How to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen

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freshman 15

Who's afraid of the Freshman 15? The myth that college freshman can expect to gain 15 pounds in their first year away from home has achieved the status of truism. Everyone knows that they'll gain 15 pounds that first year. It's as if college campuses are a magical magnet that attract added weight. Who needs to worry about gaining weight in the midst of all the other worries and upheavals of the freshman year?

The good news is that the truism simply isn't true. In fact, research shows that the average freshman college weight gain is far lower than most people believe. A 2008 study conducted at Auburn University in Alabama found that the average freshman weight gain was 4.8 pounds over the course of the year, with young men gaining just over 5 pounds and young women gaining just over 3 pounds.

The bad news from that same study--among those who did gain weight during their freshman year, many of them slipped into a higher BMI category, moving from health to overweight, or overweight to obese. Even worse, according to researchers, even those who didn't gain weight often slipped into unhealthy eating habits.

So how do you avoid being one of those who have to struggle with the dreaded Freshman 15? These tips will help maintain both your health and your weight during the first year away from home at college.

Adopt a Healthy Attitude Toward Food

One of the main reasons that freshmen gain weight during their first year away from home, researchers found, is the easy access to food. Most freshmen have open, all-you-can-eat access to the cafeteria, which ends up being a social gathering place as much as a place to eat. In addition, many students turn to food for comfort and to alleviate boredom. Learn to eat when you're hungry and find other ways to deal with stress, and you'll have gone a long way toward avoiding the Freshman 15.

Treat Your Body Right to Avoid to Maintain a Healthy Weight

Stress leads to over-eating, so de-stressing is a major tool in defending the body from added weight. One of the best stress-busters known is - who would have guessed it - a healthy diet. Pick foods that are high in antioxidants that help fight stress--like vegetables with a lot of color. A general rule of thumb--the brighter or darker the vegetable or fruit, the more antioxidants it provides.

Get Plenty of Sleep to Avoid Gaining Weight

It's tempting to stay up all night partying or studying for that mid-term, but your body won't thank you for it. Sleep--especially deep sleep stages--are essential for renewing cells and keeping the body working right. Poor sleep habits can even affect the metabolism and make it harder for the body to use food efficiently. Adopt a reasonable sleep schedule and stick to it.

Watch Out for the Parties

When you do hit the party circuit, remember that a single 12 ounce beer, even a light beer, packs a whopping 100 or more calories--and virtually no nutritional value at all. People are also a lot more likely to snack on high-calorie empty-nutrition foods like potato chips when drinking, adding even more danger. As far as other drugs go, there are lots of reasons not to smoke it up. Add the fact that those munchie urges will pack on pounds.

Take Advantage of the Gym to Stay Healthy

Regular workouts will never be easier than during the college years. Take full advantage of student privileges at the gym and pool to get regular exercise. Besides burning calories, a hard game of tennis or volleyball or a session with the treadmill is a great way to bust stress that leads to overeating.

Avoiding the Freshman 15 in healthy ways has an added bonus--the establishment of healthy habits that will last a lifetime and help you maintain a healthy weight for the rest of your life.

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