How To Avoid The Dreaded Freshman 15
School’s in! During your first year of college, you get your first taste of what it’s like to live as an independent — (almost) complete freedom. No one will tell you when or what to eat, and there’s nothing stopping you from staying in bed and watching Netflix all weekend, so college students in their first year often end up gaining unhealthy weight. However, the Freshman 15 isn’t inevitable. Here are seven tips for maintaining your weight during your freshman year, and more importantly, living like a “real” adult.
Stock up on healthy snacks
When you’re too tired to go to the dining hall for a meal, you’ll probably snack on whatever you have in your dorm room or apartment. Keep healthy snacks on hand instead of junk food, so you won’t even have the option to eat unhealthy foods. Your dorm food options will be limited if you don’t have a microwave or fridge, but you can keep fruit, nuts, or granola bars on hand for healthy snacking that won’t spoil too easily.
Don’t neglect vegetables
The general rule of thumb is to fill half of your plate with veggies. Depending on how much you love or hate vegetables, this may be a challenge. Nobody is forcing you to eat healthy foods, so you have to be proactive about this effort. The good news is that there are many different kinds of vegetables, and you’re bound find at least one you like. Vegetables are packed with nutrients, though, and they’ll help you feel full with fewer calories.
Your body sometimes mistakes thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated can help you avoid mindless snacking. Drinking plenty of water will also make you feel healthier and more energetic. Carry a water bottle with you when you go to class, and drink water with your meals. Taking sips of water between bites will make you eat more slowly, which can help you avoid overeating.
Avoid stress eating
Your first year of college will bring many changes to your life, and stress in this new environment is normal. You don’t have to deprive yourself of comfort food all the time, but going right for the junk food isn’t a healthy response to stress. If you’re not sure whether you’re truly hungry or if you just want to stress eat, ask yourself whether you’d eat fruits or vegetables. If not, you’re probably not actually hungry.
Find some healthy stress-relieving activities that work for you. You could take a walk, call a friend or family member, do a puzzle or hands-on activity, or practice deep breathing exercises. Including a fun elective class in your schedule can also help balance your courseload, and consequently your wellbeing.
Move around as much as possible
If you have an hour between classes, take a walk around your campus. If you’re stressed after class and just want to go to sleep, do a light workout instead. Exercise can relieve stress and boost your mood. Your student fees probably include a membership to your school’s recreation center, so you can work out or take a fitness class.
Make sure you’re in good health
Most schools have a student health center that offers a wide variety of services. If you don’t feel well, visit your on-campus doctor to find out what’s wrong. Take a daily multivitamin to keep you on your toes. When you have a health issue, even if you think it’s minor, it can affect many aspects of your life and contribute to the Freshman 15. Illness can make you tired or sluggish, which may increase your hunger and decrease your ability to be active.
Find social activities other than eating
It’s great to get dinner or ice cream with friends occasionally, but not all of your get-togethers should revolve around food. Instead, you and your friends could watch movies, play games, go hiking, explore your college town, or try out a new hobby.
You have more freedom in college, which means you have the power to control your food and exercise choices. You don’t have to avoid all junk food all the time to prevent yourself from gaining the freshman 15, but making balanced choices and paying attention to what you eat will help you stay healthy all the way to graduation.