Avoiding (or Losing) the Freshman 15

You’ve likely heard of the “freshman 15” – the weight many college students gain during the first year. There are several reasons for weight gain in college, mainly a combination of decreased physical activity and access to unlimited dining hall food. Read on for some tips for preventing weight gain during college. If you’ve already experienced weight gain, these tips can also help you get back on track.

Take Advantage of the Gym

Most colleges have exercise facilities open to all students. Since you’re already paying for it through your tuition and fees, take advantage of the equipment and classes offered at your campus fitness center. Sign up for an exercise class with a friend, or play your favorite sport from high school. Staying active is crucial to preventing weight gain, particularly if you were active in high school

Take a (Long) Walk

With all the walking to and from classes, it’s a wonder more college students don’t lose weight. If you’re bored with the gym, take a walk around your campus. Find some friends to accompany you or listen to your favorite music. For safety, remain in well-lit and regularly traveled areas. You might discover some new places on campus and it’s a great way to relax.

Watch Your Portions

Many campus dining halls offer unlimited amounts of a variety of foods. As you browse the offerings, be conscious of portions. Try this portion size tool from WebMD to learn the recommended portions of various foods. Take advantage of healthier offerings like fresh or steamed vegetables. Avoid fried foods and heavy sauces or dressings. If you want dessert, choose fresh fruit.

Snack Healthily

Snacking is the dieting downfall for many, but it can actually help with dieting goals. Keep healthy snacks on hand to ward off temptation of the vending machines and to prevent overeating at meals. Some snack ideas: baby carrots, apples, low-fat yogurt and whole grain crackers. Avoid sugary beverages and chew sugar-free gum to prevent mindless snacking.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can lead to overeating, so it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Buy water bottles with built-in filters for convenient and low-cost refills. Whenever you feel the urge to snack, drink water first to see if you were really just thirsty. Replace sugary sodas and juices with water to cut back on unnecessary liquid calories.

College requires big adjustments in many areas of your life. Sometimes healthy eating and fitness are overlooked. But remaining active and eating right can prove quite easy if you take advantage of the resources available. For more on healthy eating in college, read The Healthy College Cookbook