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Fighting the Freshman 15: Simple Tricks to Help You Stay Fit and Trim on Campus

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If you’re one of those annoying high school students who can eat three times your body weight in junk food and not gain an ounce, listen up: your metabolic free ride may be coming to an end. If you don’t back away from that super-sized soda and bag of chips, you may soon be facing that scourge of first-year college students everywhere – the Freshman 15.

You’ve heard of the Freshman 15, right? They’re the legendary extra pounds that seem to creep up on so many unsuspecting new college students. If you want to end your first year of college at around the same weight you were when you first set foot on campus, it’s time to plan ahead and develop a few healthy habits.

What’s Up with the Freshman 15?

So, why does this unfair fate befall so many freshmen? Well, according to health experts, there are a number of reasons why excess poundage suddenly begins to be an issue for first-year college students. The first reason is developmental – the beginning of college often coincides with the body’s final physical transition to adulthood. As you mature toward your fully-grown height and body type, your metabolism begins to slow down a bit. As a result, it becomes harder and harder for college-age men and women to stuff themselves with abandon without seeing some not-so-nice results show up on the scale.

Another factor that feeds into the Freshman 15 is the unprecedented freedom first-year college students are faced with. For probably the first time in their lives, freshmen are eating whatever and whenever they choose, with no direct input (i.e., nagging and niggling) from their parents. As a result, many first-year students fall into wildly unhealthy eating patterns, gorging on take-out at midnight and then guzzling down 800-calorie triple-dipple extra-grande lattés when they drag themselves out of bed the next morning. For those who like to party hearty, the empty calories in beer and other alcoholic beverages only add to problem.

The sometimes-overwhelming stress of college is another factor that drives many freshmen to overeat. Faced with the task of juggling five or more intellectually demanding classes, a bad case of homesickness, a grueling part-time job, and a moody roommate, many first-year students turn to food as a way to cope.

Evading the Freshman 15

Is it possible to make it through your first year of college without 15 or more unpleasant souvenirs stuck to your booty? Definitely! With just a bit of advance planning and a determination to stick to a more balanced lifestyle, it’ll be a breeze to stay at your fighting weight throughout your freshman year. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

-Think about what you put in your mouth. It may sound overly simplistic, but experts swear that it’s true: if you have a general understanding of nutrition and are aware of what constitutes a healthy diet, you’ve already won half the battle. School yourself on basic dietary requirements, such as calories, fat, and daily vitamin and mineral needs. Many free online calculators are available to help you determine your needs based on your gender, height, weight, and activity level.

-Develop healthier ways to cope. If you tend to turn to food for comfort when you’re stressed out, it’s time to develop some better ways to deal with pressure. Try yoga, exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, video games – anything that helps you chill out without cramming a week’s worth of food down your pie-hole.

-Aim for balance, not perfection. Let’s face it – nobody’s perfect, and your first year of college is not the right place to aim for the unattainable when it comes to your diet. Instead, try to shoot for overall balance. Renowned dietician Debra Waterhouse recommends the “three-to-one” rule for a healthy diet. For every unhealthy food you eat, try to follow it up with three healthy foods. Or, if you have a day – or even a week – when you really fall off the wagon, buffer it with three days (or weeks) of clean livin’. That way, your overall diet will be healthy, even if you aren’t making perfect food choices 24/7.

Do you have a plan to stave off the saddlebags once you hit campus? What are your worst food habits? Share your story in the comments section.

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