Tips to Prevent Weight Gain in College

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Many things contribute to weight gain during the first year of college (the so-called "Freshman 15"), including poor eating habits, lack of sleep, too much stress and not enough exercise.

College is the first time many young adults are on their own. Eating on the run, difficulty with time management and lack of resources often lead college students to eat a lot of fast food and rely on pizza delivery services for their dining needs. The biggest difference between being at home and away at school is experiencing a complete lifestyle change.

Some common indicators of college life:
  • Home-cooked meals become a distant memory.
  • Dining halls serve up unhealthy fare (and unappetizing green hot dogs!)
  • The local pizza place is listed in your favorite fives.
  • You consider a value meal at a drive-through part of a well-balanced diet.
  • You experience a high level of stress from heavy course loads and trying to make ends meet.
  • A college social life often includes late-night eating and drinking, which adds a lot of extra calories.
  • Finding time to exercise is nearly impossible when you are balancing school, work, extra-curricular activities and a social life.
Despite these lifestyle changes, you can beat the odds and avoid gaining the Freshman 15. College life can certainly present challenges, but it is entirely possible to maintain or lose weight the first year away at college.

Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle on Campus:

  • Practice time management skills and schedule your workouts.
  • Schedule your classes so that you have to walk across campus several times a day to consistently get more walking in.
  • Stay on top of class projects to avoid all-nighters. Make sure you get enough sleep each night.
  • Discover your most productive time of day when your energy is high and use it to your advantage to get more done in a shorter amount of time.
  • Pack healthy snack in your backpack that include protein. This will make it easier to resist the junk food cravings.
  • Sign up for intramural (non-competitive) sports for fun and exercise.
  • Eat naturally whenever possible.
  • Don't rely on pop or energy drinks to stay alert.
  • Carefully watch your portion sizes. When served a full plate of spaghetti, you should be able to eyeball what a single serving looks like and eat only that portion of the meal.
  • Don't skip breakfast. A high-fiber, low-fat breakfast that includes protein is a powerful way to start your day.
Hopefully your parents have instilled good eating habits and solid nutritional goals in students before they move away to college, but it is never too late to make healthier choices and prevent weight gain.

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