A Master Guide to Not Gaining 15 Pounds Your Freshman Year

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Step away from the Crunchwrap Supreme. Nothing beats the new, unbridled freedom of heading off to college—and four pairs of pants that no longer fit, am I right? Maybe you haven’t reached the “freshman 15” yet, but we both know you’re a pound away from spiraling into more self-pity-induced binge eating. Fear not: Many college students face the basically inevitable weight gain upon their entrance to college. Plenty learn not only how to cope, but also master some quick tips to shed off weight faster than they did their high school friends.

The Source of the 15 Pounds

The Drinks

We can tell you to avoid drinking all together, but we know that won’t happen. Whether you’re an alcohol veteran or a newbie to going out, college will manage to get a few rum and coke’s in you. Those fruity drinks might taste light, but how many calories do your favorite drinks actually contain?

  • Margarita: 280 calories
  • Rum and Coke: 185 calories
  • Tequila Sunrise: 232
  • Gin and tonic: 200 calories
  • Wine: 125 calories
  • 12 oz beer: 153
  • An average shot: 200 calories
  • The large McDonald’s fries you scarfed down after the club: 500

You made it to college, so we don’t need to teach you to count your calories. Do the math: (4 Margaritas + 2 Beers) 2 Weekend Nights = Freshman 15

Dining Hall Food  

Dining Halls are everything you wanted your high school cafeteria to be and more, complete with a soft serve ice cream machine. Let’s be real: meal times are more of a suggestion these days, so you’ll probably grab a second cone on the way back from class. Though a far cry from gourmet, the convenience of grabbing a slice of decent pepperoni pizza and a warm, chocolate chunk cookie always trumps sacrificing your time to pop chicken and broccoli in the oven. We know students tend to neglect the salad bar option—you can practically see the cobwebs lining trays of shredded lettuce over there—but your body will thank you for finally giving it a nutrient-packed salad (unless you drown it in ranch dressing).

Stress

We all respond to stress differently, but according to the American Psychological foundation, 67 percent of adults admitted to over-eating because they were stressed within the last month.

Here’s a shocker: You can’t stop your body from craving food while you’re stressed. Your brain, unable to tell if you’re stressing over your enormous Calc 2 exam or running from a ravenous bear in the wild, releases hormones called glucocorticoids. These glucocorticoids function to replenish your energy while you’re in this “fight or flight” mode, increasing sugar cravings and fat stores (AKA those Oreos you bought a day before finals week and ate in a day). When you hunch over your computer for eight hours, nothing sounds better than finding comfort in a bag of Cheetohs or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Brownie Cheesecake. Find a better outlet for your worries, like with Greek yogurt, a scoop of hummus or your favorite fruit.

I don’t want to work too hard; what are some freshman 15 life hacks I can use?

Not up for a lifestyle change? We can’t help you out there. But sometimes, life hands you a few handy tricks. Take them, or leave them.

  • Stock your dorm up on quick, healthy snacks.
  • Always eat breakfast.
  • Drink warm water. Victoria’s Secret Models swear by it.
  • Sign up for an intramural sport.
  • Walk to class.
  • Don’t drink empty calories, like soda
  • Cook with coconut oil.
  • Eat slowly and wait 20 minutes after you eat to grab that second helping.
  • Drink a crap ton of water.
  • Pace while you’re on the phone.
  • Drink black coffee.
  • Take a fitness class that you’ll fail if you don’t attend.
  • Study at the library; not at home where you can simultaneously snack and study.

Does my sleep schedule affect my weight gain?

You know you’re watching Netflix and zombie-scrolling through Instagram for at least three hours after you hit the sack. Science exists behind why a few less hours of sleep will make you reach for that greasy snack: People who don’t get enough sleep have increased levels of a special hunger hormone called ghrelin, and less of one called leptin, a “full” or “satisfied” hormone. According The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who get less sleep consume on average about 300 more calories a day than the well-rested girl down the hall who turns in early. Yep, that means sleep is vital to the production of pretty much everything in your body, including fat regulation. Stop worrying about catching a case of FOMO and instead catch a few extra Z’s.

How do I stay motivated to lose the weight?

Cut Out Fad Diets 

No, a lemon juice and cayenne pepper juice cleanse won’t change your life. You’ll give up halfway through and become discouraged within the week. Shedding the freshman 15 won’t come from a quick fix, but a mental shift not to take the bad foods out, but actually to put the good foods in you. Concentrate on taking care of your body and giving it the nutrients it deserves.

Find a Work Out Buddy

Nothing says friendship like the bond of your leg muscles screaming at you during spin class. And nothing reinforces that friendship more than the fact that you spent one hour of non-stop, spinning fun for free. Most, if not all, universities provide students with a glamorous, free gym membership to their campus gym, all because you’ve subjected yourself the college life. Utilize your free membership before you’re a graduated senior without one, and without the bod to prove you ever did. Throw on your best pair of gym clothes and wear them to your first class, so you’ll need to make your way to the gym.

Establish a Cheat Day

Sometimes, you just have to eat the damn cookies. It’s okay; do it once a week and you won’t double your weight in a semester.

How do I fit working out into my busy, class-filled schedule?

When you juggle a part-time job, five classes, a dog and a social life, we know working out is the last thing on your mind. While simply “taking the stairs” proves ineffective for most of us, choosing an active lifestyle can be as easy as walking to class instead of driving. Remember every burned calorie counts and you’ll start cutting calories left and right. Don’t have time for the gym? Pop in an exercise video so you can cut down on travel time. First free Saturday in a month? Find your college town’s nature hot spot and bike there with your BFFs.

I’m doing all the right things. Why did I still gain weight?

Congratulations, you have an adult metabolism—get used to it. Make every day body positivity day, and know that your identity doesn’t come from the weight scale. After the next four years fly by, you won’t remember how hot, thin, tan or built you felt, but instead you’ll think of the memories you made and people you met. Remember that while it’s good to feel good in your own skin, obsessing over it will only distract you from four, fleeting years that only come once.

Top 3 Foods To Help You Lose Weight Without Even Trying

1. Avocado

An apple a day? Screw that—an avocado’s healthy, monounsaturated “good” fat reduces cholesterol, heart disease and belly fat. Jam packed with nutrients like vitamin A, E, K, folate, potassium and magnesium, avocados make the perfect mid-day snack to curb your appetite without packing on the pounds. Plus, avocados fight “free radicals” in the body, oxygen molecules that destroy cells and make your metabolism run less efficiently. One bite of an avocado, and you’re on your way to a faster metabolism—it’s almost like magic.

2. Almonds

Enter, the almonds—the unsung weight-loss heroes of the Freshman 15. Almonds aren’t only packed with nutrients (Fiber, Protein, Vitamin E, Manganese, Magnesium) but also with antioxidants, which prevent “oxidative stress” (stress in the body that contributes to aging and even cancer). A rule of thumb: Anything stuffed with nutrients and antioxidants will keep you full longer, speed up your metabolism and make you less likely to reach for another empty calorie-ridden snack.

3. Green Tea

How can you ignore the almost unbelievable metabolism boosting qualities of green tea? Green tea actually displays “thermogenic properties” by itself, meaning a cup of green tea burns calories while it’s eaten and digested. Plus, catechins, one of those trusty, metabolism boosting antioxidants, helps destroy free radicals in the body. For some perspective, green tea holds about 10 times of this type of antioxidant than most fruits and vegetables. So stock up on your Lipton this semester and sip over your mounds of homework each night.

Top 3 Twitter Accounts for Shedding Those Pounds:

1. @Snack_Girl_

Craving a dessert, but not craving the calories that come with it? Snack Girl’s twitter specializes in letting you eat those chocolate chip cookies, but with a healthy twist to stay guilt-free. Her snacks range from healthy cucumber bites to blueberry muffin oatmeal.

2. @FITNESS

On Fitness and Nutrition’s account, scroll through consolidated lists of 8-minute core work outs, simple gifs and videos of at home ab circuits, squat routines and different 30-day challenges. Find out how to make the best smoothie bowls and quick, nutritious snacks, as well as a few “did you knows” that will be sure to change the way you look at fitness.

3. @chriskresser

This self-titled health detective considers himself a “lifestyle enthusiast.” He’ll get you thinking about health in practically every aspect of your life. Kresser shares thought provoking articles about not just the importance of bodily health, but also mental health, as well as other investigative research studies that will radically educate you about what goes on in your body.

Still packing on the pounds? Check out these articles:

CM’s Top 10 Colleges for Health and Wellness

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How to Keep Your Spring Break Bod For Good

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Learning to Live with the Freshman 15

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Student, musician, and writer who loves binge-watching shows on the Food Network and reading any and every book she can get her hands on. Senior at Florida State University studying Editing, Writing, and Media.

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