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The Freshman 15 is often portrayed, especially to women, as this impending doom of gaining 15 pounds during your first year away at college. Fortunately, the Freshman 15 is a myth. In fact, the average weight gain is nowhere near 15 pounds but is actually anywhere from 1-5 pounds based on various studies. While those numbers certainly aren’t as large as 15, gaining weight still seems to happen. Diana Maniev, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares tips to avoid freshman weight gain and stay healthy at college.
Be prepared! Be aware that college is a place with lots of easy access to lots of food, and they usually aren’t the healthiest options. You can be ready by keeping smart snacks in your room or backpack. Monitor the amount of fat, sugars and sodium you ingest, and be sure to incorporate enough fruits, vegetables, protein and other nutritious foods in your diet.
Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. Skipping meals is a bad habit that can potentially lead one to overeat at the next meal. Breakfast is important to start your day and has been shown that those who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall, have more energy and perform better academically.
Just because there is food being offered does not mean you have to eat all or any of it. Also keep in mind that late-night eating can add unnecessary calories.
Be aware of liquid calories. Drinking your calories, especially through alcohol, can be a hidden cause of weight gain for many unsuspecting college students.
Don’t forget to move! Most school’ recreational and fitness facilities will offer classes or places to go to work out. Also walk when you’re going to class or around campus to stay active.
Grab a friend! Join organizations or invite your friends to come on walks, attend fitness classes, or head to the gym together so each of you will stay motivated and in shape. Be open to exploring new classes or areas around your school for fitness places to try. Don’t be afraid to join sports teams or recreational leagues.
Manage your stress as this plays a huge role in attending classes, but also in overeating and negative coping mechanisms as well. Exercise, such as yoga, is a great way to release stress and stay alert.
Avoid multitasking while you eat, as it tends to increase overeating.
Drink lots of water! This simple trick is helpful for maintaining balance in your body which can improve skin, appetite, digestion, circulation and more.
Everything in moderation. There are no specific foods or diets that will prevent you from gaining weight, or just because something works for your friend doesn’t mean it will work for you. Listen to your own body, and don’t be afraid to indulge a little bit, as restrictive eating can be its own issue. Just be sure to not overdo it, and work on balance, as college is a great place to experience and try new things.
Sleep about 8-9 hours a night. Remember that while eating a balanced diet and exercise will keep you energized and reduce stress, it is also important to get enough sleep in order to stay healthy.
If you have any questions or need advice, utilize your on-campus resources and don’t be afraid to call your physician for guidance and as a great resource during the college transition.