The Freshman fifteen refers to the average amount of weight gained during a student's first year at college. Some gain more and some gain less. It is easy to fall into an unhealthy lifestyle the first time you are away from home, and that weight can add up a lot faster than you expect.
What causes the Freshman 15?
The drastic change of environment and routine is usually the main cause of gaining extra weight. For the first time in your life, you are in charge of everything, which includes feeding yourself every single meal. You are also in charge of your daily schedule and going to the gym often times falls to the bottom of the list when you have a chemistry test to study for. You will also find yourself up later at night -- studying or partying, both causing mindless eating. Those 3 am pizzas add up fast!
Here are 15 ways that you can help avoid this common weight gain problem.
- Get enough sleep, even if you have to take a nap during the day!
- Follow Cafeteria 101:
- Do a lap through the line to see what your options are. Make smart decisions, not impulsive ones. Dorm food doesn’t always come with nutritional fact labels. 1 standard slice of cheese pizza contains 285 calories.
- Grab a salad plate rather than a dinner plate. They are smaller and trick your mind into thinking you are eating more.
- According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, include fruits and vegetables in all meals. Fill half your plate with vegetables, fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein that is grilled or baked, and the last quarter of your plate with whole grains.
- Salad bars are a great option, but don't go overboard on cheese, bacon, croutons and other high-calorie add-ons. It is way too easy to add extra calories, fat, and sodium to your salad without even realizing it!
- Moderation at the dessert bar is key, and you may want to pass if you plan on drinking at night.
- Walk to unwind. College can be stressful, leaving home, big tests or bad roommates can leave you at your wit's end. Instead of mindlessly eating that bag of chips, move! Take a walk around campus or head over to the fitness center to walk on a treadmill! You can even add in some ankle weights and/or wrist weights to make it into a workout!
- Don’t drink your calories. Beer has an average of 150 calories, red wine has an average of 125 calories, and 1 Jager Bomb contains 213 calories! A 20-ounce bottle of soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, or coffee and teas can have over 200 calories each! The calories add up when you have multiple a day!
- Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room. It’s much easier to eat healthier when almonds and walnuts, fat-free yogurt, turkey jerky, and fruit like apples and bananas are handy.
- Find a workout buddy. You aren’t the only one who is worried about gaining the Freshman fifteen. Grab a roommate, classmate or someone who has a similar schedule as you! The chances of sticking to a fitness plan increase when you have someone to do it with, time flies when you are having fun, and you are less likely to cancel!
- Get credits for being healthy. Nothing is more motivating than getting an A for a class. Many colleges now offer classes like kinesiology, public health, or even a class like karate. These classes will keep you moving and learning about your body.
- Don’t quit being active! Here’s a few things you can do today:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Break up long study sessions by taking a jog or lifting free weights
- Doing push-ups or sit-ups during commercial breaks while watching TV shows
- Use resistance bands while reading
- Go dancing
- Every time Netflix asks if you are still watching, do 10 burpees
- Say no to 3 am pizza runs. Eating late at night is setting yourself up for disaster.
- Use technology. Apps for managing weight, exercise and nutrition are great tools to use. There are apps like MyFitnessPal that can help you create a food diary (just make sure to record everything!). Activity tracking apps such as the iPhone Health app, Fitbit or Map My Run can tell you the distance, number of steps and calories burned from your daily and recreational activities.
- Don’t smoke. Even though cigarettes may suppress your appetite, smoking can make exercise and even normal activity such as walking across campus or climbing stairs more difficult!
- Drink more water. Our bodies can confuse thirst with hunger. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day (that's just four 16 oz bottles), or carry a reusable water bottle for consistent H2O to make sure you're only eating when you need to!
- Take advantage of free or discount classes! Many campuses have free martial arts classes, gyms, yoga classes, etc. Local gyms and YMCAs often have student discounts to help you keep in shape.
- Invest in workout equipment that you can use in your dorm room. Here's some fitness gear that's affordable and compact enough for convenient storage and use in a small space:
- Eat before you go to events so you can control binge eating from extreme hunger and stay away from the snack table.
What do you think?