When I was getting ready to head off to college a lot (and I mean A LOT), of people warned me about the freshman 15. If you're unfamiliar with the term it refers to the phenomenon that many students gain around 15 pounds their first year at University. So as a recent college graduate that was on the unlimited meal plan for two years (during my freshman & sophomore year), managed not to gain 15 pounds, and actually about 15 pounds along the way, I thought I might have some useful info to share.
1. Drink Water
I can't stress this one enough. Get yourself a nice reusable water bottle (BPA free) and take it with you EVERYWHERE! Many times when we think we're hungry we are actually just thirsty, so keep that water handy and drink up.
2. Get a Food Tracking app
If you only change one thing about the way you live your day to day life, do this. I used the app MyFitnessPal. It was super helpful for me to see where I was getting most of my calories from and if I was getting enough protein and other nutrients in each meal.
3. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep.
A lot of people gain weight when they have improper sleeping patterns. Believe it or not, you can't "catch up" on sleep. Each day is a new day, so when you got 4 hours of sleep on Thursday night and 11 Friday night, its not like those 2 days evened each other out, you're still out of balance. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time EVERY SINGLE DAY. You need about 6-8 hours of sleep, so find the time that works for your body and stick to it.
4. Find a New Extracurricular
Many of us did sports or some other sort of physical activity during high school. Thus we weren't used to scheduling in our own workouts, and you might not be a gym person, so how are you going to stay active? Join a club: Frisbee, yoga, intramural sports, Quidditch, or anything else that looks like fun! It's a chance to break a sweat, burn off that pizza, and make some new friends along the way.
5. Get a Workout Buddy
If you aren't used to going to the gym, it can be a little daunting at first. This is where having a friend comes in handy. It's a lot easier to hold yourself accountable for a workout when you have a workout partner.
6. Just because it is "all you can eat" does not mean you should
I know it's tempting to pack your whole plate because there are so many different things that you want to try, but really you should fill up your plate just like you would if you were home. There's no harm in seconds if you're still hungry after the first plate!
7. Make Every Meal a Complex Meal
Dont just eat cereal and milk every morning and a serving of green beans for dinner. Diversify each meal with proteins, fruits, vegetables and carbs, you'll be full longer!
8. Eat when you are Hungry
Another obvious tip, but something that I personally struggle with. It's a fun pastime to have a snack while chatting with friends, or reviewing yesterday's notes, but pay attention to if you are actually hungry or just bored.
9. Eat Alone
Being comfortable with how much food makes you full can be something that you forget to pay attention to when you are having 2 conversations at once and are surrounded by feasting freshman. Enjoy finding comfort on your own. Something that worked well for me was eating breakfast by myself 5 or 6 days of the week. It was my personal time of day when the only person I was concerned with was me.
10.Steer clear of the Sugary Sodas
You just finished getting all of your food, and you're tired with two tests next week and a quiz on Thursday, and as you go to fill you drink cup you see the sodas. Every single brightly colored bubbly caffeinated flavor screams at your tired eyes, but my dear friend, this is where you make the decision-have a glass of water instead.
11. Be Conscious of your Carbs
Carbs are good, carbs are a necessity, but we don't really need to eat them as often as most of us do. So skip the bagel and cream cheese for breakfast and try a bowl of yogurt instead.
12. Time Management
Plan out your whole day. Take the time to think about when and where you're going to eat, how much time you need to get around to classes, and what kind of activity you're going to do for the day. Staying organized can do wonders for your stress and thus diminish the need to roll up in blankets with a tube of cookie dough.
13.Weigh or Measure Yourself
I would get an app or a little note book and once a week weigh yourself. You can also use a tape measure to measure your stomach, arm, and thighs (always making sure to do your measurements in the same place) if you don't have a scale. Which ever method you do, always do it at the same time of day, (preferably in the morning) before you've eaten; this will give you the most consistent results. I would stay weary of measuring yourself throughout the day or even on a daily basis. Your weight naturally fluctuates by a couple pounds in a given day, so just paying attention to your weekly weight can give you a more accurate reading of how you're doing.
14. Listen to your Breath
If you feel yourself starting to panic, which happens to the best of us, BREATHE. Slow down, give yourself at least 30 seconds to do nothing but breathe. Focus on long smooth inhalations through the nose and steady exhalations through the nose. Keep doing this until you feel your heartbeat return to it's normal pace. Stress is no joke, it is another factor that makes freshmen gain weight their first year.
15. Do Yoga
Yoga is another tool to help you keep the stress at bay, but also a great way to stay active. Whether you want to go to a power flow class to feel the burn, or maybe attend a Yin style class to relax your mind and body, yoga is a great tool for college students. A fun thing that I liked doing was taking 5 minute yoga breaks while I studied for tests. It's enough of a break to help you relax, but not so much of a break that you loose your focus.