For years you’ve probably heard about the dreaded Freshman 15 weight gain and ignored the lurking message since it did not immediately apply to you. However, upon arriving at your freshman year of college, you may find yourself wondering what factors contribute to this excessive weight gain affecting many first year college students. Although more common among females than males, the Freshman 15 still remains a prevalent issue on college campuses for many students.
As a high school athlete with a relatively healthy diet and average metabolism, I was convinced that I could stay motivated and maintain my physique, regardless of repeated warnings from older college students. Unfortunately, the buffet-style meals got the best of me and my curves, leaving me 15 pounds heavier upon arrival at UCSB. Even with a set gym schedule, each unnecessary bite of food at the dining commons and extra beer chugged during Isla Vista’s late weekend nights seemed to have made all of the difference. After moving out of the dorms and getting back on track with a typical balanced diet and workout plan, I am now back to my high school weight and have a good grasp of what tactics are helpful to staying healthy during your Freshman year.
When there is an unlimited supply of food, desserts, and everything in between for each course of the day, it is important to understand healthy habits before tackling the challenge of having a school meal plan. Familiarize yourself with an arrangement you want to stick to before the time comes when you have to leave your mom’s home cooked dining. Like any diet, it is important to eat low-calorie foods while avoiding processed and fried (aka fattening and unhealthy) foods. Start the morning off right by eating breakfast with a cup of coffee to curb your cravings until lunch. Green tea is also a great drink to maintain a rocking bod since it is a metabolism booster and an effective way to keep weight off. Fruit is another effective way to jump-start your metabolism in the morning. If you need a heartier meal than cereal (opt for non-fat or 1% milk), oatmeal and egg whites are both great options. For lunch, Ortega offers a delicious make-your-own sandwich station with different meats each day or the choice of peanut butter and jelly. Choosing whole wheat over sourdough bread supplies the body with extra fiber, an essential nutrient for your gastrointestinal and long-term health. For dinner, each cafeteria offers meat or fish and a variety of vegetables. A bowl of soup or making a wrap are also good sides to a meal. A great option for any meal is to utilize the countless toppings at the salad bar and add in random condiments from other stations, such as grilled vegetables, chicken, tuna, cheese, salsa, or strawberries. The most important tactic necessary to avoid weight gain is to steer clear of the ever-present unhealthy foods, such as pizza, hash browns, waffles, bagels, excess pasta, desserts, and ice-cream (DLG has a delicious non-fat vanilla option for when your sweet tooth kicks in).
Sticking with healthy foods can still be problematic when each meal is served buffet style, especially when meals are consumed with friends. Heading to eat with a group is as much a social hour as it is a meal, so dining common experiences often consist of much time and chatter, making it easy to return for second and third rounds of food. Be aware of how much food you are consuming and eat slowly so you have time to digest your food and are conscious of when you are getting full so as not to consume excess calories. In addition, take advantage of the fact that students are allowed to bring out one piece of fruit per meal. Fruit is vital to any diet and contains nutrients that are incredibly healthy and leave your body feeling satisfied. Eat a piece during your meal and bring out another one to snack on later in the day or evening. Avoid having unhealthy snacks and candy in your dorm room so you will not experience temptation to chow down when stress kicks in. Another key tip is to remember that cravings only last 15 minutes, so when you think a huge piece of cake or plate of French fries looks appealing, give it time and eventually the strong feeling to munch will subside.
The transition from home life into a college atmosphere away from parents is a leading factor in students’ weight gain. Alcohol consumption has no nutritional value so be sure to factor those late nights of fun into your daily calorie intake, since it can be very easy to pack on an extra 100 calories per drink. Late-night munching can also be dangerous and often unavoidable. It is vital to try the 3am Freebirds nacho experience, but do not overdo this UCSB tradition, especially if there are no intentions of sharing with friends. If need be, wait until you get back to your room where you can stow away some healthy food for this type of occasion. You’ll be thankful you did in the morning.
Finally, remember that exercise is necessary for keeping your mind and body happy and healthy. At the start of each quarter, compile a workout schedule that fits in with your course schedule. You can take advantage of the UCSB gym or go for a run to explore campus, the lagoon, and our local beaches. Just half an hour of cardio every other day will make a difference, so definitely treat this time as a requirement to help you stick to your goals. If exercise seems like a daunting task, then find a workout buddy to join you and help you stay motivated and on the right track.
Sticking to a solid food and exercise plan is a difficult task, but well worth the effort. Follow these key tips and you’ll be sure to have a healthy and happy Freshman year.