You made it! You’re in college! There’s so much to love, isn’t there? The independence. The new friendships. The freedom from your super-annoying little brother. (You miss him just a little bit, though, don’t you?) The unlimited salad bar and soft-serve ice cream.
Yeah, that last one? That can actually be a bit of a problem for some people. While the “Freshman 15” (gaining 15 pounds your first year away from home) is a bit of an exaggeration, a Journal of American College Health study confirms freshmen experience 5.5 times the weight gain of the general population.
Now, let’s be clear: Some folks are late-bloomers, and gaining a bit of weight in late adolescence is totally normal. Plus, there are arguably more important things to focus on than that pesky bathroom scale. Still, caring for our bodies is beneficial in a gazillion ways—and that can be a bit more difficult to do your first year of college.
- Eat at normal times. Just because you’re hanging out with your new BFFs at 3 am doesn’t mean you have to break open the chips and salsa. Stick with breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus a healthy snack thrown in here and there. Just try not to eat the whole time you’re awake.
- When you’re eating, don’t do anything else. Sure, chocolate helps you think… but if you’re noshing while you’re doing your calc homework, you’ll go through a whole bag of mini-candy bars without even realizing what you’re done. When it’s time to eat, stop everything else so your brain and stomach actually talk to one another.
- Budget for snacks. Establish a limited vending machine budget, and don’t borrow money from your roommate when it’s gone.
- Don’t waste calories. If you have the munchies, grab some crisp raw veggies or an apple instead of a pile of French fries from the cafeteria.
- Don’t drink your calories. Stay away from sugary sodas, calorie-filled lattes, and alcoholic beverages. (Ahem. If you’re a freshman,you’re not old enough to drink anyway.) If you pulled an all-nighter in preparation for your chem exam and need a bit of a pick-me-up, stir PureLyft into a smoothie or lightly sweetened beverage.
- Drink more… water.One beverage you should not cut back on is water. Have a glass before, during, and after meals to help control your appetite.
- Plan ahead. We make the worst eating decisions when we’re hungry. Make a list before you go to the grocery store and stick to it. Prepare perfectly portioned snacks and keep them at the ready.
- Make special requests for care packages. Ask your family members to send healthy snacks, not just homemade cookies. If they insist on treating you to baked goodies, share them with your friends.
- Don’t eat your feelings. The first year of college is tough for most people—academically, emotionally, and relationally. If you know you’re an emotional eater, develop some other coping skills: Talk with a trusted friend. Call home. Go for a walk. If you’re feeling despair and are considering hurting yourself, contact your school’s counseling center immediately or get free help from Crisis Text Line.
- Watch your portion sizes. Just because there’s unlimited soft-serve ice cream doesn’t mean you should have it at every meal, every day. Try to control your portions, and only go back for seconds from the pizza bar if you’re actually, truly hungry.
- Get plenty of sleep. Everything goes out of whack when we’re tired. We’re more emotional, and we make bad decisions. Plus, the moreyou’re awake, the more hours there are to eat pints of ice cream.
- Move more. Try to fit in three or four workouts every week. Not only is that exercise good for you in general, but it will also help burn off the extra calories you consumed at that party, errrr, study group gathering.
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