PCOS and College
Do you have PCOS and are heading off to college? Is your head about ready to explode with all the information available on the web regarding nutrition, diet and PCOS? If so, you have come to right spot!
Holy cow, I cannot believe it is that time of year again. Can you? As a seasoned college professor you would think I would be used to this time by now. But every year the end of summer sneaks up on me. Insert sad face emoji. If you have PCOS and are heading off to college you may be experiencing a bit of anxiety regarding how to stick to your diet. Staying on track in college with your diet can be challenging – but certainly not impossible if you have PCOS.
College can be an exciting time! It is the first time you are on your own flexing those “independence muscles.” However, it can also be a very stressful time, full of uncertainty. And as if having PCOS was not bad enough – now you need to navigate an entirely different food domain. But fret not my friend – you are in luck. We have my Yale Dietetic Intern Jacquelyn Budlowski here, to give you some pointers on how to keep on track with your diet and exercise.
PCOS and College: Ten nutrition tips for staying on track with your diet
Write it down to stay on track with your diet
Start a food journal or use an app to track your intake and make sure you stay within your recommended calorie and carbohydrate alotment. Think of it as one of your daily homework assignments! We LOVE the myfitnesspal app as it super user friendly and allows you to track not only your calories – but also your carbohydrate, fat and protein intake. Studies show people who write down what they eat are more successfully at losing weight and keeping it off.
Get your little butt moving
Most college campuses have free gym memberships included with tuition. Many also offer group exercise classes. This can be a fun way to work out and beat the ho-hum of the treadmill. Some colleges even offer recreational sports as a fitness option. This can be a fun way to meet new people, fit in your exercise in and even try a new sport you may have been dying to try. Aim to exercise for at least 120 minutes per week.
Limit your alcohol intake
If you drink alcohol, keep in mind it supplies calories (and often carbs) but no nutritional value. A light beer, a glass of wine, or an ounce of liquor each has about 100 – 140 calories each. The carbohydrate content depends on what the alcohol is mixed with. Plus when your body is metabolizing alcohol – fat breakdown comes to a screeching halt. This can prompt weight gain and reduce your overall metabolism. Plus, alcohol increases your appetite and decreases your mindfulness leading to poor food choices. Did I just hear someone say “Let’s order Chinese ?!?”
Be mindful of “seconds”
It can be tempting to go up for a second plate knowing you have unlimited access to food with your dining card. However, ask yourself if you are really hungry before going up for a second helping. It is possible that you are just overwhelmed by the abundance of food and not really hungry. A good habit is to walk around the cafeteria and check out all the options before deciding what to eat. That way you can make the best balanced choice while getting what you really want in the first place.
Stock up on healthy PCOS friendly snacks
Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room. This way if you are up late studying, you will not be tempted to grab something from the campus store such as candy, chips, or ice cream. Good snack options include cheese sticks, low sugar Greek yogurt, hummus/veggies and even something like a Quest Bar in the event you cannot a balanced meal in.
Don’t Abandon Your Summer Goals
Continue to choose nutrient dense, high fiber options when consuming carbohydrates. Focus your meals mainly around high protein foods and healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados (if they have them!) Cafeteria salad bars are a great way to bump up your fiber and pack in your protein. Choose plenty of green leafy veggies and lean sources of protein at the salad bar such as chicken, tuna, chick-peas, hard-boiled eggs and cottage cheese. Your cafeteria may even have a grill station where you could pick up a turkey burger and throw that on top of a salad – yum!
Speak Up Cysta!
Most campus contract food service companies have a list of nutrition values for most of the foods they provide. Ask for the nutrition information or see if you can find it on their website. That way you do not have to guess, “Is this a good choice?” Then, you will be armed with knowledge to select the most PCOS friendly options available to you. No excuses girl friend!
Get your Zzzzz’s
Not getting enough sleep can put a serious damper on weight loss efforts. Sleep deprivation can affect the hormones that control your hunger as well as increase an individual’s level of insulin resistance. This makes it much harder to lose weight. Also we often don’t always make such great food choices when we are hangry, right? Therefore, try your best to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
Find your inner Yogi
Balancing classes, exams, friends and extracurricular activities can be overwhelming! It is no surprise that stress can hinder your weight loss goals. Find different ways to relieve stress aside from eating. Many college campuses offer free yoga and/or meditation classes. Even if your school does not offer this opportunity you can find numerous free resources such as podcasts and youtube videos online to help decrease stress. It is amazing what you can get for free when you look!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Most schools have health centers that have wellness and nutritional trained professionals who are there you help you make the right choices when it comes to eating and exercise. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment and bring them your schedule. Be honest with them. Let them know you have PCOS and that you are struggling with your eating. They should be able to help you lay out a personalized plan of action to keep you on track. Always remember – you are so much stronger than you think!
So, I know we must have missed a couple hints for you college cysters 🙂 But we would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear your tips for staying on track when you have PCOS and are at college. What are some things that you have tried that have worked? Any epic fails? Please share with us in the comments below.