How Students Can Dodge the ‘Freshman 15’

by Tiffanie Grady-Gillespie, Certified Physical Trainer, Certified Corporate Wellness Coach, WickedFiTT

It’s that time again! I’ve got some back-to-school tips to help you avoid the dreaded Freshman 15. First, a moment of silence for everyone who’s dealt with weight gain after starting college. It’s seriously the worst. It may sound superficial, but it’s one of the biggest fears I hear from my clients about going to college.

College can take a big toll on your physical/mental health, and it’s easy to get out of the routine of eating well and exercising.

While gaining a few pounds does not seem like a big deal, it really is when you consider this small weight gain is accompanied by a decrease in muscle mass, increased alcohol consumption and a decrease in the amount of healthy foods consumed.

Here are some ideas to stay on track and maybe even take on a healthier lifestyle:
It is important to structure your eating habits as much as possible. Even though your college class schedule may not afford you the luxury of a regular routine, it is important to be sure you eat regularly to avoid getting hungry enough to order and eat an entire pizza.

I know it’s super tempting, but just because your friends are eating a lot of junk food, doesn’t mean you have to join them. Or, join in and limit your portions, eat more salad than pizza and eat the salad first.

If you feel true hunger and have the munchies, and it’s one of those times when you just don’t feel like eating some vegetables or a piece of fruit, choose a single-serving packet of trail mix, almonds or other healthy snacks with some crunch. Studies have shown that most people finish whatever portion they take. So a single-serve packet will keep you from eating an entire can of Pringles.

Don’t get in a habit of making those so-called “healthy” microwavable dishes in your dorm. Anything that is prepacked and says “healthy” on it, is probably far from it. If you have a minifridge and a microwave there is plenty you can make. Fresh salads, steamed veggies and clean pre-cooked chicken breasts are great, too.

And then there are those liquid calories. This is one of the main reasons people gain weight during their freshman year of college, especially when that liquid is alcohol. Not only is alcohol high in calories, it impairs people’s judgment when it comes to making healthy food choices. After all, a big greasy cheeseburger and fries seems so good after a night out of drinking. Add up the calories from just one night out like that. Holy cats!

Now for the exercise section of my soapbox. In high school, so many of us are involved with sports. However, at the college level it can come to a screeching halt. Priorities change as well; many first-year students find new interests and devote more time to other activities and become much more sedentary.

There are many ways to stay active and burn more calories throughout the day. It just takes a little creativity. Start with these tips to increase your activity level:

  • Always take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Take exercise breaks to break up long study sessions.
  • Do push-ups or crunches while watching TV.

And if you can, use your campus exercise facilities. There are probably more there than you think, including rock climbing, yoga, a gym, a pool and more.

And a big one is to try and make friends with students who have similar healthy goals. A workout buddy always helps keep you on track.

And have fun! College is one of the best experiences of your life, enjoy it. If you remember a balanced life is all you need to be happy and healthy, you’ll be good to go!