(PCM) “Freshman 15” is a term we’re all too familiar with, but is there any truth to it? Does the average college freshman actually gain 15 pounds in the first year?
Not exactly. “The Freshman 15” is a bit of an exaggeration, according to recent statistics and studies, with students gaining on average about 5-7 pounds in the first year. But don’t forget, that’s an average. Some freshmen 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, mom and dad aren’t around to make healthy meals anymore, and there are no rules or curfews to stop you from partying all night, every 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 full of food you know they wouldn’t approve of – 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 healthy 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’re trying to skip meals for weight loss or you’re just not 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 lurks around every corner. Protein bars, greek yogurt, and instant oatmeal are quick and easy choices.
3. The dining hall can be disastrous; it truly is an 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 you’ll not only overeat, but everything will look ten times better and be harder to resist (pizza, calzones, pasta, ice cream – you name it, it all looks good).
This is the first time most students are away from home and have to make their own eating decisions, but just because it’s there doesn’t mean you should eat it! Don’t think you can eat pizza, hamburgers and fries everyday and not gain weight. Unfortunately, it’s bound to catch up to you. Instead, check out all your options in the cafeteria 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. Skip the croutons, pasta salads, and creamy dressings. This also means trying to avoid the plate of dessert on your way out. Stick with broth-based soups, healthy salads, lean meats, 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 plenty 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 may not 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; if you drink a few of the higher calorie drinks you might as well have eaten a whole pizza.
Mai tais, pina coladas, mud slides, margaritas, and long islands all contain over 500 calories. Rum and coke, Redbull and vodka, and most other drinks have over 200 calories, which can also add up quickly. 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. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions, meaning you’re more likely to ditch your healthy diet and eat that big, greasy sandwich everyone’s been 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 limit yourself to just one or two 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 suffer from. 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 weight gain at bay. Cardio workouts will help burn calories and speed up your metabolism, 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. Try to avoid these bad habits! Studies show that sleep allows your brain to process and store material better, so staying up all night to cram for an exam isn’t the best idea. Lack of sleep also affects your appetite and judgement, which can increase hunger and decrease satiation. Aim for no less than 7 hours of sleep every 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!
The post Tips to Avoid Gaining the ‘Freshman 15’ also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.