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Stressed About Gaining Weight in College? These Tips Can Help

September 10, 2019DMT.NEWS

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How to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen

Avoiding the freshman fifteen can be pretty tough. You’re probably on your own for the first time, and if you’re living in a college dorm, you have a meal plan with essentially unlimited amounts of food and freedom. It can be hard not to indulge when you haven't built up your healthy habits, and finding self-control when you have so much newfound freedom can be a real lesson in personal growth and willpower!

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To keep you on the right track, we spoke to a handful of health and fitness experts who have been there. Here, we’re laying out their best advice to help you avoid the freshman fifteen – while still indulging and enjoying your first year of college to the fullest.

Keep Eating and Working Out Like You Did in High School

Martise Moore, founder of GreenRunner, has been there. Her best advice? Don’t be so quick to switch up your habits. As a freshman in college, you are only a few months older than you were in high school. So, it's very unlikely that your body will experience any big hormonal changes that will make you more likely to gain weight. What makes you more likely to gain weight are changes in your eating and workout routines.

In college, your schedule is a lot less regimented and high calorie food and drinks are a lot more convenient to access, so it's very easy to engage in mindless eating to pass the time or comfort yourself as you adjust to your new environment and expectations. Don't fall into this trap. Be mindful of when and what you eat throughout the day.

Also, if you no longer play sports like you did in high school, you will probably gain weight. But just because you aren't the starting wide receiver on the football team anymore doesn't mean that you can't play in club or intramural sports. Recreational activities are a great way to stay in shape, stay competitive and have lots of fun.

Avoid Binge Drinking

“My biggest tip for freshmen students wanting to remain fit and avoid packing on the pounds is to limit their alcohol consumption!” says Liz Jeneault of Faveable. “While freshmen college students aren't of legal drinking age anyway, we know many of them still regularly consume alcohol. The only problem is that's bad for fitness! It's hard for college students to keep their drinking in check. They may go out multiple nights a week and when you're consuming all those sugary beverages at night, you're bound to gain some weight.”

Not to mention, drinking may lead to bad food choices. When you're drunk you crave pizza, wings, burgers, french fries – all the salty things that cause bloat! Alcohol also impacts our ability to embrace the next day. When you're hungover, you're more sluggish and more likely to make even more bad food choices. Relying on cheese fries to get you through each hangover is bound to have an impact after a while. You're also less likely to work out if you're hungover. If you must drink, be sure to consume plenty of water as well. Make drinking water the absolute priority.

Avoid Self-Induced Stress

Cortisol is the “stress hormone,” released by the adrenal glands and triggered by the brain during moments of stress. Cortisol also causes your body to pack on the pounds. “Don't get me wrong, life can be stressful, but don't make things harder than they have to be,” says Certified Sports Nutritionist James Oliver. “With that being said, procrastination and poor financial health are amongst the leading causes of self-inflicted stress, and both are easily avoidable with a little discipline. Make a budget and stick to it. When you have homework or need to study for an exam, don't put it off till the last minute – stress less and plan ahead.”

For preventative measures, Oliver recommends trying a natural supplement like ashwagandha, a plant-based superfood adaptogen that can help your body adapt to stress, and fight fatigue so you can feel your best and avoid unwanted weight gain.

Meal Prep

James Oliver also suggests meal prepping to help stay lean. “Meal prepping is a great way to help stay fueled when you're on-the-go between work and class. Develop a routine that allocates time to nourish your body and mind so you can perform at your best.”

Keep a bag of roasted almonds on-hand at all times, or a clean protein bar that's high in healthy fats and low in sugar, like the Atlas Bar. This will help you keep you satiated between larger meals and away from fast- food. They call it fast-food because it makes you gain weight … fast.

Make Sleep a Priority

What does sleep have to do with the freshman 15? A lot, actually. According to Dr. Alex Tauberg, a Pittsburgh chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist, lack of sleep is directly associated with weight gain. “Lack of sleep lowers your inhibition levels,” says Dr. Tauberg. “In other words you might know that you shouldn't be doing something but you do it anyway because you crave that reward. When you are sleep deprived, you are more likely to behave in a way where you let yourself get that reward more often than you would if you had enough sleep.”

Essentially, on a poor night’s sleep, when you see those cookies, you’re going to eat them, whereas when you get that solid night of sleep you will have the willpower not to. College kids don't get enough sleep and this can be especially true of stressed out freshman. Get a good night's sleep; it's important.

Build a Network of Health-Conscious Friends

Samantha Clayton, Vice President at Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness, and Herbalife Nutritionist, says the best way to stay lean and fit in college is to surround yourself with health-conscious peers. A supportive network will allow you to bring together people who have similar wellness goals, and contribute to a sense of community and a friendly, social environment. Studies have also shown a higher success rate when you have someone to help you stay accountable.

You could join campus recreation activities, which is a great way to stay active and meet new friends or sign up for an event like a 5k or tough mudder. Another way to ensure you’re taking care of yourself without sacrificing time with friends is to find activities you can do together. Most cities, and even some schools, sponsor themed group runs to benefit a charity or group on campus.

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Kaitlyn McInnis, Khareem Sudlow

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