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Five Tips for Fighting the Freshman 15

Meta Description: Gaining the freshman 15 is a pretty common trend among students.  These tips will help you learn how to fight and prevent weight gain throughout your college years.

Keywords: Freshman 15, what is freshman 15

Five Tips for Fighting the Freshman 15

We all know it when it strikes. Our clothes are a little tighter, we walk a little slower, and we eat a little more ice cream than we probably should. Those extra pounds around the waist make us cringe as we try to put on our favorite pair of jeans but eventually end up turning to our sweatpants and hoodies for consolation. The “Freshman 15” is a term used for weight gain among college students particularly during their first semester. Although the term implies that students gain 15 pounds during their first semester, statistics from the health journal, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, show that on average students only gain about 2-5 pounds. If this stress and trend of weight gain continues throughout a person’s college years, there could be a large weight gain over a 4 year period of time.

The Journal of American College and Health says that about 50% of students gain weight during their college years. With the late-night study habits, binge-eating while cramming for an exam, or sugary drinks that we consume to keep ourselves awake, the “Freshman 15” weight gain is a serious problem for university students. The five tips below will help you get back into shape and decrease the chances of weight gain during these pivotal university years.

 1. Swap out the sugary drinks

Pop, energy drinks, and sweet coffee drinks can all contribute to the “Freshman 15” by adding excess calories with little to no nutritional value.  Almost all of the calories from these drinks come from sugar, which if stored in the body turns into fat and can lead to weight gain.

Water will always be the best alternative to any of these drinks. However, if you still need a little energy or flavor boost, try drinking tea. Tea still has that caffeine boost you need, but offers zero calories and much more nutrients. If you need your coffee fix, try light or “skinny” versions of your favorite drinks. It is less sugar and less calories but still all the delicious coffee flavor you love. Regular coffee with a small amount of cream is another good alternative to sugary coffee beverages.

2. Snack Healthy

If you know that a long study session is inevitable, prepare yourself with healthy snacks to keep you fueled and focused. Try packing a healthy snack along with your study materials. Aim to include a good source of carbohydrate with a good source of protein. Some examples include: an apple with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, ¼ cup of nuts with ¼ cup of dried fruit, or vegetables with 1 – 2 tablespoons of hummus.

Planning the timing of your snack(s) is another way to stay healthy. Having a set time to take a break will help you stay focused on your work as well as help reduce mindless eating. It is easy to get carried away with portion sizes when snacks are constantly available during your study period, and this may contribute to the Freshman 15.

3. Exercise (even if you don’t have much time)

Regular exercise can help with weight maintenance and contributes to overall health. Some of the benefits include increasing muscle and bone strength, improving heart health, and boosting energy. Even if your study schedule makes it difficult to get to the gym, make sure you are taking breaks whenever you have been sitting for long periods of time. Try taking a walking break, doing a couple pushups or sit-ups in your room, or add a couple jumping jacks into your study breaks. These small bouts of activity can reenergize and refocus your study efforts while maintaining a healthy lifestyle mindset.

4. Be mindful of portions

Just because the cafeteria offers you hundreds of food options, does not mean you have to eat every single one. A possible reason students gain the “Freshman 15” is because there are some all you can options in the cafeterias, where many dormitory students eat regularly. Try using a smaller plate, sticking to one serving, and including a vegetable or a fruit with every meal. Understand and know the feeling of being full and stop eating there. If you think you still feel hungry after eating your meal, wait 15 minutes before going for seconds. Don’t try to push yourself to eat more just because it is tasty. Know your limits and follow them.

5. Have fun and play!

Go out and join an intramural sports club, join a dance team, start an ultimate Frisbee game, or go swimming at the gym! Do something active each day that you love to do. Working out and eating healthy can be hard, but when you add activities that you love, the whole process can be a lot more enjoyable.

The “Freshman 15” is a serious problem and weight gain is something many students will face. You can avoid the “Freshman 15” by getting plugged into your campus’ resources. If you’re a Wayne State student struggling with how to manage a healthy diet during your time at school, you have free resources available to you right here on campus. Visit the Campus Health Center to make a free appointment with our registered dietitian to learn more about managing your weight and fueling your body with the right foods. (link)

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