Incoming college freshman often look forward to their first year of higher education with excitement, eagerness, anxiety, and, unfortunately, the fear of gaining the infamous “freshman 15”. There is a widely perpetuated belief that gaining weight during the first year of college is inevitable, but is this idea really based in fact? According to recent studies, it appears that most students do gain weight during their first year in college, however, only 10% of students gain fifteen pounds or more, and most students gain only around five pounds. Although gaining a few pounds in college is nothing to stress about, there are a few ways to help prevent it from getting out of control.
1. Stock Up on Healthy Snacks
Make your dorm a junk food free zone, or at least set a limit. Instead of munching on processed snacks, keep healthier options at hand, such as dried fruit, minimally seasoned popcorn, and granola bars. Excessive snacking is often one of the many culprits of weight gain, but you can avoid it by keeping the potato chips and ice cream out of your living area, where they are tempting to snack on at all times. If you are really in the mood for ice cream, make it a social event and go out for a cone with your friends.
2. Exercise Regularly
It has been said time and time again, but regular exercise is essential part of any healthy lifestyle, and has a key role in maintaining an ideal weight. Not only will physical activity keep you in great shape, it will also help keep stress at bay and help you sleep better. If exercise does not come naturally to you, schedule it into your day and treat it as if it were a homework assignment or make gym dates with friends.
3. Be Careful of Late Night Eating
College students notoriously stay up late and often feel hungry for another meal, which can cause weight gain if it becomes a regular occurrence. Binge drinking can make matters worse. If the munchies do hit when you are up late studying or hanging out with friends, pull out those healthy snacks you stocked up on and limit your amount. This is a great time to bump up your fruit or veggie intake. Try apples or celery with peanut butter or carrots and hummus.
4. Get Enough Sleep
College student are notorious for staying up late, but try to stay on somewhat of a regular sleep pattern at college. Pulling all-nighters usually involves late night eating plus when you skimp on sleep, the hormones that regulate appetite can get out of whack, and you may think you are hungry when, in fact, you are tired. Make a plan to retire “early” at least a few nights a week, if not more.
5. Avoid Emotional and Stress Eating
College is a fun, rewarding part of life, but it is also one of the most stressful. Students constantly have to balance an extraordinary amount of schoolwork, maintain a healthy social life, take care of their health, and for some, earn money through part time jobs. For many people, food becomes a coping mechanism during these hectic times, and overeating may spin out of control. Stay focused on enjoying food, but not using it as a crutch and try to find other ways to deal with stress.
The “freshman 15” is not inevitable if you make it a priority to put some healthy habits into place. It may take some effort, and there is a lot going on first semester, but learning to take care of yourself is one of the most important lessons you can learn in college.
Photo Credit: FBM