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15 ways to fend off the “Freshman 15”

So, you’re finally getting the hang of this “college student” thing. You’ve grown quite used to scrambling out of bed for your 8 a.m. Econ lecture, scoping out the quiet spots in the library and regrettably, taking your mom’s healthy home-cooked meals for granted.

Amidst the overwhelming array of all-you-can-eat options and aroma of freshly baked sweets in the dining hall, the infamous “Freshman 15” phenomenon lingers in the back of your mind — will you be its next victim?

First featured in an article published by Seventeen Magazine in the 1980s, the “Freshman 15” refers to a spike in weight gain among first-year college students, particularly females. Whether there’s any truth to the legend is a topic of much debate. But myth or not, it’s fair to say that health is not a priority for most college students.

Whether you’re trying to fight that first-year weight gain or just take better care of yourself, we’ve pieced together 15 simple steps you can follow to achieve a holistically healthy approach to the college lifestyle.

1. Start your day off strong.

As tempting as hitting the snooze button for the second time sounds, it only makes getting out of bed much more difficult. Hop in the shower, meet a friend for breakfast and set your goals for the day. Better yet, make the most of your mornings with an early morning workout routine.

Productivity is power.

2. Get your steps in.

Give yourself a few extra minutes throughout the day to take the stairs instead of the elevator and head outside for a stroll around campus when you need a brain break and some fresh air.

“Explore."

Related: 5 ways to squeeze more physical activity into your day

3. Don’t drink your calories.

The mid-day slump comes around and you find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over about 10 times. Instead of loading up on the extra sugar and calories in an energy drink, opt for a black coffee or a tea and drink plenty of water.

4. Tag along with a workout partner.

If the thought of simply attempting to operate an elliptical makes you break out in a sweat, find a friend who doubles as a workout buddy. Keep each other motivated, accountable and discover ways to make exercising fun.

5. Join a club.

Most universities offer intramural and club sports teams free of charge, and you don’t even have to pretend you’re a D1 athlete. This is a great way to meet new people, get involved and stay active.

6. Don’t skip meals.

I used to roll my eyes as a kid when my mom would say, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but she wasn’t kidding. Fuel your body with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nobody wants to be around you when you’re hangry.

Related: Why you shouldn’t skip meals to lose weight

7. Swap the bad for the better.

Some easy swaps include:

  • Drinking water and other healthy beverage choices instead of soda 
  • Munching on veggies instead of French fries
  • Switching wheat bread for white bread
  • Opting for fruit instead of a heavy dessert

8. Stock up.

Plan a visit to your nearest grocery store or on-campus market to stock up on healthy snacks like protein bars, fruit and popcorn you can keep in your backpack or in your dorm room. But when it comes to protein bars, choose wisely.

9. Resist the late-night temptation.

It’s 2 a.m. and you’ve been cramming for finals all night long… you just can’t seem to shake the pizza craving. Although there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a few slices of pizza every once in a while, this is the best time tip #8 will come in handy.

10. Eat to enjoy.

Have you ever found yourself eating way too fast or feeling obligated to finish every last bit of food on your plate? We’re all guilty. Eat to satisfy and nourish your body, only order what you can finish, chew slower and savor the moment.

11. Stay educated.

Use the resources that are available at your fingertips to your advantage. Stay educated about health, wellness and food through reputable blogs, books and health experts.

Remember that many diet fads and cleanses out there might not be the best option for your needs – be careful jumping head first into diets like Whole30 or keto.

12. Avoid comparison.

Social media: the powerful platform to connect, to create and if used poorly, to compare. Unplug and unwind a bit each day and remember that everybody is built a unique way; what works for some might not always be the case for all.

13. Listen to your body.

In college, peer pressure is ever so prevalent. Try not to give in and listen to your body.  Prioritize building a balanced, healthy relationship with your food preferences and lifestyle choices in mind.

14. Recharge your battery.

If only naptime existed in college, too… unfortunately, it’s not on the syllabus. That being said, at the end of an exhausting day, it’s inevitable that your bed becomes your best friend and saving grace. Make it a priority to get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep for a refreshing start to the next day or week ahead.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor.

15. Repeat steps 1 – 13.

And remember, freshman year and the infamous “Freshman 15” don’t have to be as intimidating as they sound.

Subscribe to the Scrubbing In newsletter for more health and wellness tips you can trust. Together, we can tackle college with confidence!  

About the author

Sara Zuniga
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Sara Zuniga is a marketing communications intern with Baylor Scott and White Health. A Texas native and graduate of Southern Methodist University, she is passionate about all things wellness and strives to contribute impactful stories that reach our community and beyond.

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15 ways to fend off the “Freshman 15”