The infamous freshman 15 can easily turn into the freshman 20 or freshman 30. Often referred to as “first year fatties” or “fresher spread,” every beginning college student hears horror stories about it. Do not worry, however, as there are steps to take to prevent the freshman 15 from attacking. These steps include not overeating (while still eating enough), monitoring alcohol consumption, and avoiding stress.
Overeating is common for the average college student. With an abundance of unhealthy food available through the college’s meal plan or dining hall, it is easy to give in and gorge on pizza, hotdogs, french fries, and cookies. Cafeteria style food and fast food are filled with saturated fat and carbohydrates, things every person who watches what they eat will want to avoid. While college meal plans give students a variety of options and choices, the all-you-can eat dining halls and buffet style cafeterias can create bad eating habits for students. It is vital for all students, especially freshman, to gain proper and healthy eating habits before their weight becomes out of control.
To keep your consumption under control, try using a calorie counter or portion control guide. Another effective method is to ditch your tray and just carry a single plate. Studies have shown that when people have a large tray, they feel the subconscious need to fill that tray with food, which can easily lead to overeating. If you have only one plate, you’ll be far less likely to take extra portions for the simple fact that your plate won’t have room for food you don’t need.
But be sure to eat enough.
With new stresses and expectations of college, students may feel pressured to not eat to stay thin, but this can easily cause malnutrition. Malnutrition can be caused by an unbalanced or inadequate diet, and not getting enough nutrients can cause serious illnesses, and problems with digestion or absorption of food. When a student lives away m home for the first time, it is easy to differ from their normal eating patterns for the worse. Eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa can be caused from a lack of eating, which can also lead to serious health problems.
But believe it or not, not eating enough can also contribute to weight gain. When your body isn’t receiving adequate nutrition, it becomes tricked into thinking that it’s starving to death. This causes the body to immediately enter into survival mode. For individuals who are not full-blown anorexic and are not losing weight rapidly as a result, this means that when they do eat, their body automatically stores that food as fat and other types of energy. What’s more, starvation tactics have a hugely negative impact on your bones and muscles.
Watch your alcohol consumption.
Alcohol can be a new and tempting activity during a freshman year of college. However, alcohol is loaded with a huge amount of calories in a small quantity of liquid, which can then cause unwanted weight gain. Due to the body absorbing alcohol quickly, people can also gain an appetite while drinking. Whether at a party or only having fast food available, students often turn to fatty and greasy food while drinking alcohol. These fatty foods are instantly added to the freshman 15, along with the empty calories of the alcohol itself. Check out the average calorie counts for various types of alcohol:
- Regular beer: 149 calories
- Light beer: 110 calories
- One shot of vodka, rum, or tequila: 65 calories
- Four ounces (about a paper cone cup’s worth) of sweet wine: 105 calories
Given the amount the the average college student drinks at a typical party, it’s easy to see how quickly the calories can add up. So if you choose to drink, do so sparingly for the sake of both your health and your skinny jeans.
Nip stress in the bud.
Stress is a major factor of a freshman’s life at college. From having to make new friends to a demanding classwork schedule, the new lifestyle and changes can sometimes cause stress to feel overwhelming. The transition from high school to college is difficult for many, so homesickness and feelings of emptiness also lead to new kinds of stress. When the body is stressed, it releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that slow down the body’s metabolism.
Stress can also bring cravings of sweet or salty food, which can result in large quantities of continuous snaking. Reducing stress can reduce the amount of calories one consumes, thereby reducing the likelihood of weight gain.
Below you will find some proven stress reduction techniques for college students. And if you think you don’t have time because you’re too busy with school work, think again. Not only are these techniques good for your health and waistline, but they may also help you concentrate and perform better in your studies.
So when you’re feeling stressed, take just a few short minutes (15-60) out of your day to try the following:
- Cardio exercise (like running, biking, etc.)
- Walking outdoors
- Reading for pleasure
- Listening to soothing music (Great examples can be found here, here, and here.)
- Socializing with friends
- Calling a parent, sibling, favorite relative, or high school friend for a quick chat
Despite what you may have been told, the freshman 15 is completely preventable. Freshman students have to be smart and use common sense when they are transitioning into the college lifestyle. Taking the proper steps to eat properly, to avoid consuming too much alcohol, and to combat stress will reduce the freshman 15 and allow the student to concentrate on their studies and all the great things college has to offer.