How to avoid the Freshman 15

A commonly known condition of college is that the freshman 15 is likely to plague most students as a result of the drastic lifestyle change.  Though the tagline suggests 15 pounds, most students gain an average of 5 to 10 pounds throughout college.  Nonetheless, for most, college is the first time in life where you are the sole decision-maker behind food and beverage options.  Additionally, a college schedule is vastly different than high school and elementary school.

With all-you-can-eat dining halls, late night snacks, snacking while studying or in class, energy drink consumption, lack of sleep, and calories from too many alcoholic beverages, the odds can seem stacked against students when trying to avoid gaining the freshman 15.  A small amount of the college weight gain can be attributed to growing and maturing; however, the majority is due to increased consumption of poorer diet choices and decreased physical activity.

Some colleges and universities offer healthier options like salad bars, grilled vegetables, grilled chicken and pizza with whole grain crusts.  Nevertheless, the responsibility still lies with the students to make the right diet choices and avoid the junk food options.  So how do you counteract all of the temptations?

On paper, avoiding the freshman 15 sounds easy, and the premise is simple, but the commitment still takes dedication and a routine.  There are a number of small changes students can make that actually have a large impact on weight gain.  College is one of the few, if only, instances in life where access to a fully stocked recreation center is more than likely free for students. Take advantage of those perks! Also, incorporate walking and biking to class every day as a built in form of exercise.  If possible, students can also sign up to take a course on healthy eating.

In terms of diet, senior food and nutrition editor for Health.com, Frances Largeman-Roth, lays out a simple and easy to remember dining plan for those all-you-can-eat cafeteria traps.  She suggests filling your plate with 50% green stuff, like salads, cooked veggies, or both.  The next 25% should be a burger or a piece of grilled chicken, without the bun.  The remaining 25% of your plate should consist of whole grains, i.e. brown rice, whole wheat bread, or even quinoa if available.  Students can also snag some fresh fruits to take back to the dorm rooms for late night snacking options when studying.

Lastly, the calories from increased alcohol consumption, especially beer, also attribute a significant portion to the overall weight gain during college. If you decide to drink, one recommendation suggests alternating one glass of water between drinks.  This option tends to lower caloric intake, while also lowering the risk of drinking too much and losing control.

Has the freshman 15 plagued you? What other ways have you found to counteract the weight gain?

Photo credit: TheJunkFood

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