Incoming freshmen fear those 15 pounds that they will supposedly gain on campus, but the idea of the Freshman 15 is a proven myth. It isn’t a statistic; it’s made up for alliteration, so wipe the sweat from your brow, folks.
Many students do gain weight when they head to college, but it isn’t 15 pounds. The Journal of American College Health reports that during an academic year, only half of all students will gain weight. On average, this amounts to about three pounds. Other students lose weight, fluctuate, or stay the same. Every student’s body is different.
What matters more than the number on the scale is that you make healthy choices. Moving to college is a total lifestyle change. In high school, your lunch schedule was strict, and your parents made dinner. You had P.E. and after-school activities that kept you moving. As soon as you get to college, on the other hand, you’ll meet the all-you-can-eat buffet that is the campus dining hall. Plus, your metabolism might slow down as you transition into adulthood. When life takes a 180, your wellness can too.
So, don’t sweat the pounds and ounces (you may want to talk to your doctor about any dramatic changes, though). Instead, focus on feeling your best. This is about being healthy, confident, and ready to take on the semester, and here are 15 tricks that might help:
1. Walk around in between homework assignments.
Sure, you have essays, worksheets, and studying to do, and there’s no shame in sitting at your desk for hours on end sometimes. But let’s not make a habit of it. If you want to stay healthy, start moving. Try to read and walk at the same time (avoid the stairs) or just treat yourself to a stroll down the hall when your focus begins to doze.
2. Portion meals at the dining hall.
If your campus dining hall is buffet style, it’s easy to overindulge, but think of it this way: Now, at last, you can control the portion size of everything on your plate. So, how many scoops of potatoes, veggies, and risotto do you need? It’s hard to say. The amount you need depends on height, weight, age, sex, metabolism, and activity level, but each meal should be well balanced to provide you with the proper nutrients to fuel your body. If you’re truly trying to control your portions, it’s better to serve yourself less and go back for seconds only if you’re still hungry.
3. Start a food journal.
A food journal is exactly what you think it is: a log of everything you ate and when you ate it. You can record it by hand or with an app. The idea is to help you stay in control of the amount you’re eating and see how different foods make you feel. It can help you discover a food allergy—or you could pay $500.00 to run the lab tests; you decide. Keep your food notes as organized as you (should) keep your class notes.
4. Schedule your exercise each week.
Workouts don’t need to take up your entire day. You need at least two muscle activities and 75 minutes of vigorous cardio every week, but that’s just three weekly 30-minute workouts. Set up your workout schedule as you would your class schedule. Which three days do you have an extra half an hour? Designate them to working up a sweat and stick to your routine! No excuses. Not when you have a free membership to the campus gym.
5. Munch on metabolism-boosting snacks.
Spinach, almonds, and blueberries are among the many foods that can ramp up your metabolism. When adding these into your diet, be sure to measure out the proper portions for your body type. Put them in baggies in the pocket of your backpack so that you don’t need to hit up the vending machine when you’re in the library later.
6. Be realistic about your sweet tooth.
It’s all about balance. Cutting out sweets entirely just isn’t realistic. While you work on eating more healthy meals and finding time for exercise, leave space for rewards. Give yourself permission to have a few cheat meals a week without going overboard. Maybe you plan them ahead of time: Fridays are for pizza, Saturdays are for french toast, and Sundays are for, well, sundaes! Don’t deprive yourself. Just keep it in moderation.
7. If you do drink, go easy.
Underrage drinking is illegal and Student Caffé does not condone it, but many underclassmen drink anyway, at their own risk. If you do party, be safe and don’t go overboard. Beer and other alcoholic beverages contain a lot of empty calories. One Bud Light has 110 calories, and that’s the low-calorie option! Additionally, drinking lowers your inhibitions, meaning that even the healthiest individuals stumble to the food truck for french fries. Take a healthy snack with you to the party or keep one in the dorms.
8. Drink water.
Instead of soda, which packs in cups of sugar, sip on an all natural substitute. Not only does water have no calories, but it’s like a reset button for the body. If you’re into sweets or have a tendency to overindulge, drinking a big glass of H2O can curb your cravings. Plus, it allows your body to function in top shape. When you’re well hydrated, you’re less likely to experience exhaustion, bad moods, bad breath, dry skin, cravings for sugary foods, and headaches. Do you want any of those symptoms while you’re trying to focus in a lecture? Probably not.
9. Walk to class.
Driving to class is extremely tempting, especially on a cold winter day. On the other hand, walking one mile can burn up to 100 calories. While it may not be a full workout, it is a great way to promote heart health, increase metabolism, and let go of stress.
10. Eat your (healthy) breakfast.
If you’re not crazy about fruits and vegetables, the best time to eat them is when your body is too sleepy to know the difference. Am I right? A well-balanced breakfast kickstarts your day with an energy boost. It will also improve concentration and provide your body with more strength and endurance for activities. So, when you go to the dining hall tomorrow, have a fruit bowl, some salad, and an egg sandwich for your early morning meal.
11. Nibble on small snacks throughout the day.
Tiny meals throughout the day can reduce binge eating at larger meals. Some things you can take to class are apple slices, almonds, and granola bars. Each of those will amp up your energy and help you focus in class.
12. Don’t follow the trends.
Fad diets might seem like an easy way to lose weight, but in all actuality, they only work for a few lucky people. If you are trying to get healthier, consider seeing a nutritionist, who can help you tailor a diet to your needs. It’s likely that you will see improvements much faster with the help of a professional than with the help of a TV infomercial.
13. Sign up for an exercise-filled extracurricular.
Not all classrooms mandate that you sit at a desk for attendance. Colleges offer plenty of exercise classes that can get you moving while you simultaneously earn credits. That’s quite the deal! When you make your schedule for next semester, consider Taekwondo, swimming, and bowling. If your schedule is already packed, no worries; there are plenty of clubs and intramural sports to join.
14. Eat a salad first.
If you’re stuffing a bib in your shirt ready to go to town on some chicken wings, eat your salad first. Since you’re so determined to get to the main course, you’ll force all of those fruits and veggies down without a second thought. Salads are delicious and nutritious, containing a little bit of everything, from fiber to protein. The lettuce also has about 96% water to help rehydrate you.
15. Sleep well.
We saved the best for last... Get some sleep! Give your body the proper rest so that it can function at its very best. Think about it: When you’re tired, what’s the first thing you grab? Probably a large latte with extra sugar. The caffeine helps for a little while until the sugar weighs you down and you crash, that is. Wouldn’t you have been better off going to sleep early? Give yourself eight hours of pillow time every night. You won’t regret it.
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