By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern
When entering your first year of college, you may hear quite a few references to the “freshman 15.” This refers to the 15 or so pounds of weight many students gain during their first year of college; and since we are going into a new school year, I thought I’d take the time to discuss this topic.
Between the unhealthy diets and lack of sleep, college is a cesspool of weight-gain. As a college student myself, managing my time is already hard enough, so when it comes to managing other things in my life, especially my diet, I probably don’t do as well as I should. I’ve found that this is a problem that I am not alone in suffering from, and that most of my friends and classmates are finding it difficult to maintain a balanced diet as well; but a balanced diet is just one way to steer clear of those unwanted pounds.
Here is a list of 5 ways to help keep off the “freshman 15,” with suggestions, tips and tricks coming straight from college students like you.
- Drink lots of water
Drinking 8 glasses of water every day is not recommended by health care professionals for no reason. Staying hydrated helps the body function. Not only does it keep your internal organs going strong, but it keeps skin beautiful and muscles energized. It can also help manage weight. Everybody knows that soda simply isn’t good for you, and with high calorie counts and outrageous amounts of sugar, a soda will really help you pack on the pounds. From personal experience, I have replaced almost all sugary drinks, including soda, in my diet with water and have seen some major changes happen. Not only have I already dropped a pound or two, but I’m less bloated and have been sleeping better, too.
Did you know: If you swap soda for water at lunch you are cutting out 100-150 calories and 33 grams of sugar. (That’s the amount of sugar in three chocolate-frosted donuts!)
Tips for getting more water in your diet:
- Keep water on you at all times.
- Order water instead of soda when dining out.
- Infuse your water with fruits or vegetables to make it taste better.
- Eat more fruits and veggies (They contain water!)
- Get the recommended amount of sleep (7-9 hours)
Like I said before, I’ve been sleeping better ever since I started drinking more water, and sleep is a very important part of the equation. Health care professionals recommend that everyone gets seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Of course, sometimes even seven hours proves to be hard to achieve when going to college, but as long as most nights you are getting between seven and nine hours, you’re good to go. When you don’t get enough sleep you are putting yourself at risk of needing an early morning and a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, which always leads to grabbing a soda or two and a sugar-filled treat to quickly wake you up. Of course, having a few sodas and a donut is not very good for the whole keeping-off-the-weight thing.
Did you know: According to the Sleep Foundation, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have bigger appetites due to the fact that their leptin levels (appetite hormone) fall, promoting appetite increase.
Tips for getting more sleep:
- Sleep completely in the dark.
- Stop the use of electronic devices an hour or more before going to bed.
- Don’t drink caffeine for at least six hours before going to bed.
- Stock up on healthy snacks
Doctors recommend that people eat three meals a day and snack in between. When going to work, school or any other activity, make sure your bag or pockets have something healthy in them for you to snack on when you get the urge. Almonds are a great and portable snack, as well as dried apricots or plums. Somewhere else you should keep healthy snacks is around your dorm room. My friend, Kathryn, always keeps fruit like apples and bananas in her room so when she takes a break from studying she can just relax for a minute and have a snack that is healthy and doesn’t require any preparation. Other things that are easy to keep in a dorm room, especially if there is a mini fridge, are Greek yogurt, strawberries and blueberries, Wheat Thins, peanut butter and trail mix.
Did you know: There are just 95 calories in an apple compared to 152 calories in one ounce of potato chips.
Tips on what snacks to combine:
- Put peanut butter and raisins on celery to make your favorite childhood snack: ants on a log.
- Drop some raspberries and blueberries into plain Greek yogurt.
- Spread some canned tuna on whole wheat crackers
- Take your lunch with you
When going to college, it’s very easy to just run to the student union in between classes to eat, or go off campus to your favorite fast food place. I’ve done those two thing so many times I can’t count, but easy is not always the best for you. In many student unions the set up for dining is ‘buffet style.’ You can just keep going back and getting more and more food. If you have a meal plan that you pay for so you HAVE to use the student union, try portion control and go for the healthiest options like salads. If you live at home or can keep supplies in your dorm room, try making and bringing your own lunch. My friend, Kaycee, regrets her decision to not bring her lunch to school. She was eating at fast food restaurants every day and her cash flow was quickly draining. Some things you can keep at home or in your dorm room to make for lunch are peanut butter, jelly and bread, for sandwiches, and if you have a refrigerator you can also keep lunch meats and condiments to use.
Did you know: Wheat bread has about 69 calories per slice while white bread has about 79 calories per slice.
Tips on what to pack in a lunch:
- The main part of your lunch can consist of anything you could imagine: Sandwiches, a grilled chicken breast, salad, soup, and much more.
- You can also add things from the above snack category to enhance your lunches.
- Exercise (And have fun with it!)
This is something I have always been very bad at managing. I’ve never exercised enough. Jogging on a treadmill and having people stare at me just doesn’t appeal to me. For some people, the gym works. But for people like me, it is one of the most disliked places in town. Of course exercise is one of the main ways to keep away unwanted weight, but going to the gym and doing the same thing over and over and over again just gets a little boring. Try to create an exercise routine that works for you and is fun! Maybe you like swimming, look for a local gym that has a pool that you can use. If you like to dance, then join a Zumba class or take a dance class from the local dance program, wherever that may be.
If you like going to the gym, then go to the gym. I’ve found that with my busy college schedule sometimes all I have time for is a quick jog in the morning or evening. If you are the same way, take music with you to listen to while you jog, or better yet, take a friend to keep you company.
Despite all the online courses we take nowadays, we still have a lot of places to walk while on campus (besides the student union to eat). Our exercise professionals still say one of the best forms of exercise is good, brisk walk.
Did you know: Most people burn around 100 calories every mile they run.
Tips on exercising:
- Don’t push yourself too hard.
- If you start jogging or running don’t try to complete two miles your first time, start out small and work your way up.
- Work out with a friend, it’s much more fun to do things with company, pick a workout style that works best for you whether that’s weight lifting, running, dancing, playing a sport or walking on a treadmill.
I’m not going to lie to you. College can be hard and scary. Every single student is going to have their own unique experience, including gaining some weight or not gaining weight at all. My friends and I have not had the same college experience in the least, but we all agree that staying healthy is a MUST for students.
No matter how much you weigh or if you’ve gained or lost that “freshman 15,” find what is healthy for you and keep yourself there.
Lauren Scott is a current student of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, and is working toward a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a focus on public relations. Lauren is the Arizona Farm Bureau’s communications intern and teaches piano lessons in her free time.