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Health & Wellness - Avoiding the “Freshman 15”

We’ve all heard of it – the dreaded “Freshman 15” is something college students fear more than failing final exams. The Freshman 15 describes the notorious average 15 pounds college students gain during the first year (and unfortunately, oftentimes the first semester) on campus. Busy days and late-night studying contribute to infrequent meal times and unregulated food content; plus, it’s a lot easier for an overwhelmed student to order a greasy pizza and down a few energy drinks while trying to survive a study session rather than take a quick break to enjoy a veggie-packed sandwich and cup of naturally energizing tea. The jump from high school to college brings about a good deal of unexpected differences for students and the changes can be more detrimental to body weight than anything else. Emotions, anxiety, and a rise in stress levels are all gateways to excessive snacking, poor food choices, and over-eating in general.
A major contribution to college student weight gain is a lack of exercise: levels of activity decrease or become completely sacrificial to schoolwork that piles up and the pounds start to pack on. Inevitably, it seems as though weight gain is lurking around every corner of campus.
This fall, it’s critical for every college student to remember the possibility of out-of-control weight gain and, most importantly, avoid allowing “the 15” to take its toll on overall health. Here are a few pointers designed to help students refrain from gaining weight this semester:
Stay away from liquid calories! Popular blended coffee beverages, soda, and energy drinks are packed with loads of empty calories. If blended coffee is a must, go for the “skinny” version of the drink – no whip cream, sugar-free syrups, and skim milk. As for energy drinks and sodas, stay away by all means. Drinks like Monster and Red Bull are not only packed with sugar, but affect important internal organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. Plus, all that fizzy pop isn’t good for tooth enamel.

Try to plan meals ahead of time. Ordering takeout seems so much easier than preparing a meal ahead of time, but is it really? Once packaging up fruits, veggies, and lean protein for lunch or snacks is done a few times, it easily becomes routine.

Establish a meal schedule. Irregular eating patterns make for poor last-minute meal choices along the lines of grabbing a bag of deep-fried fast food from a drive-thru. Deciding ahead of time to eat every three to four hours encourages smaller portion sizes and more thoughtful choices.

Sneak in some exercise! Instead of sitting in the hall and eating vending machine treats to waste time between classes, venture outside and walk around campus. HFCC connects to the River Rouge Bike Trail that runs along the parking lots, U of M’s campus, and into the woods. Take advantage of it during break time!

One of the most valuable things a college student can have is a good night’s rest: it’s proven lack of sleep contributes to hunger and junk food cravings during the day (Health.com). Amazingly, “Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain,” says Dr. Rapoport in an online article. A solid eight hours will work wonders in the classroom and in the cafeteria.

Becoming a freshman in college is a terrifying enough thought on its own. Aside from all the adjustments necessary, the independence of being in college is a trap for making unhealthy choices habitual. With conscious efforts and self-motivation, the Freshman 15 can become a thing of the past. Staying away from fast food and sugary drinks, sneaking in exercise, and getting a night full of rest are the keys to staying away from weight gain this semester and can be easily squeezed in to a busy student’s schedule.

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