Finding Health Away from Home

25 Oct


Hey, wildcats. Can we have a little heart to heart? This week we’re talking about homesickness and the challenges that come with being independent. Now, don’t get me wrong, I missed my family and friends when I moved to Tucson, but I also felt a sense of freedom. I felt liberated in the choices I was able to make—a little overwhelmed, maybe, but still I was in charge of my life. This became especially important when it came to my health choices and the lifestyle I wanted to maintain. Suddenly, I controlled what food I had access to, for instance. My schedule was in my control. My sleep was in my control…technically. Now, it’s my senior year and it is still a challenge to keep my life in balance. So, here’s the deal: I’m not going to preach because I don’t have all the answers.  I’m just going to be honest and share what I have learned along the way. So let’s have a look at some Wildcat Anatomy: the mind and the body. (Hey, this duo is a cliché for a reason).


The Mind


I’m starting at the top because believe it or not, keeping your body healthy doesn’t really work if you’re not into it. Thinking back to freshman year, I was determined to not gain weight, but I had no clue what healthy living was or (more importantly) what it meant for me. I didn’t understand how much my body was doing for me every day. I also didn’t understand how I was making its job harder. Can you see where an informed mindset comes in handy? When you’re mind is not on track, your body falls behind. (I know… sad face). Here are a couple mental-boosting tricks I’ve picked up:

1.   The more you know…

Part of taking care of yourself is caring enough to learn how. And guess what? You can get credit for it.

NSC  170C1 – Nutrition, Food and You is offered every semester and you can take it as a Tier I Gen. Ed. This course goes into depth about what happens the moment food is put into your mouth, how it’s absorbed, how your body uses it during physical activity, and then how it eventually….well, yeah it gets detailed, but the point is, you will be knowledgeable and that’s the goal!

Campus Health—did you know our health center offers nutrition consultations?! I literally just learned this a couple of weeks ago and my mind is blown.  Whether your goal is weight management, more nutrient intake, allergy control, or body building, you can get customized nutrition plans for whichever health goals you may have. You would be meeting with qualified nutritionists who can determine the best plan for you.

2.    Throw your ego out (Freud is dead…he won’t care!) and ask for help.

A lot of students have this idea that if they are struggling with school, they are doing something wrong. And you know what? You are absolutely right ….if you are a robot whose sole purpose in life is to crank out A’s.  If that is the case, crank away my mechanical friend. However, if you’re human, step this way….


CAPS That’s what we call it in the Wildcat ‘hood, but it stands for Counseling and Psychological Services. I love me some CAPS. We are really lucky to have a place on campus that exists just to listen to us when things get a little rough. It’s not scary, they don’t make you lie down on a couch, they just listen and refer you to whatever help you may need and want—simple, yet effective.

Prodigy, TRiO, and your very own Outreach Facilitators These are just a couple of the programs that are set up entirely in support of freshmen students (and they operate in one convenient location!) Have you ever been in the Nugent basement? *Cue Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” music* Welcome, home.

Prodigy and TRiO offer skills workshops that will prepare you for the current and upcoming challenges ahead of you, as well as offering one-on-one peer mentoring. As for Student Affairs Outreach, maybe you have seen our online resources (like Wildcat Connections and our Facebook page), but we actually exist in real life! Head down to Robert L. Nugent (basement) Room 15D and come in for a chat!

3.    Monotony is a life ruiner. It ruins people’s lives.

School, sleep, school, sleep, schoooool….sle…schoo…shsldkfslksdlg. ←Accurate?

Routine is great, but the danger here is monotony. It’s just like a muscle (do I have any lifters reading?). Repetitive movement and gradually adding weight can make you stronger and able to take on more. Similarly, if you never challenge the muscle it will start to atrophy (that means DIE, shrivel away, and all that progress goes down the drain).  The key to any progress is mixing up routine, adapting, and challenging your new strength. How do we go about doing this? That depends on you!


         A few suggestions:

  • Build fun into your schedule—take a dance class, take an extra art class, take a horseback riding class! There are countless internships as well both on campus and within the community. Ask your college’s department or academic advisor what’s available to you (and check some Tier I’s off your list while you’re at it!)
  • Try something against your nature—Now, I don’t mean do anything that terrifies you, but maybe something that makes you a little… uncomfortable? If you hate (and if you are like I was, absolutely DESPISE) public speaking, you might want to sign up for something that challenges those skills. Check out Catmasters, a club that offers a safe environment for developing communication, leadership skills, and yes, public speaking.
  • Explore your community—for the first two years of college, I didn’t really know anything about Tucson beyond the University of Arizona campus. It took a true Tucsonan to show me all the cool little nooks and crannies this town has to offer. Try asking around and seeing what the natives do or you can check out a few of my favorites on our “What to do in Tucson” board!

Now, that we have the mind on track, let’s get the rest of you going.

The Body

Ah, yes. An unfortunate victim of the college lifestyle, the body takes a lot of hits during this time. Irregular eating habits, sleep deprivation, neglected workout routines, stress levels spiking and falling, it’s no wonder everyone gets sick at the same time. Here are three things to keep in mind:

1.    Fuel It

I found eating to be one of the most difficult challenges when I came to college. Think about it. From elementary to high school you have always had a set lunch time when you can sit down for a second and eat. Then you get this crazy college schedule and, whoops, maybe you’re going seven or eight hours and you forgot to factor in any time to re-fuel. Oddly enough, that infamous Freshman 15 isn’t the result of just junk food, it’s the chaotic eating pattern!



  • Make eating on campus a “treat”—if you have a meal plan, this may be difficult in the meantime, but refocusing your eating habits to consider Panda, Burger King, and Chick-Fil-A as occasional foods rather than your main source of nutrition is a great start. We’ll call them “YOLO foods.” Obviously it’s not very reasonable to cut out your YOLO foods entirely (after all, you only live once), but if your goal is to eat healthier, be conscious. Rule of thumb: if you couldn’t go to the store and pick out the ingredients needed to make it yourself, don’t eat it.
  • Pack snacks—Don’t I mean pack a lunch? No, I mean pack snacks. If you know you will have time to sit down and eat a full meal, by all means, pack a full spread, but it is more likely you have all of fifteen minutes between classes to hoover it down. Packing 100-200 calorie snacks and eating them every two to three hours will keep you going all day and doesn’t overload your body with food all at once.

My favies:

–  Apples, carrots, bananas, melon (you know, that family of foods that often get left out)
–  Ziplock bags of interesting cereals (keep it low sugar and mix it up!)
–  Yogurt with granola
–  Nuts! (almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts—throw in a handful of chocolate chips, I won’t tell)

*An important note: planning ahead is key for both financial and time reasons. Buy in bulk, stock up, split costs with friends—try to plan out your meals, snacks, and timing at the beginning of each week.

  • Carry water no matter what—no need for further explanation. We live in a desert and dehydration just isn’t cute. Plus, did you know the body often confuses thirst for hunger?
  • Put on that chef hat—if buying and consuming prepared foods isn’t so much out of desire, but rather out of necessity (i.e. you only know how to boil water for Ramen), then it might be the time to start developing basic cooking skills and getting creative.

Cooking on campusis a great resource right on campus that teaches you how to make quick, student-friendly meals that are gentle on your wallet. You can either attend their weekly group classes, or just check out their recipes online!

Explore the online world for ideas—Pinterest actually isn’t just for procrastination. You can usually type in “Easy recipe____(insert favorite food here)” and, boom, a million and one recipes to choose from. Here’s one for easy college student recipes.

2.    Work It


This one seems pretty straightforward, but perhaps not. I have found the most sustainable workout routines (meaning the ones you actually will stick to) are the ones that are constantly changing and keeping you interested and challenged. Some options?

The Rec Center—isn’t just rows and rows of treadmills. They offer many group classes and even outdoor excursions which are also great opportunities to meet some like-minded friends! So, instead of dreading every second slowly passing on machine, go hiking, rent a bike, or start a game of racket ball with a friend.

Tucson is also home to an avid rock climbing community. Watch Groupon or Living Social from time to time and every few weeks or so a deal for the Bloc or Rocks and Ropes will come up. If you ever have the chance. Hit the rocks. (The Rec Center has some climbing options as well!)

Explore online—sometimes the Rec Center just doesn’t fit in with my work and school schedule.  I will find myself staying ten or eleven hours on campus and unable to stay a second longer.  If you live in a tiny space (like my apartment…or the dorm), try checking out some low-impact, but effective fitness routines. Youtube is a great resource for finding videos. Cardio? Yoga? Simple stretching? Whatever gets you going!

  • My favorite is a site called Blogilates. It links to a Youtube channel filled with fun pilates routines that are both strength conditioning and get your heart rate up.

3. Own It

Committing to lifestyle changes and reframing them as something you choose rather than something you “have to do” may be your biggest challenges right now. If you goal is to take charge of your new life and stick to some routine changes, you have to own it. This means making time for yourself and your goals, setting expectations, and following through.

Track your progress—you have probably heard this before regarding eating habits, but writing down other tasks (before and after you complete them) makes you more likely to accomplish them. Not only are you creating a to-do list to keep you focused, but you a creating a log that reveals a lot about yourself:

  • When, where, and with whom do you eat poorly?
  • When do you need to find more time to fit in exercise or eating times?
  • Which activities got excited and motivated? Which didn’t?

My Fitness Pal is just one of the many apps that allows you to track your diet, exercise, and even water intake!

Schedule rewards—yes, PLAN for treats! If you set a goal and accomplished it, why shouldn’t you give yourself a pat on the back? This is where you throw in that YOLO meal, allow yourself an extra hour on Netflix, or make a point to relax with friends.

This is the new you in your new life—what choices are you going to make? Outline specific promises you are going to make to yourself, commit (both mind and body), and sign on the dotted line. (Bonus Points: have a friend sign with you!)


–Franny Caputa

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