THINNER YOU: Fend off the ‘Freshman 15′

BY LIZ NOELCKE of SPARKPEOPLE

College opens up a whole new world for many. A world of freedom, hard work, late nights and late mornings, cramming, fun with friends, and all too often, binges on unhealthy food. Before calls for convenience overrun calls for health, take a minute to think about what you are eating. Make smart choices to ensure that the “Freshman 15″ weight gain will pass you by.

The”Freshman 15″ is the weight that young people who first go away to university can gain once in their new environment, often 15 pounds or more. It’s much easier to prevent extra pounds than to try to lose the excess weight later. Going to college is such a big change in life; you’ll want to be the healthiest that you can be to get off on the right foot. The freshman year is a critical period to combat this or any weight gain.

It’s probably a lot harder to get the right things in your body when you or the school cafeteria is doing all of the cooking, not your parents. To start with, simply keep track of what you eat each day. This will also help you keep tabs on mindless munching that might happen while studying or watching television. (And, it’s all too tempting to eat to avoid hitting the books.)

It’s important not to skip meals. Not only does your body need the fuel, but passing over a meal will often cause excess eating later on. Yep, that also includes breakfast. You need the morning energy each day, even if it just means grabbing a granola bar and juice while walking to class. If you are struggling to get all of the nutrients you need, consider taking a vitamin supplement.

Watch out for that cafeteria. Sure, it might offer a quick meal in between classes or studying, but this food is often loaded with excess fat and calories. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat here; just think before you put something on your plate. You don’t have to try everything. High calorie desserts, cheesy dishes, and meats with sauce will pack on the pounds faster than you can say “Nutrition 101.”

When you sit down, start off by eating the healthy food first, like salad or fruit. You’ll be too full for the fatty stuff later. Fruits and vegetables should be a main part of your diet. Also, try drinking a glass of water before you eat; this will help you avoid overeating just because you are in a rush.

It’s all too easy to let junk food become a primary element of your diet when you are always busy and barely seem to have enough time to sleep. Sodas might perk you up, but they are also loaded with sugar and empty calories. Say NO to vending machines and fast foods. Instead, keep your mini-fridge and shelves stocked with healthy snacks like fruit, yogurt, nuts, or light plain air-popped popcorn, all stuff that is easy to grab in a hurry.

Keep a bottle filled with water; it’s something you can carry around the room and to class. (Here’s a secret: drinking water during class will also help you stay awake!) You don’t have to give up all of your favorite foods; just be mindful of what you are consuming.

Get active! Young people that were active in high school can struggle to maintain their fitness in college because they are not on a team with a coach to make sure they are in shape. Just because you aren’t a varsity player doesn’t mean that you can’t have this motivation. Join an intramural team. Take fun classes at the student recreation center like kickboxing and body sculpting. Meet up with friends for a walking or running group. If your workouts are scheduled, you’re more likely to make it. Exercise is a great stress release from the pressures of classes.

Starting college is full of challenges and changes. Fuel your body to perform at its best by eating the right foods and staying fit. An occasional late night pizza or Chinese food fix won’t hurt you. Smart, consistent choices will make sure you are healthy person. And a healthy person is better able to make the grade!

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  • 10 comments Add your comment

    Pam

    August 13th, 2009
    11:20 am

    A good way to avoid the Freshmen 15 is to not give your kids too much spending money. I avoided gaining weight because I didn’t have much cash to spend on food. My parents had me on the college meal plan and yes, there were unhealthy choices on the plan, but I was limited to what I could get on the plan (one meat entree in the cafeteria, instead of two hamburgers from a fast food joint). My parents also gave me a supply of food to keep in my room. You don’t eat as much knowing you have to walk down the hall to use the microwave (no ovens were allowed in the dorm rooms).

    Suzanne

    August 13th, 2009
    11:42 am

    Stay away from the booze. Everyone knows underage drinking is prevalent at colleges everywhere and incoming students partake frequently. Drinking a few beers a week can really pack on the pounds!!

    sore loser

    August 13th, 2009
    12:14 pm

    After slowing gaining poundage for many years I was 6′3″ and 237. I got down to 187 in around 7 months by knowing the calorie content of every thing I ate. Then I would choose/plan to eat the nutritious foods that would cause the calories in to be ultimately less than the calories out. Calorie awareness and keeping it below or the same as the calories expended during the day is the key.

    AeroNautica0909

    August 13th, 2009
    2:21 pm

    Sore loser… good information there. You wouldn’t have any examples of foods you eat to post? I’m looking to get from my current 230 to around 190.

    JohnF

    August 13th, 2009
    2:39 pm

    Here’s all you need to know to lose weight. Read the label of everything you eat..if it contains over 1.0 gram per serving of saturated fat..don’t eat it. Do eat good fats though, i.e, mono-unsaturated fats: almonds, avacados, and use olive oil where you would normally use butter. Eat when you are hungry..stop when you start to feel full.

    Jackster

    August 13th, 2009
    3:00 pm

    Chain of events: More students are not receiving as much financial aid; thus parents have to pay more tuition; thus most parents opt for the basic meal plan and provide less money for entertainment and eating outside of the campus meal plan. The “Freshman 15″ may soon be known as the “Freshman -15″!

    AeroNautica0909

    August 13th, 2009
    3:15 pm

    JohnF… thanks for the tips. I’ll use them and hopefully reach my goal.

    Bacchus

    August 14th, 2009
    3:35 pm

    Just beer and drunk food will do it. Carbs, fat, calories and reduced metabolism won’t result in a net burn of that energy and will make you wish it was only a 15 pound gain.

    ugaaccountant

    August 15th, 2009
    10:20 pm

    Wouldn’t kids around age 18 typically gain their last 15 or so pounds to reach their adult size? That’s about when they stop growing. Sure all of this is good advice, but it’s not all a result of their diet at that age. It’s just when they start losing their kids metabolism and reach their final adult size.

    Cardog10

    August 16th, 2009
    1:05 am

    No, it’s kids eating and drinking calories, and then having to spend their sober time studying, not exercising. I’m guessing you are fat ugaaccountant. It’s like my mom saying I’m a growing boy (at 23) and I should eat all I want because I’m growing. You stop growing when you are 17-18.