“Freshman 15″ is a term we’re all familiar with, but how much truth is there to it? Does the average college freshman really gain 15 pounds in their first year? Well, not exactly. ‘The freshman 15′ is a bit of an exaggeration, according to statistics and recent studies, with students gaining on average around 5-7 pounds the first year. But remember, that’s an average. Some freshman gain more weight than that, and others might not gain any weight at all!
So why do students gain weight their first year in college, anyway? Well, for one, mommy and daddy aren’t around to make healthy meals anymore, and there are no rules or curfews to stop you from partying all night. Thanks to stress, dining halls, late-night eating, and too much alcohol, the pounds tend to pile on.
But just because you gain this new level of freedom, doesn’t mean you have to gain the weight, too! Here are a few tips on how to avoid the “Freshman 15″!
1. Just because mom and dad are miles away doesn’t mean you should stock your dorm room with food they would not approve of! You know what I’m talking about – chips, cheese puffs, candy, and all the other sugary, fatty junk food that offers little or no nutritional value. It’s okay to keep some snacks in your dorm, but unless you don’t mind welcoming the “freshman 15″, you better make them nutritious ones. Light popcorn, fruit, veggie sticks, oatmeal, yogurt, nuts and baked chips are all great options. These are much better snacks to have in your room when you come home from a night of partying and are ready to eat anything in sight – and while you’re studying too, of course.
2. Eat breakfast. Don’t skip this important meal – ever! Whether you are trying to skip meals or just aren’t a breakfast person, you should eat a little something to get your metabolism going! Plus, it will help keep you from binging later in the day. You don’t want to end up starving at the dining hall, where temptation surrounds you. Protein bars, greek yogurt, and instand oatmeal are quick and easy choices.
3. The dining hall can be disastrous – it’s all-you-can-eat, all day, every day! First thing’s first – don’t wait until you’re starving to head to the dining hall. At this point, you’ll be so hungry that not only will you overeat, but everything will look ten times better and be harder to resist.
This is the first time most students are away from home and have to make their own eating decisions. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you should eat it! Don’t think you can eat pizza for lunch everyday, and hamburgers and fries for dinner, and not gain weight. It will catch up to you. Instead, check out all your options before you make your selections.
The salad bar is always a good choice, as long as you’re mindful of what you pile on it. Obviously, if you are trying to watch your weight you will want to avoid anything fried, creamy, or full of sugar. This means trying to avoid the plate of dessert on your way out. Stick with broth-based soups, healthy salads, lean meat and fruit and vegetables, and watch those portion sizes! Most of the food will be there day after day, so don’t feel like you need to go for seconds or thirds.
4. Drink lots of water. Studies have shown that people often mistaken hunger for thirst. Besides possibly taking away your “hunger”, water helps speed up your metabolism, rid your body of toxins, and so much more! Aim for at least 8 glasses of water a day – more if you’re exercising!
5. As much as college kids don’t want to hear it, the truth is, excessive alcohol consumption can truly wreak havoc on your diet. One beer has 100-200 calories, and that adds up fast! Mixed drinks can have anywhere from 80 to 600 calories per drink. Seriously, if you drink a few of the higher calorie drinks you might a well have eaten a whole pizza.
Mai tais, pina coladas, mud slides, margaritas, and long islands all rack in over 500 calories. Rum and coke, redbull and vodka, and most other drinks have over 200 calories, which also add up quick. Not only are you drinking empty calories, but your body metabolises alcohol before food. That means while you’re drinking, everything else is put on hold and stored until the alcohol is burned off. And we aren’t done yet! Alcohol lowers inhibitions, meaning you’re more likely to ditch your healthy diet and eat that big, greasy sandwich everyone’s raving about. A few nights or more of this every week, and well, you get the picture. Stick to vodka and club soda or other low calorie mixers, and stick to just a few drinks a night.
6. While the course load might be heavy and hard to adjust to the first year, there’s always time to squeeze in a little exercise. Exercise will not only keep the number on the scale in check, it can also help relieve stress – something most college students have! Most schools offer free gyms that are within walking distance, so take advantage of them! Even just 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week will help keep you from gaining weight. Cardio workouts can burn tons of calories, and weight training will help you tone up and burn more calories all day long.
7. Find a friend who has the same goals as you. Work together to avoid temptation at the dining hall and late night binging. Encourage each other to workout, or even take fitness classes together. It’s easier when you have friends who support you – not tempt you!
8. Get enough sleep! College students tend to be sleep deprived, whether it’s pulling all-nighters to study or to party all night long. Try to avoid these bad habits! Studies show that sleep allows your brain to process and store the material better, so staying up all night to cram for an exam isn’t the best idea. Lack of sleep also effects your appetite and judgement, which can increase hunger and decrease satiation. Aim for no less than 7 hours of sleep a night.
9. Don’t give up if you fall off the wagon and gain a few pounds. It happens. It’s not about depriving yourself or obsessing over the number on the scale – it’s about finding a healthy balance and lifestyle. What, when, and how you eat in college can set the stage for healthy eating habits for the rest of your life. Make mom and dad proud!