College beer bash, or how to launch massive weight gains

I am not a dietician, a nutritionist, a doctor, a trainer, etc. Please consult a doctor before beginning any diet program.

So in my earlier post I discussed my high school exercise and eating habits. I came to college determined to take a break from athletics and concentrate on studying and fraternity life. Both decisions would, in a sense, be terrible mistakes.

You may read that and wonder how studying could be a mistake. I think, looking back on it now, that in the grand scheme of life studying in college isn’t terribly important. I’m not sure how other professions would view it, but certainly my lack of stellar grades in my major (mathematics) didn’t keep me from being accepted to a well-known major university for a PhD in mathematics, skipping the master’s program. I certainly don’t think that a B in history hurt my eventual career working in the Big 4 accounting arena. There’s a limit of course – making straight Cs would have ended my chances of graduating eventually. But in retrospect, the lack of exercise and poor nutrition that I might have passed off to “being too busy” studying probably hurt me more, in terms of my energy level, appearance and overall ability to impress people (clients, employers, etc.)

Frat life and its horrible effect on fitness and health goes without saying. A culture of indolence, heavy drinking and late-night food binges is the usual portrayal in the movies and it is not far off at all. I drank a lot of beer, ate food I didn’t need, and certainly felt no pressure from my peers to do much of anything else. I’m sure that others have had perfectly good experiences with college fraternities. Some of my best friends today are ones I made in the fraternity. But the overall effect on my health was negative. Heavy drinking and poor diet took a real toll on me.

Finally, I gave up athletics. Without the structure of a team, I didn’t really have the motivation to exercise. I did, fitfully, from time to time, but not enough to make a difference. I played flag football or some shootaround basketball but certainly didn’t spend time running or sprinting or doing weight training. I didn’t return to organized athletics until late in my junior year when I started playing lacrosse. By that time, I still had some athletic ability left but had certainly packed on some pounds. In a way, lacrosse had the same effect tennis had had in high school – it gave me a false sense of fitness that would roar out of control once I started working.

So once in college I spent most of my time partying or studying or playing in a sport that required some physical activity but not nearly as much as tennis. I was a goalie/defender in lacrosse, which does involve some running, but also involves long periods of standing and waiting. I also didn’t train much. It was a club sport, meaning the university supported us with equipment and travel money, but our coach was also a player and we didn’t have the forced structure of an athletic team in high school.

College wasn’t too bad, though. I definitely bulked up, but I was still moderately fit and certainly not out of control weight-wise. The real problem was that the habits I picked up in college would destroy me over the first 6 years of my working life. In college I still had to stay somewhat active (playing lacrosse, walking to class, etc.). That kept my pizza-eating beer-drinking habits somewhat in check. My lack of money also helped – I had plenty of money but not enough to blindly indulge in whatever I wanted nonstop. I drank a lot of Coors Light, for example.

In my next post in this series, I’ll go into the years when I really spiraled out of control: getting behind a desk, working insane hours and finally going overseas to work.