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Best Ways to Fight the Freshman 15

By: Eric Schiabel, BBA 2021

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First year university brings a lot of changes and huge adjustments that often result in the dreaded “Freshman 15”. Although it is common to gain weight during the first year, studies show that 15 pounds is an exaggeration. Before you celebrate with an extra large pizza, a large percentage of students do gain that much.

So why do students put on weight? It’s a combination of generous meal plans, large portions, drinking, heavy snacking, more stress (adjusting to academic expectations that may be more challenging than anticipated), and less physical activity. Gaining weight with this unhealthy lifestyle is almost inevitable. University years are a crucial time to practice healthy eating habits as well as stress management techniques, which we can carry forward into adulthood. The following five guidelines will help you to stay focused, healthy, and decrease the struggle you may feel in this very new environment.

1. Stick To A Schedule
The sudden change of schedule from high school years when you ate three meals a day can affect your body size. Not eating proper meals at regular intervals can slow down metabolism and lead to an increase in your pant size.

Schedule meals during your day, as this will help curb cravings of less healthy fillers. Even if your day is inconsistent (for example, you sleep through breakfast, and go straight to class, and then work very late into the night), you can still plan healthy meals every five or six hours with nutritious snacks in between!

2. Choose Healthy Snacks
Instead of munching on processed foods like chips or candy bars between classes, be prepared with fruit, nuts, veggies, yogurt, hummus packs or trail mix instead. Invest in a fridge for your dorm to keep these fresh foods on hand. Studies show that when you are trying to stay awake and focused, chewing (sugar-free) gum can help. When you just need to have some chips or cookies to get through all-nighters or stress, buy single-serving packs and miniature chocolate.

3. Make Better Meal Choices
Having a meal plan can make things easier because you don’t have to cook, but things can quickly get out of control if you choose burgers, fries, and pizza more often than healthier alternatives like veggie stir-fry. Remember to fill half your plate with veggies, a quarter with grains (preferably whole grains), and the rest with protein (fish, chicken, eggs, legumes). If dinner is pizza, add a salad on the side, or better yet, eat the salad first so you fill up with the healthy stuff before you grab another slice!

4. Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
With access to alcohol and more opportunity to drink it, university students are often consuming more calories than they think. One beer has 150 calories but if you have five, that’s 750 calories! That is the equivalent of an extra Burger King Whopper with cheese!

Drinking at night can be a catalyst to throwing you off your schedule. You eat late, sleep in, skip breakfast, and your regular meal pattern and structure is thrown into havoc. It is possible to even mistake hangovers or fatigue for hunger and then overeat as a result.

Alcohol consumption in moderation is one drink a day for women, and two for men. Make sure you alternate with plenty of water while drinking alcohol, choose low calorie beer/pop/juice, and limit the sugar/cream filled coffee drinks (yes, pumpkin spice lattes have a lot of calories – 591 calories for a Venti).

5. Stay Active
The transition you are making and the added stress of adjusting to some of the challenges all at once can be better managed with a good workout. Check out the campus fitness centre, Tait Mackenzie ($15/year to use the workout room, or otherwise free access to the pool and other courts/facilities!), use fitness to meet new friends, and socialize without eating. Join a recreational sports team, a running club, do yoga or even rock climbing. These activities will help de-stress, lose weight, and help you develop healthy lifelong habits.

It won’t be easy to incorporate these tips into your schedule but the payoffs of prioritizing your health and structuring your day will pay off in your state of being, your experience in university, and your academics in the long run!


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