When I was in college, I fell prey to the freshman 15; though, research suggests that the actual amount of weight new college students gain is less and that phrase evolved because it was catchy. There are a host of reasons that college students are prone to gaining weight from busy schedules to increased alcohol consumption and the late night food binges that come along with it. But, your health does not have to go down the tube once you get on campus. As someone who wanted to nip the problem in the bud early, here are some tips that worked for me, and I know will work for you too.
Make Small Changes
If you have been eating badly since you started school, you have gotten yourself into some pretty bad habits that you may not be able to break overnight. That is okay, do not beat yourself up about it. It is not about becoming perfect overnight, it is about committing to change and getting there in steps. When I decided I needed to start eating better, I set some mini-goals for myself. The first one was becoming more friendly with the salad bar in my dining hall—I would get a nice big salad filled will all sorts of good stuff with substance, like olives and chickpeas, and just put a little bit mashed potatoes or meat on my other plate. If I had a late night snack craving after a night out at the bar, I would limit myself to one or two slices of pizza, and not order a whole calzone.
In college, it is more important than ever to stock up on healthy snacks so that you are not reaching for a bag of greasy chips in between classes. Some days my schedule would be really busy and it was hard to find time to sit down for a regular meal. Naturally you get hungry and need something to nosh on. The simple act of having something healthy on hand can make all the difference. One of my favorite snacks was a mix of raisins and cashews—the healthy fats in the nuts kept me satiated and I did not feel the need to stuff my face at my next meal. Get some of those 100-calorie snack packs that are ubiquitous now. Keep some fresh fruit in your dorm mini-fridge.
Eating well does not mean giving up everything that tastes good, never being able to indulge in a late night snack, or forgoing alcohol for the rest of your life. It is about making good choices most of the time. If you are like most college students, you like to party on the weekends, and that is fine. But, you need to make room for those extra calories that come with beer and 3 am feedings. I was not a super-heavy drinker, but come Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I was hitting the bar and house party circuit and drinking was a regular part of that routine. I realized that if I wanted to keep my weight in check while still doing all of this, I needed to balance out my calories. Once that time of the week rolled around, I consciously restricted my food intake—light breakfasts, salads for lunch,etc… It really made a difference and I was able to have fun without packing on the pounds.