If you're like most would-be college students, you've probably already heard epic stories about the so-called "Freshman 15." This phrase refers to the tendency of first-year college students to put on an extra 15 pounds or so during the school year. Fortunately, this phenomenon doesn't apply to everyone, and you don't have to resign yourself to weight gain as a foregone conclusion. In fact, by following the steps outlined below, you can help ward off the dreaded Freshman 15 and return home in the spring looking as good as you did on the day you left in the fall.
- Watch portion sizes. If you're on a typical college meal plan, that means you'll be consuming your three meals a day in an all-you-can-eat setting. This situation can wreak havoc on your waistline if you don't watch your portion sizes.
Assuming that you don't have any way to accurately measure portion sizes when you're in the dining hall, the next best thing would be to perform these measurements in your dorm room. All you have to do is weigh and measure single servings of the foods you usually eat, and then learn to estimate similar portion sizes in the cafeteria. This obviously isn't an exact science, but in time you'll easily be able to determine when a particular helping is just too large.
- Make intelligent food choices. Since it's the job of the Food Services division to cater to many different tastes, you'll be faced with numerous choices at each and every meal. Some of these food choices will be healthy; many will not. Therefore, it's absolutely imperative that you make intelligent choices when putting together your meals. For example, select yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast instead of waffles and hash browns. Grab a bowl of soup instead of French fries at lunch. Go with a side salad or vegetable medley instead of garlic bread at dinner. Just because all of these unhealthy choices are available at every meal, it doesn't mean you have to partake.
- Exercise regularly. Even those students that were very active in high school athletics find it all too easy to lapse into a largely sedentary life in college. Between sitting in classes all day, studying at the library all afternoon, and then hanging out with friends all night, it can be hard to squeeze in some exercise time.
But you don't have to be up to the challenge of joining one of your school's official sports teams in order to keep moving. There are plenty of other options to help you stay active and fit. Participate in your favorite sport in an intramural league that meets just for fun. Get together with a few friends and go work out at your school's state-of-the-art exercise facility. Swim laps in the Olympic-sized pool. Walk or bike to your classes instead of driving or taking the bus. Be sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day in order to maintain your weight, and at least 60 minutes or more if you want to lose weight.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Both beer and hard liquor are packed with empty calories that can quickly add up over the course of the evening -- and indeed, over the course of the school year. If you choose to consume alcoholic beverages, just bear in mind that you could be sabotaging any previous progress you might have made through dieting and exercise.