Pizza at 3 AM? Ramen noodles every night for dinner? All you can eat fro-yo at the dining hall? Yep, that's right: the Freshman diet. We have all heard warnings about the "Freshman 15." College students are away from their family dinner table for the first time with the ability to eat whatever they want, whenever they want. While the Freshman 15 may be somewhat of a myth (15 pounds is an average; most gain 3-7 pounds, but many gain more), first year college students do tend to pack on the pounds due to a host of reasons like late-night eating, alcohol use and abuse, all-you-can-eat buffets in dining halls and lack of exercise. Here are some tips to take with you back to school to help you avoid the Freshman 15 and stay healthy among the stresses, temptations and FUN that goes a long with being a college student.
1. Stick to a ScheduleEat breakfast (don't ever skip it!), lunch and dinner just as you would at home (normal times) and eat healthy snacks in between meal times. The challenge is really learning how to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into a schedule that is very demanding.
2. Adopt a Healthy Food Attitude; Be Aware of Your EmotionsAs a college freshman, you experience new schedules, hard classes, and new social circles all of which can cause a lot of stress. Be aware of your stressors and avoid emotional eating when you are upset. Take a short walk outside for some fresh air, call home, or spend 30 minutes in the gym when you are emotionally worn out. Don't take it out in the dining-hall with pasta and ice cream...times two!
3. Have Healthy Snacks HandyFreshman year schedules can be very demanding and are often very different from high school. Packing snacks in your back pack are ideal to keep you full and focused on your longest days in the classroom. Not only will you perform better in the classroom, you will avoid over-eating at lunchtime after a morning full of classes (which will cause fatigue for your afternoon classes) but your waistline (and metabolism!) will thank you, too.
4. Navigate the Dining Hall With Care
5. Don't Skip MealsDon't skip meals during the day just to prepare for drinking/eating later. This is called "drunkorexia" and it is a growing problem on college campuses across the nation. Restricting food calories during the day will make alcohol effect you more quickly that night. When alcohol has a rapid affect, it drops your blood sugar and triggers the need to eat and alcohol also lowers your inhibitions. You can end up eating as many calories, if not more, than you would have if you ate throughout the day and still had a drink at night. Eat during the day if you are planning to drink, so you don’t drink too much or eat too much.
6. Educate YourselfIf you want to learn more about nutrition, most campuses have nutrition counselors that would be happy to discuss nutrition with you and help you navigate the food options on campus to best suit your needs. The internet is also a good resource with all sorts of nutrition information to help you better understand your body's needs and how to cater to them in a healthy and responsible way. However, you have to funnel through the garbage. Go to reputable sites for good nutritional information, and do not believe the fast, quick, and easy way to drop 5 pounds. You simply cannot lose 5 pounds in 2 days.
7. Don't Smoke
8. Be Aware of your Alcohol ConsumptionWhile technically Freshman shouldn't be drinking alcohol in general, we are not naive to the fact that it happens, and often. Excess alcohol consumption not only can cause health problems, but beer and liquor are also high in calories (and often sugar) and can cause weight gain. It's called a "beer belly" for a reason!
9. Get Enough ExerciseResearchers found that students who exercised at least 3 days a week were more likely to report better physical health, as well as greater happiness, than those who did not exercise. Try to work 30 minutes of exercise into your daily schedule. Find a class at the Student Recreation Center that you enjoy and go with friends. If you don't enjoy organized exercise, make it a point to walk to your classes across campus rather than ride the bus and take the stairs rather than the elevator. Making exercise a priority will not only keep you in physical shape, but it will also make you more mentally alert.
10. SLEEPSleep is more important than ever especially for college students, who tend to not catch near enough Zs. Getting enough sleep has been linked to maintaining a healthy weight. Don't nap too much and be cautious of your caffeine consumption. When you can, take 30 minutes before bed to wind down, preparing for a good night's rest.
More than anything, avoiding the Freshman 15 is about nurturing yourself as whole. Give your body what your body needs: good nutrition, exercise and plenty of rest. Paying attention to all of the above will help keep you physically and mentally healthy for a successful college career!
Sources: http://www.today.com/parents/myth-freshman-15-how-survive-college-diet-1D80049575; http://kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/college/freshman_15.html#; http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/expert-qa-avoiding-freshman-15-connie-diekman?page=2