Avoiding The Freshman 15: Tips and Tricks


If there is one universal thing that college-bound students worry about, it’s avoiding the Freshman 15. I’ve worked with thousands of teens in my private practice, and this is the hot button, the thing they obsess over. While it is true that college students do tend to gain weight during their freshman year, studies show it to be 7 pounds or less, not the proverbial 15. That does not mean that gaining weight Freshman year is inevitable, it just takes some mindfulness. Avoid these traps and instead follow my tried and true tips for avoiding the bulge.

Problem: Skipping Breakfast

I know you’ve heard it over and over that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and it’s true. Easier said than done when you would rather catch a few extra zz’s rather than hit the dining hall for breakfast.
Stock your dorm room with grab and go breakfast options. Try these combos to keep you full and focused. Unflavored instant oatmeal (you will use less sugar by sweetening it yourself) with nuts, peanut butter and jelly sandwich on multigrain bread, unsweetened Greek yogurt and nuts, or 2 cheese sticks with multigrain crackers. Even better add a piece of fruit and you have hit most, if not all, of the food groups.

Problem: Skipping Meals

Breakfast is not the only meal college students often skip and eating your 3 squares helps keep your metabolism up. Sure, it’s tempting to skip lunch or dinner so you can cram in some extra study time, but skipping meals leads to bingeing, which will definitely lead to weight gain. Plus it’s important to take breaks so you will be more productive.


Look at your reasons for skipping meals. Are you just not motivated to get to the dining hall? Schedule meals with friends and you will have no excuses! Maybe you are just not that organized. This is the time to get out your planner, look at your class schedule, and make sure to schedule meals. If all else fails, have nutritious snacks on hand.

Problem: The 4th meal:

Watch out for that 4th meal. College students are notorious for staying up late, as a matter of fact your body clock is set a bit differently. You get a little hungry, and before you know it you are ordering pizza or insomnia cookies. Stock your dorm room with healthy snacks and when the late night hunger hits, you don’t even have to wait to eat.

Avoiding the freshman 15 is possible! Make sure to stock your mini fridge with low-sugar yogurts, fruits and veggies, hummus, and cheese sticks. Fill your food bin with dried fruits and vegetables, nuts and nut butters, whole grain crackers or pita, and Kind bars (I am biased). Oh, and a little dark chocolate goes a long way to take care of your sweet tooth.

Problem: Drinking your calories.
Binge drinking not only adds on the calories, but alcohol also has no nutritional value and often leads to late night overeating. Speaking of drinking your calories, sodas, fancy coffee drinks, and many commercial smoothies can add up.

No lecture here, just be mindful of beverages. Substitute fresh brewed coffee or tea for loaded coffee drinks. If you really want that Frappuccino, go for it but choose the smallest size. Look for smoothie places that really use fresh fruit instead of fruit-flavored syrups.

Problem: No time or energy to workout.
Just like making sure you have regular meals, it is important to get regular exercise.
group of smiling women with exercise balls in gym

If you are not an athlete, you have to schedule in time for exercise. Take out your planner, look at your schedule, and write it in as if it were a class. If you don’t like traditional gym workouts, check to see if there are group classes you would enjoy. Make an exercise date with a friend and combine social time with workout time.

Problem: Getting Enough Sleep

Yeah right! Seriously, though. Getting enough sleep will help you feel better, focus better, and actually prevent overeating. It is easy to confuse tired with hungry, and some studies show that inadequate sleep leads to overeating. Studies also show that cramming does not usually work, and could even make matter worse.

This is a no-brainer, but easier said than done! Again, look at your schedule to make sure you are leaving enough time for a good night’s sleep (at least some nights). Find a friend and hold each other accountable. Cat-naps can help, but they are no substitute for a good nights’ sleep.

Problem: All you can eat dining halls.

Beware of the buffet mentality – You’re paying a ton of money for your meal plan, right, so you want to get your money’s worth! The one swipe system on most college meal plans allow you to choose from an array of foods, including a good variety of sweet treats, without putting limits on how much you can take. You can even go back multiple times for more.

Set your own personal limit on return trips to the food stations and digging into dessert. Put together a full meal the first time you go into the food area. It takes discipline, but learning how to take care of yourself is part of what college is all about.

Problem: Too Much Restriction or Dieting.

Studies show that deprivation leads to binging. Also, eating too little lowers your metabolism, setting you up for further weight gain.


Don’t deprive – Make sure you do have some fun foods, AKA pizza, sweets, burgers and fries, to name a few, every so often. Follow the 80/20 rule – eat nutritiously 80 percent of the time and have your treats 20 percent.

Problem: Not Eating Enough Fruits and Veggies

Eating your fruits and veggies helps you stay full and can really round out a meal. When you don’t get enough, you tend to eat more of the snack and fun foods.

Load up on colors by piling your plate with salad bar selections and side servings of veggies from the hot food line. Many dining halls offer grab-and-go fruit so take advantage of this. Visit farmers’ markets if possible to stock up on fresh produce for your dorm. Many schools have shuttle buses to area grocery stores. See if you have that option and take a weekly trip to the grocery store.

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