There’s nothing wrong with putting on a few pounds in college, but you might want to watch out for the Freshman 15 — a not-so-secret phenomenon where college students gain 15 pounds in their first year.
So why do you slap on a bit of extra weight? A change in eating habits, drinking, academic pressures, and a sedentary lifestyle are just some of the usual culprits you can blame. But don’t stress: the Freshman 15 is both avoidable and reversible.
Here are 15 easy ways to avoid weight gain when you start college! 💪
1. Keep Your Step Count Up
One secret to staying in shape is to move as much as you can to burn off calories. If joining a gym is out of the question, ditch the car or the bus and just walk to class, campus events, or nearby social gatherings. This way you can get your daily exercise in without having to go to a gym or take too much time out of your study schedule.
You can also choose the stairs instead of hopping on the elevator (but only if you don’t live in a high-rise condo) or apply for a job where you’re almost always on your feet.
READ MORE: 12 Top Tips for Busy College Students to Stay Fit
2. Use Fitness Resources on Campus
Check if your college tuition includes fitness perks such as access to a campus gym or a recreation center. If it does, make the most out of your money and use the exercise equipment or just sign up for group classes like Zumba or yoga (which have the bonus of being a great way to make new friends!). All you need to do is figure out how to squeeze this into your schedule.
Tip: If your college doesn’t have a gym or if you live off-campus, you can also check if your student ID can get you discounts at a local fitness center.
3. Sign Up for a Sports Club
Sports are a fun and social way to get some exercise in. All you need to do is find a nearby sports club, whether that’s on campus or around the neighborhood.
Don’t have a preferred sport? No problem! Many clubs are beginner-friendly, so they don’t require previous experience with the sport. As long as you can pay the fees and bring your enthusiasm, you’ll fit right in.
4. Drink Plenty of Water…
There’s a reason it is recommended you drink eight glasses or more of water each day. Water can help you lose weight by keeping you hydrated, boosting your metabolism, aiding your digestion, and keeping you away from sugary alternatives.
Bring a water bottle with you wherever you go, and if you’re feeling particularly fancy, you can always spruce things up by adding lemons and cucumbers. Try drinking a full glass of water before eating a meal since it can help you feel full and prevent overeating.
5. …and Avoid Too Much Alcohol and Soda
We get it — it’s fun to let loose at college parties after a draining lecture or submitting multiple requirements. But be warned! Both alcohol and soda are high in sugar and calories, which will not do your body any good.
Not only do they add empty calories, but these drinks can’t satisfy your appetite, so you get hungry and actually end up eating more food. Of course, we’re not saying that you abandon them altogether; you just need to consume them in moderation.
6. Drink Your Coffee Black
Ah, the life source of sleep-deprived students: coffee. Some studies show that caffeine slightly boosts weight loss and helps suppress your need to munch — but you have to take it black.
Adding cream, sugar, and syrups to your coffee can see the number of calories in your casual drink skyrocket. So, for now, say goodbye to daily Starbucks frappuccinos and lattes by making them occasional treats instead.
7. Practice Your Cooking Skills
Okay, hear us out. Once you get past the thought of washing more dishes, the idea of cooking your meals is highly appealing because it can help you create sustainable and balanced eating habits.
Home-cooking allows you to control your portion sizes, incorporate more nutritious ingredients, limit calories, and even save a lot of money. So instead of subjecting yourself to the mercy of fast food, look into easy, healthy recipes you can make in the comfort of your dorm room!
8. Eat Your Meals Regularly
Skipping meals may seem like a good way to lose a few pounds, but it can actually lead to weight gain. Going too long without food can drive you to overeat and make unhealthy choices, especially if your hunger peaks when the nearest open store is a fast food joint.
When you eat regularly, you can control what goes inside your body and make sure you always have enough fuel to get you through your busy day.
9. Stock up on Healthy Snacks
Fill your pantry and bags with carrot sticks, cucumbers, yogurt, trail mix, granola bars, and fruits for when you get hungry in class or while running errands. That’ll keep you away from vending machines or convenience stores that sell junk food.
Instead, aim for balanced snacks combining protein-rich and calcium-rich food, as well as healthy fats and oils, and vegetables. These will keep you fuller for longer, allowing you to focus on your studies instead of your stomach.
READ MORE: Smart Eating: 14 Best Study Snacks to Power Your Brain
11. Indulge, but in Moderation
Don’t you think it’s odd that the more you’re told no, the more you want to eat something? That’s why depriving yourself won’t be the answer when you start to crave a certain food. Losing weight doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to the foods you love; you just have to eat them in moderation.
If you want chips, maybe you don’t need to polish off one bag — and the same goes with other unhealthy foods. It is better to honor your cravings with portion control in mind. This is key to sticking to your healthy eating plan in the long run.
10. Say No to Fad Diets
It’s tempting to hop on to popular diet trends that you’ve seen on social media or that your peers swear by. While others are seeing results, this doesn’t mean that it’s a step in the right direction. You might lose a few pounds right away, but these fad diets are unsustainable — meaning you will gain back all the weight you lost quickly.
Stick to tried-and-tested methods approved by nutritionists, such as exercise and calorie counting.
12. Manage Your Stress Levels
Too many papers due by next week? Received a low grade? Homesick? These are typical scenarios for any college student so remember to give yourself time to decompress. Forgetting to prioritize your mental health can have some severe side effects, including weight changes.
If you’re stressed or anxious, check if your college offers mental health services and make an appointment so you can unload these feelings.
13. Get Enough Sleep
Developing a proper sleep schedule helps your body recover from everything that’s happened during the day. Improving the quality of your sleep has been proven to play a significant role in healthy living. You gain the energy to move more, and you can better manage your appetite.
Of course, there are times when all-nighters might be necessary, but don’t let it become a habit when it doesn’t have to be.
14. Find Time to Socialize
College isn’t always about studying. It’s important to strike a balance between your studies and your social life. Then, it’s a good thing that there’s so much to do on your campus!
Take advantage of your downtime and take a breather from your workload. Invite friends to go for a long hike, play some ultimate frisbee, or do other outdoor activities.
15. Prioritize Self Care Habits
Juggling classes and your academic requirements can be too much work that you forget to take care of yourself. Some might even feel guilty about considering a break when there’s so much to do, but keeping a relatively stress-free lifestyle is vital to keep those extra pounds away.
Adding self-care to your list of priorities isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t have to look the same way as it does for your friends. You can schedule massages, find hobbies, try meditation, or even just get on top of your piles of dirty laundry and dishes just to release some of the tension from your life. You deserve it!
Moving from high school to college is a big transition and putting your health first while navigating your freshman year can be tricky.
With these easy tips and tricks, you can avoid the Freshman 15 leaving you free to focus on your studies and live life on campus to the fullest! ✨