Ahhh, the "Freshman 15'...I remember hearing about it before I went off to college and thinking "oh, no, not me:)". Well, I was right, I didn't gain 15 pounds, I gained FORTY!!! Yes, I said 40. I wish I was playing a mean, cruel joke on you, but it is the truth. How? You ask? That's a great question. I am going to narrow it down to lots of junk food, lots of fast food, no sleep, and beer. And probably a little more beer. They don't call it "beer belly" for nothing! This was the beginning of my constant up and down weight loss and yo-yo dieting. This is part of what made me become a Registered Dietitian. Because I loved to eat!
Studies show that students, on average, gain 3-10 pounds during their first year of college. (Well, I BLEW that statistic right out of the water!) There are so many factors that affect this and so many changes going on in an 18 year old freshman's life. Some of them may have anxiety, sadness, homesickness, and stress. And, some of them deal with some or all of those emotions by eating. They are on their own to eat whatever they want. They have free reign at a dining hall that, now a days, is like a Ryan's buffet, EVERYDAY! They also tend to snack late at night to help them fuel up for all night study sessions. And then, there's the alcohol and the no sleep. All of these things combined can put a few pounds on you.
Most everything you read about maintaining your weight says: eat a balanced diet, participate in regular exercise, and get plenty of rest. Well, that is not really even an option for college students sometimes. So, let me break it down for you.
Choose a variety of nutritious foods. Just like I said about the dining hall being a buffet, they also have some healthy options. Look for the whole fruits, whole grain cereal bars and yogurt.
Try to limit soft drinks. Soft drinks are nothing but empty calories. They provide you with no nutritional benefit. Only calories, that add up in your daily caloric intake. If you like the carbonation, like I do, try these flavored waters….they are AMAZING!…..AND affordable!
Keep healthy snacks on hand. Keep convenient and nutritious snacks around. These are especially helpful when you are in between classes or studying at the library and need some "brain food".
Avoid distracted eating. What the heck is that you say? Try not to eat when you are super stressed or watching tv.
Eat slowly and be aware of what you are eating. This kind of goes with the last one I wrote...when you are eating, eat. Really think about, are you are full or still hungry? Are you eating just to clean your plate?
Try not to overdo the fast food. It is easier to pick up fast food sometimes, but it is definitely worse for you. Fast food is generally very high in calories, fat and sodium. If you do hit the fast food joint, try to choose the better for you options, like a grilled chicken sandwich, side salad or yogurt.
Avoid snacking between meals and very late at night. All of these little "snacks" add up and sometimes you could be eating as many as 3000 calories a day. Can you say "pizza anyone"?
Drink water. Your body needs water. All of the time. It's not a weight loss agent, but it does aid in metabolism and helps your body process calories. So, if you are dehydrated, your body doesn't process as many calories, and those calories stay right on your hips....well, maybe not your hips, could be your belly or your rear end, but they stay on you! I love this water bottle that will not spill and will keep your water cold all day!
Get enough exercise. You can get "formal exercise" at a gym or by joining an intramural team of some sort. Or, if you don't like exercising all that much, you can burn calories walking all over campus. Walk to class, the bookstore and the library. Walk as many places as you can.
Limit alcohol. Alcohol is simply empty calories that do nothing but add weight to your body and encourage you to make some stupid decisions sometimes. It also has a tendency to make you want to eat...Rally's cheeseburgers at 3 a.m. - refer back to #7 😃
And, I know I said 10, but I have one more thing to say:
Try to get adequate sleep. (Bwahahahah-laughing hysterically like Count Dracula would!) Not happening. Not when you are in college....but, at least try to keep it consistent. Try not to stay up all night one night and then sleep the whole next day. Your body gets in a rhythm and sleep is directly associated with your metabolism. Moral of the story, try to get some shut eye.
So, in addition to everything else you have to do your first year of college (make good grades, go to work, call home regularly), now you have to try to eat right! But trust me, and take it from me, it's much easier to maintain your weight than try to lose 40 pounds later!