Everyone has heard of the “freshman 15” — the dreaded weight gain that supposedly all first-time college-goers encounter. The stress of adjusting to a whole new world, being away from the comforts of home, and missing friends and family are things most freshman experience.
Unfortunately, many students turn to food for comfort and end up eating away their sorrows. Before they know it, November rolls around and they go home for the holidays with a few extra bags on the saddle. But fear not, this weight gain is not inevitable, and even if you have already added a little around the middle, there are plenty of things you can do to reverse the effects of those late-night vending-machine raids.
Eating right is the most important aspect of staying healthy. Without a balanced diet, it is nearly impossible to lose or maintain your weight. All the old rules you have heard since you were a kid still apply, like making sure you are eating fruits and veggies, lean meat and low-fat dairy products every day. Hold back on snacks high in fat content and calories, and make sure that you always drink plenty of water.
While these guidelines form the ideal way to eat, we all know that a college lifestyle does not exactly support these kinds of habits. The cafeteria, with its all-you-can-eat setup and abundance of greasy fat-filled choices, is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in the quest for healthy eating. Since most people know that completely banning yourself from eating a certain food will only make you crave it more, a better idea is to limit yourself. If you cannot stay away from the taco bar, have just one and grab a salad with low-calorie dressing to go with it. Or if those French fries are calling your name, make a sandwich on wheat bread (easy on the mayo) as a main course.
It’s also a good idea to think about what you are going to eat before you actually walk into the cafeteria. Once you are inside, the smells of pizza and breadsticks may be too much to resist while you are wandering around. When making your decisions, keep in mind that you are better off choosing grilled over fried, and steamed over sautéed.
Late-night study sessions are another big obstacle to healthy eating. Studies have shown that appetite and food intake increase with sleep deprivation, and when you are up late studying, it is rarely a healthy snack that you are mindlessly shoveling in.
If getting to bed at a decent time just isn’t an option for you, then the best solution is to keep carrot sticks and veggie dip or apples and peanut butter in your room to occupy your hands while you are reading.
Beer is often at the center of college social activities, and while it may be fun to party every night of the week, just remember that there are about 150 calories in every can of beer. So even if you drink only one beer every night, that’s an extra 1000 calories per week, which can add up to over a pound a month.
Students trying to watch what they eat often pig out at one meal and compensate by skipping the next one. Although this may seem logical, it will actually backfire because when your body is denied food, it goes into starvation mode. Your metabolism slows in order to conserve calories, which is just the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. Plus, it only makes you more likely to overeat later.
Next to a healthy diet, exercise is the best way to keep your body in shape. Temple’s IBC offers a huge selection of group classes for students, as well as an indoor track, weight machines, and tennis and racquetball courts.
For an idea of where to begin, check out the IBC’s Fitness Assessment program on Nov. 6-8 and 13-15. Simple tests will be performed to provide students with basic information on body composition, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. A regular workout routine at least three times a week, combined with good-eating habits, will have you back to your old high-school self in no time.