Everyone has heard of the Freshman 15 and almost as many have wondered how to avoid the freshman 15 at one time too. A new lifestyle change begets academic pressure, hormonal changes, and excessive eating (and drinking), so it’s not uncommon to gain weight the first of year of college. My first year, I didn’t just gain 15 pounds, I gained 20—all in the first semester.
The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize I had gained weight until one day I tried to put on a pair of my favorite jeans and couldn’t get them above my thighs. I was so naive to my weight gain that my first initial thought was that I must have put the jeans in the dryer.
In retrospect, my quick weight gain makes complete sense in the same way that two plus two equals four. I ate too much and never exercised, which quickly resulted with my favorite pair of jeans being thrown into the corner of the closet, never to be seen again. Every pound was well earned and well deserved. My mornings began by inhaling pop tarts, which I assumed were a nutritious meal since they had strawberry or blueberry filling. Late nights were spent ordering a large pizza with extra toppings and finishing it off with a bag of chips. And let’s not forget the fact that I was given a college credit card with food points and unlimited access to the cafeteria. Really?! Even now, it's hard for me to walk past a plate of french fries and not steal a few. I always make the joke that if I ever get married, I hope that I have to search for the ring in a vat of fries.
It wasn’t until I returned home to visit my parents during a school break that I realized how much weight I gained. You see, my father is the kind of man that doesn’t notice anything—he is loving and caring of course, but he also happens to be completely oblivious. I still remember one day back in high school when I walked across the living room wearing the same uniform I had worn since 5th grade—my father looked at me with a look of confusion, saying he didn't realize I still wore uniforms. Or the time he told a friend of his I was 15 years old when I was actually 17. So you can understand then, why I took it to heart when my father kindly said, with no judgment, “You’ve gained 5 pounds or so.” This didn’t just mean it was apparent, this meant that there was a neon sign flashing the words, “WHOA, WEIGHT GAIN!” above my head.
Enough was enough! From that point on, I decided it was time to get back on the healthy track and create some ground rules. A few months later, I was nearly back to my old self and feeling better than ever. I was healthy, fit and loving school. But don’t get me wrong, every now and again a few of those fries crawled their way onto my plate.
Here are my five ground rules to avoid the Freshman 15:
With all the food temptation in college, it’s okay to give yourself one day a week when you can eat whatever you want. Now of course, this doesn’t mean go absolutely crazy. But if you want fries, have them. If you crave a slice of pizza, eat it! Just try to limit it to once a week and dedicate the rest of your week to healthy and nutritious meals filled with complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and plenty of water.
Cheat snacks in your dorm room are the death of a good diet. When you are up late at night studying or watching television and you suddenly have the urge to splurge on calories, unhealthy food at arm’s length only adds fuel to the fire. Instead, keep your fridge or snack basket filled with foods that you know you won’t regret eating in the morning. Raw nuts, dried fruit, and flax seed crackers are great options.
No matter how grueling studying can be, you always have 30 minutes to spare. No excuses. Commit to exercise five times a week for at least 30 minutes. You can go for a walk, go to the gym or join a class. If you don’t keep it moving, the weight won’t budge.
To help keep you from consuming too many calories, drink eight ounces of water and wait five to ten minutes before you eat your meal. It will help fill you up faster and might keep you from going for seconds.
When I knew I had gained weight, I purposely avoided wearing clothes in my closet that I knew were tight. But avoidance doesn’t advocate change, and instead can put you into a deeper state of denial. Face your fears and—with no judgment—try on the clothes. It will help give you a good idea of how much you have gained, and it can be a great tool for motivation to get healthy and back into your favorite pair of jeans.
What are your favorite tips to avoid the freshman 15?
Kit Rich is Los Angeles-based fitness trainer with endless exercise and nutritional know-how. Hollywood's hottest stars are addicted to Kit's unique, multi-disciplined approach that combines cardio, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Kit's clients are immediately taken by her funny and honest approach to health and fitness. She treats her clients as she treats herself, "with a hard challenge, sensibility, sensitively, and a good laugh." Follow Kit on Twitter @kitrichfitness.