DR. WALLACE: I’m a college freshman living on campus, and I’ve already gained five pounds in the first six weeks of classes! I think I know why: I’m not eating meals like the ones my mom has made at home throughout my life. I’m eating far fewer salads and vegetables and a lot more fast food because of my super-busy schedule.
How can I attempt to at least stabilize my weight gain? If I can stop at five pounds, or even seven or eight, I could live with that, but I’m worried that if I’m gaining five pounds every six weeks, I’ll gain over 30 pounds this school year, which is totally unacceptable!
What can I do to reverse this trend? And don’t say to not eat fast food anymore, because I will still need to eat some given all my time restrictions. I literally don’t have time to cook! — Uneasy About Early Gains, via email
UNEASY ABOUT EARLY GAINS: I commend you for being concerned and willing to address your situation as a first step, but now you need to make some changes and put in meaningful guardrails when it comes to your daily calorie consumption.
First, stay away from large quantities of any type of fast food. Never supersize an order, and stay away from the large combination meals, especially those with sugary drinks. In fact, discipline yourself to only consume drinks like water, unsweetened iced tea or even sparkling waters, and always keep those in a small cooler with some ice in your car. This way you’ll never have to order a sweetened drink that contains additional calories with a meal.
Always seek out grilled or broiled chicken instead of any type of fried chicken. Also keep in mind that hamburgers are typically very high in calories and a different type of sandwich, like lean roast beef, will have far fewer calories overall. Cut out sauces as well if you can stay away from spreads and mayonnaise, and do your best to eat your sandwiches or fast food with only items such as crispy lettuce, tomatoes, onions and even cucumbers on board.
In the mornings try to eat a healthy breakfast at home. If you can, stay away from eating bacon or sausage at breakfast as those are quite high in calories. A better choice for you would be any dry cereal paired with low-fat milk or even a low-calorie muffin.
Ask around your group of friends and acquaintances to see what ideas and suggestions they may have for healthy food on the go as well. There has never been a better time to eat healthier, given the wealth of knowledge that has been developed in this area. Scour the internet, read about tips that nutritionists suggest and cut your portions down. Exercise when you can, as the activity will burn calories and help you to keep your weight down as well.
This would also be a great time for me to ask our readers for their suggestions on this topic. What healthy and low-calorie foods do you recommend as “fast food” for extremely busy college students? We will compile the best suggestions and reveal them in a future column, so stay tuned on this important topic.
DOES IT REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
DR. WALLACE: I’m an athlete at my school, and to build up my stamina I enjoy running or jogging long distances five to six days per week. This helps me to do better in the two sports I compete in as I always feel I’ll have reserve energy when I’m in competition during a league game.
I live only about two blocks from our high school, but I often run the other direction since I spend so much time on campus these days already. This means I am running down city streets, on concrete and asphalt. I have good running shoes and socks, so I know I’m getting proper cushioning.
However, my father told me the other day that I should run toward the school and then run around the track or around the large brass rectangle around our sports fields as it would be much easier on my body.
However, I worry about turning an ankle or falling if I run on some uneven grass surface. What’s your opinion about this? Does it make any difference if I run on asphalt and concrete regularly or not? — Athlete With Stamina, via email
ATHLETE WITH STAMINA: It’s up to you to decide where you elect to run, but I can tell you that I’ve read studies over the years that indicate the impact from a grass surface is literally 1/16 that of asphalt or concrete. The difference in impact to your joints and your knees is significant. At your current young age, you may not feel it for a while, but over time this could increase the wear and tear on your body.
A school track also provides a safe, comfortable surface with much lower impact density than the street. And as to your worries about turning an ankle, if you do decide to run the large rectangle around the grass fields at your school, you could go extremely slowly the first time or two and look down carefully to see if there are any obstacles present. If not, then gradually increase your speed a notch each trip around the perimeter until you are confident that the grass you intend to run upon is safe and level.
A further option for you might be to mix it up between the street, track and grass so that your overall exposure to high impact will be reduced.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.