As if stressing out over grades, and obsessing over that cute co-ed weren’t bad enough, many college freshman have one more thing to worry about: gaining weight. While this phenomenon is often called the “Freshman 15” (a reference to gaining 15 pounds during the first year of college), in reality, students can gain five 20, or even more pounds. But plenty of freshmen manage to maintain or even lose weight while in college. How? By understanding the diet-busting dangers and learning how to avoid them.
Why does the freshman fifteen happen in the first place?
Usually because college students have a lot more opportunity to eat (and overeat!) than they are used to.
Culprit: Cafeteria. Being on a college’s cafeteria plan usually means that having one healthy salad costs the same as having two burgers, a side of fries, and a . Also, students often socialize in the cafeteria, slowly munching away the entire time they are there. In other words, it’s easy to go overboard on calories. Solution: Control portion sizes. There is no need to try a bit of everything in sight. Those food options will be there again soon enough. Choose low-calorie filling options like water, salad, and fruit as dessert.
Culprit: Late-night cramming sessions. There’s something about the stress and darkness that just begs for fattening comfort foods like pizza, chicken wings, or at least a double mocha. Solution: Students should study where they can’t eat, like the library. Don’t wait until the last minute, either… stress loves food. In other words, practicing good study habits not only translates to good grades, but helps keep off the freshman 15.
Culprit: Social events. Free food draws people, and there’s often a lot of free fatty food to be had at everything from extracurricular club meetings to parties. Solution: Eat beforehand. Starved people are much more likely to overeat. There’s no need to deprive oneself completely – staring down all that party food is stressful at best and leads to binging at worst. Instead, people should come to parties with a plan: choose one or two of your favorite treats, and then limit yourself to a certain quantity (“I will only have one slice of pizza” or “Half a cupcake and seven tortilla chips – that’s it!”) Without a plan, it is too easy to keep walking by the snack table all night long, nibbling one’s way to excess calories.
Culprit: Snacking on the run. Building snacks into the day can be a smart dieting technique, if people choose low-calorie, high-nutrient snacks. Problem is, it’s easy to do just the opposite. Solution: People who like or need to snack should carry around healthy snacking options (think nuts, yogurt, carrots or soy crisps) so they won’t be tempted by all those not-so-healthy selections like chips, snack cakes and sugary drinks.
Culprit: Drinking calories. Solution: A calorie is a precious thing to waste, but too many college students end up downing hundreds of calories in sodas, energy drinks, coffee drinks, smoothies and even juice drinks. Choose flavored water, herbal teas and skim milk instead.
Culprit: Laziness. Solution: Most college campuses offer a variety of different ways to move one’s body, from jogging trails to gyms to intramural and club sports to just walking from the dorm to class to the library. Take advantage of the opportunity to burn those calories. Students who feel too tired to exercise should examine their life and figure out what’s out of balance. Cut back on the partying, but don’t skimp on exercise!
Students who follow these tips won’t have to worry about how to lose the freshmen 15, because they won’t have gained them in the first place.