One of the most common things students “gain” as college freshman, is weight known as the freshman 15. There are a number of reasons this tends to happen, most of which fall into 3 categories: 1. Lack of exercise. 2. Poor eating habits. And 3. Large intakes of “empty calories” known as “alcohol”. Simply put, the amount of calories consumed, is drastically exceeding the amount burned. Although Freshman year seems to be the most common time for freshman 15 weight gain, the following tips can and should be used throughout your college experience:
1. Workout 3-5 Days A Week
We don’t care how many credits you’re taking, how many hours you work, or how many naps you “need” to take during the day. You have nothing but time in college. Think about all the time you spend watching TV, sleeping, surfing the web, etc. Don’t convince yourself you’re too busy to walk to the gym and exercise for 30 minutes. If you have absolutely no idea how to exercise properly to avoid the freshman 15, you can find about a million resources on the web that provide you with picture and video tutorials. Most colleges even have affordable personal trainers that can help you as well.
2. Exercise Without “Working Out”
When you really stop to think about it, there are tons of ways you can burn calories and avoid the freshman 15 without actually going to the gym. Live on the fourth floor of your dorm? Take the stairs (yes, up AND down). Live on a big campus and take a bus to class? Try walking. If you’re too far to walk, try a bike. Bottom line… you can burn a lot of calories and save yourself a considerable amount of money by walking, biking… hell, skipping around campus, instead of driving.
3. Get Involved In Intramurals
This is another great way to get consistent exercise without going to the gym, while also being a great way to meet new people and bypass the college freshman 15. If you have a hard time motivating yourself to go to the gym consistently, this is perfect for you. Getting involved in something that has a set schedule, and in which other people count on you to show up, is a great way to make sure you’re exercising regularly to avoid the freshman 15.
4. Avoid Late Night Food
We know, we know… it’s “impossible” to pass on a $9 pizza when you come home at 4am. We’ve fallen victim to this many times (and still do). The reality of the situation is that you’re probably minutes away from going to bed. Why consume an extra 1,000+ calories just to fall asleep 5 minutes later? Think about this… a light beer has around 100 calories. So, if you drink 10 beers throughout the night, that’s 1,000 empty calories your body cannot use for anything, so it gets stored as fat, contributing to freshman 15 weight. And now you want to consume another 1,000 before bed? You get the picture.
5. Avoid Late Night Food – Part 2
Okay, fine. So you’re absolutely starving because you haven’t eaten anything all day, and you literally feel like your stomach is turning inside out. If you have to eat something at 4am, at least make it reasonably healthy. One of our favorite late night meals to fight off the freshman 15 was Healthy Choice frozen French bread pizza. Pop it in the oven for 20 minutes (faster than delivery anyway), and you have a really good, and reasonably portioned snack to tide you over until the morning. It only has 360 calories compared to the 1,000+ calories from a regular pizza.
6. Eat Healthy In The Cafeteria
Yes, it actually can be done. You don’t need to be a nutritionist to know that things like pizza, chicken fingers and meatball subs contribute to freshman 15 weight gain. And we’re not saying you need to eat salads and egg whites for every meal. There are plenty of healthy meals you can buy in a cafeteria without sacrificing taste. Grilled chicken breast, turkey/tuna/roast beef sandwiches, chicken Caesar salads or wraps (light dressing), fruits, vegetables, etc., are all much better alternatives. General rule of thumb… if you’d like to lose freshman 15, stay away from the fried foods.
7. Eat Before Grocery Shopping
This is a tip we discovered in college and still use to this day. Basically, the hungrier you are, the more tempting it is to buy and eat unhealthy foods. Multiple this by several weeks or months, and it’s no wonder freshman 15 weight gain is so common. Think about it… when you’re absolutely starving, what are you more likely to eat – a frozen pizza or a salad? Exactly. Eat a good meal before making your trip to the grocery store, and it will be much easier to avoid stocking your cabinets with junk food, and packing on the freshman 15.
8. Eat Small, Frequent Meals
You’ve probably already heard that eating 5-6 small, healthy meals a day is better than eating 2-3 big meals. The hardest part about developing this habit is the inconvenience of having to prepare and eat 5-6 different meals every day… but if you want to lose freshman 15, it’ll be worth it. The good thing is that a lot of these meals are more like snacks, and don’t take much or any preparation time. Cut the portion size of your three basic meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) by a third, and add healthy snacks in between.
9. Keep Healthy Snacks Around
The main way to make sure you’re eating small, healthy meals, is to make them easily accessible. If you can get to a Sam’s Club or a Costco, buy things like granola bars, nuts, yogurt, etc., in bulk. You’ll save money, and you’ll always have healthy snacks around. Eating these snacks will keep your metabolism running and prevent that “starving” feeling that can promote unhealthy eating… leading to the freshman 15.
10. Drink Water Instead
One very simple way to reduce the amount of calories you take to combat freshman 15 weight gain is to drink water with your meals instead of pop, fruit juice, and beer. There are many health benefits that come from drinking lots of water; cutting a bunch of excess calories and carbs from your diet is just one of them… not to mention the fact that it’s FREE.
If mixed drinks are your thing, order diet pop instead of regular pop with them. You’ll save yourself a lot of calories without a noticeable taste difference. In that same vein, remember that there is approximately the same amount of calories in a shot as there are in a light beer… so drinking liquor instead of beer won’t prevent you from gaining the freshman 15 since it isn’t saving you any calories.