Socialization in college revolves around food

It’s hard to stay healthy and be social.

Courtesy photo, tacobell.com

It is hard to be healthy in college. This probably does not come as a shock to many people. If it weren’t difficult to be healthy, the “Freshmen Fifteen” wouldn’t be a thing, and you wouldn’t have people taking naps whenever and wherever possible.

Yes, I have read the Buzzfeed articles, the Odyssey blog posts, and the health magazines that all tell you the weight gain comes from stress and from an inability for college students to control themselves in the lunch line.

I’m not saying these articles are wrong necessarily, but I think there’s an aspect of college culture that often gets ignored by these articles: Social eating.

When I say social eating, I’m referring to the idea that someone may feel a sense of social obligation to go out to eat. Since college students are not particularly wealthy, social eating usually consists of cheap fast food.

For example, say you wanted to stay in and make yourself a salad for dinner, but your friends want to go out for fried chicken. Are you going to feel comfortable turning them down just because you planned on eating healthy for the night? For some people that might be easy, but for people-pleasers like me, I immediately want to drop what I’m doing to spend time with my friends.

I love to eat at restaurants with my friends. Bonding over meals helps me unwind from the school day and creates an ideal atmosphere to share stories and make each other laugh.

But I’m starting to realize I can’t always take my friends up on the opportunity to go out for fried chicken without consequences. The fact that a lot of them are guys with much higher metabolisms does not help either.

Unfortunately, upon entering the “adult” world, I have learned the social etiquette that comes with agreeing to go out to eat. If someone does not want to go out to eat with the group, they could be seen as antisocial, or just generally uninterested in spending time with their friends.

So what’s a health conscious social butterfly to do when they still want to eat with their friends?

I have started trying some different strategies to mitigate the issues related to social eating, without cutting myself off from my friends. Some strategies have been more successful than others.

To try and steer people towards healthier dining options is difficult and it can be hard on the wallet.

What sounds like a better deal? The McPick Two for $5 or a $10 salad from Doc Greens?

An alternative could be to go to the fast food restaurant with friends and check the calories of each option. At most of the popular fast food places, there’s at least one healthier option. When I went to

Taco Bell this week, I ate a black bean burrito with only 390 calories.

Another way to stay fit while going out with friends might be to convince them to go to the gym with you. Just as eating together can bring people closer, so can working out or playing a game of basketball.

There’s no harm in being open and honest with your friends either. If you tell them you’re on a diet, they should understand and support you.

While I may not have lost weight yet since realizing the drawbacks of social eating, I am more confidant in my ability to balance my social life and personal health.

It is hard to be healthy in college. This probably does not come as a shock to many people. If it weren’t difficult to be healthy, the “Freshmen Fifteen” wouldn’t be a thing, and you wouldn’t have people taking naps whenever and wherever possible.

Yes, I have read the Buzzfeed articles, the Odyssey blog posts, and the health magazines that all tell you the weight gain comes from stress and from an inability for college students to control themselves in the lunch line.

I’m not saying these articles are wrong necessarily, but I think there’s an aspect of college culture that often gets ignored by these articles: Social eating.

When I say social eating, I’m referring to the idea that someone may feel a sense of social obligation to go out to eat. Since college students are not particularly wealthy, social eating usually consists of cheap fast food.

For example, say you wanted to stay in and make yourself a salad for dinner, but your friends want to go out for fried chicken. Are you going to feel comfortable turning them down just because you planned on eating healthy for the night? For some people that might be easy, but for people-pleasers like me, I immediately want to drop what I’m doing to spend time with my friends.

I love to eat at restaurants with my friends. Bonding over meals helps me unwind from the school day and creates an ideal atmosphere to share stories and make each other laugh.

But I’m starting to realize I can’t always take my friends up on the opportunity to go out for fried chicken without consequences. The fact that a lot of them are guys with much higher metabolisms does not help either.

Unfortunately, upon entering the “adult” world, I have learned the social etiquette that comes with agreeing to go out to eat. If someone does not want to go out to eat with the group, they could be seen as antisocial, or just generally uninterested in spending time with their friends.

So what’s a health conscious social butterfly to do when they still want to eat with their friends?

I have started trying some different strategies to mitigate the issues related to social eating, without cutting myself off from my friends. Some strategies have been more successful than others.

To try and steer people towards healthier dining options is difficult and it can be hard on the wallet.

What sounds like a better deal? The McPick Two for $5 or a $10 salad from Doc Greens?

An alternative could be to go to the fast food restaurant with friends and check the calories of each option. At most of the popular fast food places, there’s at least one healthier option. When I went to

Taco Bell this week, I ate a black bean burrito with only 390 calories.

Another way to stay fit while going out with friends might be to convince them to go to the gym with you. Just as eating together can bring people closer, so can working out or playing a game of basketball.

There’s no harm in being open and honest with your friends either. If you tell them you’re on a diet, they should understand and support you.

While I may not have lost weight yet since realizing the drawbacks of social eating, I am more confidant in my ability to balance my social life and personal health.

This story first appeared in the November 30, 2017 issue of The Vantage.