The “Freshman 15” is part truth, part myth. There is every reason to believe that once kids hit campus, their eating and physical habits change (more bad calories, less exercise), and that favorite pair of jeans becomes too snug to wear. If this is you, and you don’t want to embrace your new fat, not to mention the cost of a new wardrobe, then let’s help you out here.
No one goes off to college planning to put on weight. Preventing it, though, is the key. Here are 6 things you can do that aren’t really all that painful.
Start with a Plan
How do you really want to eat? How will you stay active while on campus? If you’ve been eating healthy already, you know what foods you want to see on your daily menu and approximately how much you eat each day to maintain your current fitness. Stick with that in college.
As for exercise, that may be a different story, especially if you were involved in high school sports. That activity will have to be replaced with something, so think about that before you leave for school. (more on that later)
Understand too that college puts you in a totally different environment – hanging out in the dorm, late night studying – a veritable gold mine for fast food restaurants and companies that make soda, chips and candy bars. And it’s really hard when dorm mates suggest getting a pizza delivered.
Give yourself permission to “cheat” without guilt. Just make sure that you are not cheating on a daily basis.
Get the Meal Plan
If your school has a meal plan, take it, and here’s why. It’s easy to spend a lot of money on bad, fatty foods if you are responsible for your own meal planning and cooking. You are busy and usually in a hurry – and that’s when you opt for fast food, frozen junk, and crap you can just throw in the microwave. If you go to the cafeteria, food has already been prepared for you – just like mom used to do. And, while all cafeterias have their share of burgers, pizza and fries, they also have salad bars, wraps with veggies, and lots of fresh fruit. You literally have lots of selections, and it’s just easier to eat healthy when someone else had made the food.
Know the Basics of Fitness
Yeah, you probably memorized that “FDA recommended daily intake” chart in high school health class. Here’s the thing. If you know what foods do to your body, you don’t have to dredge that up. Just remember these few rules:
- Protein builds muscle. And muscle burns calories faster than anything else, even when you are sitting or sleeping. Burning calories eliminates fat. Up your protein intake.
- Carbs give you energy, but if you eat them and then don’t move, they turn to sugar which turns to fat. Cut back on the carbs, unless you are planning on some cardio exercise.
- Sugar is pretty evil. It turns directly to fat. Of course, you want sugar and should have some. Just be careful and know that if you have to have it, you also have to have some type of cardio exercise.
- Calorie intake? Yes, it’s important – 1600-2000 a day, depending on how active you are.
- Don’t try diets where you eliminate an entire food group. You will lose weight if you cut out all fat; you will lose weight if you cut out all carbs. But it will take longer than if you just cut calories and do the right kinds of exercise for the food you are taking in. Protein = resistance exercise; Carbs = cardio and aerobic.
Easy on the Booze
There are actually beer bellies that are grown in college. And if you are female and believe that your gender doesn’t get them, think again. Booze goes right to that belly fat, not to mention the health issues if you drink to excess.
A leisurely walk to class is not exercise. If you are on a large campus, get a bike. It is one of the easiest forms of exercise there is – you won’t even realize you are getting it.
If your college has a pool, get ye there. Swimming exercises every muscle in your body.
If your school has an athletic program of any type, there will be a gym. And a gym means equipment. Even if you have to pay a small fee for its use, it’s cheaper than an off-campus gym. If the equipment intimidates you, watch someone else or just ask. You can get both kinds of exercise in the gym – treadmills and stationary bikes for cardio and resistance equipment for muscle building.
If you’re a social being and you participated in some sports in high school, get on an intramural team. Having a schedule of a place to be for games will keep you exercising regularly.
Be Prepared for the Long Nights
Keep a supply of decent snacks on hand for when you have to pull all-nighters. You already know what types of snacks these should be, so no need to re-hash that. And indulge yourself once in a while – as long as you are staying on track most of the time, you’ll be fine.
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