Admittedly I, like many others thrown into the pool of college, managed to gain the “freshmen fifteen.” It took me a while to realize it happened. All my life, I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight. At the time, I thought it was my metabolism/genetic makeup, and therefore thought I could go crazy in the bottomless cafeteria once I arrived at college.
Looking back, I realize the reason I never gained weight growing up wasn’t due to a magical genetic makeup, instead it was because I was always involved in sports. They didn’t seem like workouts at the time, but that’s exactly what they were. Fast-forward to present day, and I am weeks away from starting my junior year of college. Luckily, I was able to lose that extra 15-pound freshman-year-party favor. But I wish I could have avoided it all together!
Here are a few tips I’ve learned since then to help you avoid gaining the weight that can otherwise become inevitable.
1) Don’t treat your campus’ cafeteria like a limitless buffet, where you’re free to cram as many plates as possible onto your tray, or go back for seconds, thirds, etc.
Do look at the menus ahead of time, and eliminate any fried, fattening, high cal and low protein meal options. Salad bars are a great place to find comfort and routine in, but try to steer towards the lighter dressing options, and be sure to load up on a variety of veggies. Grilled/baked chicken and veggies are cafeteria staples –chicken is a great source of protein, and veggies are a great source of fiber and vitamins. They’re usually served several times a week, cooked in a variety of ways. If you’re a vegetarian or have a food allergy, check with a member of the cafeteria staff to see what special cooked-to-order options may be available for you.
2) Don’t treat the dessert bar like a routine “last-stop” before you exit the cafeteria.
Do take advantage of the variety of sweet and seasonal fruit your cafeteria has to offer, instead! Fruit can be a great, low-fat source of vitamins and other health benefits.
3) Don’t feel compelled to eat when you’re not hungry, just because everyone around you is. This is the “friend effect” that can lead to social eating and result in unwanted weight gain.
Do listen to your body. If you’re truly hungry, then eat something! But if you’re not, sip on some water while your friends chow down. Click here to read some tips on self control!
4) Don’t leave your ambition to exercise on your high school’s gym floor and hibernate in your dorm room all year.
Do take advantage of the campus’ resources for fitness! Almost every campus has a gym with workout equipment for students to use, as well as access to pools and tennis, basketball and volleyball courts. The scenic history of our campus itself is also a great place to get in some exercise. Go for a jog or walk around your campus.
5) Whether you prefer fitness in the form of going for a walk, attending a Zumba class, or going for a run, make it a routine! You’re more likely to stick to your plans of working out if you incorporate them into your schedule at a sensible time. Try to get in as many workouts as you can while balancing rest and other commitments, they will pay off and you’ll be thankful for them afterwards!
Studying/homework are definitely important time consumers, but when you can afford to take a small break, go work-out some of your pent up stress and boost your endorphins. Even if it’s only a half hour walk, it’s something, and you’re keeping a routine. Socializing with friends is also a time consumer at college, but you’ll feel even better when you’re out with friends if you’re able to squeeze in a workout that day, or better yet, a few that week. Click here for five steps to get your fitness routine started.
Also note that alcoholic beverages DO contain calories that add up quickly. Another reason to avoid underage drinking!
Photo Credit: Kevin Colwell