Defeating the Dreaded Freshmen 15

Freshmen 15Have you found yourself stress-eating lately? Or maybe wearing yoga pants and sweats more often because your skinny jeans from last spring just don’t fit like they used to. College has been back in session for a couple of months now, and midterms are right around the corner so succumbing to stress and over-eating is almost inevitable. Don’t worry though, you are not alone.

Recent studies have shown that first year college students are indeed likely to gain weight– but it might not be the full 15 pounds. A new study shows that 1 in 4 college students gain an average of 10 pounds during their first semester of college. Doctors are concerned that students gradually putting on these pounds could establish a pattern of unhealthy weight retention and lead to even more problems in the future.

This weight gain could be caused by a few different factors including:

  • Meal plans: You are free to eat how much you want, whenever you want, with cafeteria meal plans. Many students say that they want healthier options served in the cafeteria, but the unhealthier options are still always the first to sell out.
  • Stress eating: Students’ overeating habits are most often caused by stress. This stress could be related to being away from family for the first time and anxiety about schoolwork.

Since this weight gain is so common, it is important to know exactly what to do if you start putting on some extra pounds. Here are a few tips on how to keep the weight off and lead a healthier lifestyle if you’re noticing some bad habits forming:

  • Cut down on snacking: The first step is to evaluate your current eating habits and make some conscious adjustments. The adjustments are usually very small and can be fixed easily. In a study where freshmen gained four pounds in 12 weeks, the students were only eating 174 extra calories, on average, each day. So cutting out something small like a can of pop or midnight snack can do the trick.
  • Don’t skip meals: Some students may think that if they skip a meal, like breakfast, they will lose weight. In reality, skipping meals or dieting does not work for keeping weight off in the long run, and it actually tends to slow your metabolism down.

Next time you’re in the cafe or doing homework in your dorm room, consider these tips:

  • Avoid eating when stressed, like when you’re studying or watching TV
  • Eat slowly
  • Watch portion sizes
  • Resist going back for additional servings
  • Keep healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables on hand in your room
  • Replace empty-calorie soft drinks with water or skim milk

Not only is diet an important way to stay healthy, but leading a more active lifestyle will help keep the added pounds off too. Here are a few simple ways to stay active:

  • Try a workout class: Attending a fitness class on a regular schedule can motivate some people to stick with their fitness goals. Think of something you may not have tried before like Zumba or an aerobics class. Most campus fitness centers offer classes for a fraction of the price that a normal gym would charge. Grab some friends and take a class. It could end up being fun!
  • Go for a walk: If you don’t feel like you have time for a weekly class, you can easily work this exercise into your daily schedule. Try walking briskly across campus instead of riding the bus, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or bike to class. Researchers found that students who exercised at least 3 days a week were more likely to report better health and happiness.

Incorporating these simple tips into your routine will greatly reduce your chances of gaining the freshmen 15. How do you stay fit and active in college? Share your tips with us in the comments below.

Photo credit: Matt Katzenberger

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