Ah, the first year of college. There are some things that almost all of us experience. Blanking on that 20-point question on your mid-term you thought you were going to ace. All-nighters that seem to be all-weekers. The roommate from h-e-double-hockey-stick. Tripping over a trash can and falling flat on your face the first day of your World Religions class (OK, that one was probably just me.).
... And of course, the seemingly inevitable "Freshman 15", that pesky weight gain many young people experience their first year of college.
There are a lot of great tips on avoiding the Freshman 15. But what if you are already dealing with those extra pounds? Who wants to follow a diet at college? The good news is, you don't have to actually go on a diet to manage your weight -- with a few, simple lifestyle changes you can make the "Freshman 15" a thing of the past!
Planning Pays OffBe honest; you haven't been making the best choices in the dining hall, huh? You probably find it harder to resist comforting, fattening food when you're hungry and it's in front of you. Find out if your school posts the weekly menu in the cafeteria, commons, or Web site. By getting advance warning of each day's menu you will be able to identify -- and be more prepared to make -- healthier choices. When you know what you're going to eat ahead of time, the sight and aroma of rich comfort foods wafting through the cafeteria will prove far less tempting.
Avoid Multi-TaskingCould you be munching without even realizing it? If the pounds have crept on while you've uttered, "I don't eat that much!" you may be falling victim to mindless eating. It's not uncommon. Whether you're stressed, studying, or relaxing by watching a movie, it's easy to eat on auto-pilot. When your mind is on other things, it isn't monitoring what or how much you eat. Try to separate eating from other activities.
Timing is EverythingWhen you don't take your time and eat slowly, sometimes you don't "feel" like you've eaten, though you have. This can lead to second or even third helpings and taking in extra snacks throughout the day, even if you're not hungry. Try to take time out to relax and take a breath when you have a meal. You will be more likely to "register" that you've eaten. Remember, it can take around 20 minutes for you to feel full after eating.
It's also very important to eat at regular times and try not to skip meals. Doing both will help keep your blood sugar in check, which will keep your energy level up and help you to not become overly hungry. We actually need to eat every four to five hours; remember to carry a healthy snack with you. Skipping meals almost always leads to over-eating later on. Healthy snacking is the solution.
Snack SmarterHowever ... if you're already snacking too regularly, it's a problem. If you've been snacking a lot between classes, you can bet your weight isn't going to taper off until you slack off the not-so-smart snacks. Chips, soda and candy are cheap, convenient and satisfying, but these foods have no nutritional benefit and really pack in extra fat and calories. Don’t keep these types of snacks in your room. The following snacks are good ideas for healthier choices:
- String cheese and apple slices
- Baked tortilla chips and salsa or reduced-fat bean dip
- Tuna packed in water and whole-grain crackers
- Broth-based soup and a slice of whole-grain bread
Nix Late-Night NoshingThis may seem virtually impossible when you're up late studying, but try to keep late-night snacking at a minimum.
Instead of eating while you're studying, take a snack break. A quick snack can easily turn into a long night of overeating if you eat in tandem with studying.
If you do feel hungry at the start of a particularly tough study session, you may need to quell your hunger to improve your concentration level. Just try to avoid high-fat munchies like chips or left-over pizza slices. Instead, choose fruit like apples or oranges, pretzels, light popcorn, or cheese on whole grain crackers.
Bye-Bye, BottleIf you didn't drink alcohol before college, and are now, it is very likely that drinking may be causing those excess pounds to pile on. Just one bottle of beer has about 200 calories. Have a couple, and you're taking in as many calories as a meal -- without any of the nutrition or sense of fullness.
There are so many reasons to limit if not eliminate alcoholic beverages: they can cause health problems, increase your risk of getting hurt or causing an accident, and are habit-forming. They also don't do your weight any favors -- not only are alcoholic beverages high in calories, they also make you more likely to over-eat by lessening your inhibition.
Get MovingBecoming less active could be to blame for your weight gain. If you participated in sports in high school and now you're not, your metabolism is slowing down. Try to get enough exercise by incorporating about 30 minutes of moderate activity into your schedule each day, even if it's just brisk walking; not only will doing so slow -- or even prevent -- weight gain, you'll feel better, too.