviors to help you eat healthy.
1. Keep a food diary...and email it to your parents.
I was going to save the best for last, but I couldn't help myself. We're starting at 100 and going back down to zero.
The Freshman 15 often arises because students are choosing their own foods for the first time, with no adults to tell them what to eat. Time to erase some of that freedom. Email your parents a detailed list of everything you've eaten all day. You'll quickly start double-thinking your food choices. "Oh no, I'd have to tell my parents if I get a second slice of pie..."
2. Start with your healthier choices.
Let's take it down a notch. You have several types of food on your plate, some healthier than others. Tip two is to eat those first.
You're not preventing yourself from eating the other food later, but eating the healthy stuff first has its advantages. For one, you may fill up on fruit and beans and be less inclined to finish your cookie later. Additionally, this ensures that any unexpected events, such as your friends deciding to leave early, interrupts your unhealthy eating instead of your healthy eating.
3. Sit near the entrance of the dining hall.
Why? Think about it: people are constantly going in and out through the entrance. You're sitting there in plain sight...so what do you put on your plate?
Sitting near the entrance makes you self-conscious. Who knows how many extra eyes flit to the tables near the entrance as people leave or enter? You're much less likely to have ten cookies on your plate if you don't want to be seen with ten cookies.
4. Eat with healthy people...
If you have healthy friends and the opportunity to eat with them, do it. Not only will you feel extra guilty eating unhealthy around them, but they will open your eyes to the foods you should be getting. Can you never seem to find enough healthy food to fill your stomach? Well they did, and now you get a front row seat to see what's on their plates. You can also ask them what is and isn't healthy.
5. ...or eat alone.
Perhaps the least painful. This taps into the same self-consciousness as tip number three. If you don't have healthy friends or can't align your schedules, then go it alone. You no longer have your pack to protect you from prying eyes. You'll step more carefully when walking on thin ice.
Don't want to miss out on the social aspect? Easy - eat alone every other day, or just for breakfast, or once a week. Every little bit helps, especially when you're training yourself for the future, and not just focused on losing weight now.
6. Set a specific meal/day for dessert.
You may have noticed a trend throughout many of these tips: consciousness. But now instead of being self-conscious, you're going to be conscious of exactly what you're eating. You don't want to lose track of how much junk food you've eaten.
So set a specific meal of the day, or specific day of the week, to eat dessert. This will prevent you from eating desserts and sweets willy-nilly and then forgetting about them.
7. Keep a tally.
This taps into the same consciousness principle as above: keep track of what you eat. Keep a nice, big tally of every unhealthy thing you've eaten and every healthy thing you've eaten. This will make you conscious of all the bad foods you've eaten, and fill you with pride when you see how many tallies you have under "good foods."
8. Forget rewarding your exercise later...reward it NOW.
Do you have trouble getting yourself to exercise? People often try to reward themselves after exercising to try to get themselves to exercise in the first place.
Forget that. Reward yourself while exercising. That's how operant conditioning works: associate the good thing with exercising. I personally watch movies on my phone while riding the bike at the gym or listen to Podcasts while doing sit-ups. For me, this is the only time of the day I allow myself to watch my junk shows (junk food for your brain). So now I've trained myself to be incredibly excited to exercise; it's not pain time, it's Futurama time.
All of these hacks change what you eat indirectly. What they directly affect is your mind, your consciousness and your self-consciousness. The way to eat smart, not harder, is to increase your awareness of what you're doing. This will train you in the art of spotting healthy choices, making a schedule and sticking to it. All of which are great skills for college and life in general.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have fat-free water to drink.
Lead Image Credit: Nickelodeon Animation Studios