Features | How healthy eating can improve your grey matter as well as your waist line

As we move into 2014, many of us are starting to battle the bulge generated by all that turkey, pudding, chocolate and general rubbish we’ve inhaled over the Christmas break. None more so than myself. But now that term has started again, and we’re back in our respective halls and houses, the battle has gotten easier now that we don’t have our mums stockpiling all manner of tempting treats simply because they’re two for the price of one. As well as shrinking your waist-line, swapping the donuts for the celery and the couch for the cross trainer is a great way to banish sluggishness and apathy, making us full of energy and get-up-and-go. This is vital for exam time, because if our bodies are being treated well, we will be more likely to feel alert and on top form, so exams will not seem like such an uphill struggle. Here’s a few small changes you can make that will get you on the way to great results, physically and academically, and just in general.

Stay hydrated

Being a student is hectic. We have so much stuff to keep track of, but all too often, we forget to drink. (And I don’t mean alcohol) Your brain is 75% water, so if you don’t have a slug of water pretty regularly, you can get dehydrated, making you tired, and therefore lowering your mental capacity. So keep a bottle on you at all times, and sip it throughout the day. If it runs out, you can fill it up from one of the water fountains in the union building, including in the lounge.

Nature’s sweets

If you’re used to tasting sugar on a regular basis, fruit can seem a bit dull and unappealing to the palate. However, it is possible to train your taste buds to enjoy fruit just as much, if not more than things like chocolate and biscuits. Once you start replacing a chocolate bar with an apple, or Haribo with grapes, you may find yourself beginning to crave the good stuff instead! I don’t know about anyone else, but when I overdose on chocolate, I get a temporary high, which is quickly replaced by an unpleasant feeling of lethargy and an inability to focus on anything productive. I much prefer the fresh, clear, wide-awake feeling I get after eating fruit.

Portion control

In our Western culture, there’s so much food on tap, it’s hard to stop eating once you start. It’s so easy to serve yourself up a mountain of pasta bake or Bolognese that’s way more than you need. Bu making the following minor adjustment could make all the difference. Swap your dinner plate for a little plate – the sort of thing you’d eat a sandwich off. This makes portion control such a breeze, because you literally will not be able to fit any more food than what you need onto the plate! Having tried and tested this, I have found that these more compact amounts don’t make me any less full than if I’d eaten twice as much. This is because when the small plate is full, makes you subconsciously believe you’ve eaten more than you have. Genius!

Don’t starve yourself

Skipping important meals like breakfast and lunch, or making yourself stay hungry for hours before the next meal is unhealthy and counterproductive on so many levels. As well as depriving your body of the nutrients it needs to function properly, you will get so hungry that you will be more likely to throw off restraint and eat loads of the junk food you were originally cutting out. Being hungry is also a danger zone where study and revision is concerned, as it lowers mental capacity, and causes you to feel unable to concentrate. It also will make you feel grumpy and negative. (I learned this the hard way) In case your tummy gets a bit rumbly between meals, have a healthy snack handy, like a banana or a cereal bar.

These days, I like to think of healthy eating as a lifestyle, and a sustainable habit rather than a crash diet. Let your main motivation to change your eating habits be to improve your quality of life, and to look after your general health and well being instead of to lose weight in a tunnel-visioned manner. If you accept yourself as you are, and enjoy your new lifestyle, any weight loss that happens is just a really good side effect!


Rebekah Billingham

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