The dreaded Freshman 15. No one wants it, and you may think it’s impossible to beat. In fact, studies show that nearly one quarter of college freshman gain at least 5% of their body weight in their first semester at school. Living on campus (and even commuting) can lead to some poor health habits that contribute to unwanted and unhealthy weight gain in college. Follow these steps to stay healthy and keep the extra padding at bay.
You have to eat, right? You also have to do something with the things you’re eating besides satisfy cravings. The foods you eat have jobs to do, and if you’re guzzling carbs and not putting them to work – to give you energy while you move around – they’re going to turn into fat and pack on the pounds. As you get older, your metabolism changes, and just because you used to be able to eat an entire pizza in one sitting without gaining a pound, doesn’t mean that’s still the case. Your metabolism slows and you need to help it out if you expect to burn calories. Hit the gym, play a sport with friends, take a long walk around campus. Your body wants and needs to keep moving, so be sure to stay active to keep unwanted weight gain away.
The things you need to pay attention to when you’re reaching for a snack are much like things you need to consider when writing that paper for English class: what, when, why, and how (much). Think about the foods you normally eat and figure out where they fall on the healthy scale. Try to make healthy substitutions and choose the snacks that will fill you up and keep you energized without weighing you down. Late-night snacking is a huge factor leading to the Freshman 15 and an unhealthy lifestyle. Your body is inactive and recharging while you’re sleeping, so avoid munching for a few hours before bed. Another problem many twenty-somethings face is not knowing the difference between hunger and boredom, and if you get bored easily, don’t be surprised you’re packing on pounds. If you’re hungry, eat something healthy. If you’re bored, call a friend or read a book. The last thing to consider is how much you’re eating. Are you eating until you’re full or until your portion is gone? Think smaller portions, and let your body digest before you think you need a second helping.
That means eating right, keeping active, staying on a regular sleep schedule, and making the best choices for your physical and mental health all day long. When you fall into a routine of good, healthy living, the things you train yourself to do start to become habits and eventually second nature, so you don’t feel like you’re making sacrifices or even adaptations. With a healthy lifestyle comes a healthy mindset, and you will fall into a circular pattern of good choices in your daily life.
All the stress a college student has to deal with can cause major anxiety, which can lead to weight gain from over-eating comfort food to drinking too much to not having energy to exercise. Remember that you aren’t alone, that there are plenty of others stressed out as well, and that hurdles don’t mean failure. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep your mind free of stress and focused on your studies and maintaining your health.