That Hot-N-Ready never tasted so good as it does on your first night of independence. Your apartment may be cramped, and the couch that came with it may smell, but that cheap, delicious pizza could not be more perfect. Tomorrow’s Junior Bacon Cheeseburger tastes every bit as good, and so does the next day’s California Burrito. As your first semester progresses, the nutritious food with which your mom so lovingly stocked your cabinets dwindles. Soon, you may find yourself a victim of the Freshman Fifteen. Never heard the term? Keep reading and you won’t have to find out what it means hard way.
“Freshman Fifteen” refers to weight gain that is often experienced during a student’s first year of study. The phenomenon is a result of lifestyle changes like reduced sleep and increased consumption of convenience food, sweets and alcohol. And though the weight gain is actually more within the range of five to ten pounds, I’ll bet an extra seven pounds is just as unwelcome as fifteen. The following are a few ideas on how to leave your first year looking as good as you went in. Heck, you might even lose some weight.
Don’t go nuts
Just because you’re on your own now doesn’t mean what your parents taught you about taking it easy on the Swiss Cake Rolls doesn’t still go. Though part of the the thrill of your fledgling autonomy is making your own food choices, it is still important to be conscious of the effects of diet and buy accordingly. You’ve heard it before, but here it is again: look for minimally-processed foods high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber, as well as lots of fruits and vegetables. Above all, avoid white flour and refined sugar. These are calorie-dense and nutrition light. Instead, buy whole-grain bread and try natural sweeteners like honey, agave nectar and xylitol. These are all available in health and specialty grocery stores. That said, have the occasional treat. This will help you avoid junk food benders.
Ignore the convenience factor
As your school and work demands become, well, more demanding, you’ll find yourself short on time to shop for healthy food, let alone prepare it. When it’s 3:45 a.m. and that Ethics and Values paper is due in mere hours, those quick, microwaveable Hot Pockets are going to be a lot more appealing than anything you can make. But don’t let the allure of convenience food (including overportioned restaurant food) create a pattern in your eating habits — not only is it highly processed, but it is also full of saturated fat and calories, making it difficult to justify the ease of its preparation. It can also prove — especially in the case of eating out frequently — expensive.
Again, your time is going to be precious, making it tempting to skip breakfast. Avoid this. Breakfast gets your metabolism going for the rest of the day, helps you focus more and curbs overeating. A quick, convenient bowl of cereal is worth the extra five minutes of preparation time in the morning. Oh, and by “cereal,” I don’t mean Reese’s Puffs.
Drink lots of it. It removes toxins from the body and improves cell function; and on a more cosmetic level, makes your skin look better; chemical and/or corn syrup-laden Diet and regular sodas and Crystal Light-type drinks don’t do the same thing. Just stick with the water.
Try to establish an exercise schedule involving strength and resistance, cardio and flexibility training. But if you can’t squeeze in some exercise time, try walking or biking to school instead of driving. At the very least, you won’t have to deal with parking.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is not only necessary for overall wellbeing, but it raises levels of leptin, a chemical responsible for regulating appetite. Without seven to eight hours of sleep per night, leptin levels drop, sending your appetite out of control.
Your first semesters will be stressful enough without having to worry about where to find the money for new clothes to dress your recently-expanded figure. Pay attention to what you eat and exercise some common sense, and you’ll make it through your freshman year just fine — well, as far as weight goes, anyway.