It’s April and as we are nearing the end of the semester, a few select students maybe wondering to themselves, “where did all this extra weight come from?” The freshman 15 has become one of the most feared issues on campus; because of your busy schedule and poor sleeping and eating habits, the weight creeps up and before you know it your favorite pair of jeans just does not seem to fit anymore. It’s the same story every year when no one tells you when to wake up, go to sleep or what to eat; you are free to experiment and therefore make mistakes along the way that affect your future health and in this case, your waist line.
The main issue here is overeating; unless you are exercising as much as a varsity athlete, you are most likely taking in more calories than you really need. Exercise helps, but usually it is difficult for college students to find time for physical activity in their new schedules. Freshman, in particular, are faced with many instances where they are prone to overeating. For instance, within the past year how many times have you stopped by the vending machine to pick up a snack, collected extra food from the cafeteria to stock your fridge, had a midnight ice cream or pizza party with your dorm mates, gone for seconds or thirds in the cafeterias, or enjoyed two or three desserts after dinner?
Moreover, there are plenty of instances when freshman, or any college student for that matter, may be faced with the urge to over indulge. Often these urges are more difficult to resist when we are stressed about grades, undergoing emotions like excitement, nervousness, anxiety, depression and find that a late night binge can help to take the edge off.
However, you shouldn’t feel completely hopeless, because there are ways to eat healthier in the cafeterias. Following a few of these tips, can help to shed some pounds and keep the weight from coming back sophomore year. First and most importantly, eat slowly; it takes about twenty minutes for the brain to register that the stomach is full so take your time. After taking a bite set your fork down and finish chewing before picking it up to eat another. Second, limit yourself to only one plate of food; do not come back with multiple plates on your first round through the tray line. Since most people are programmed to finish everything on their plate, seeing the first empty plate also helps your brain to register fullness.
Next, choose to have your dressing on the side; try dipping your fork into the dressing and then using it to pick up your salad. This will help lower calories consumed; if possible, choose less creamy dressings such as oil and vinegar, raspberry vinaigrette, etc. Fourth, avoid foods that have been fried or sautéed and stick to foods that have been baked, grilled, broiled, or steamed. In addition, be sure to include 2-3 servings of fresh fruit throughout the day and 3-4 servings of fresh or cooked vegetables. These foods also make a wonderful snack to take back to your room because they are low in calories but full of other vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly.
Furthermore, do not skip breakfast; this will help you to feel more refreshed and focused in the morning when your brain has had some fuel and it gets your metabolism started after waking up. If you do not have time to make it to the cafeteria before your first class, grab a bagel or some fresh fruit the night before and take it to your room for breakfast the next morning. Next, avoid over-eating 2-3 hours before bed time, a small snack or apple will suffice if you are hungry; also avoid eating when stressed, or stopping by the vending machine for snacks. Once a semester, treat yourself to an ice cream or pizza party, instead of weekly or daily parties. When you’re worried about your grades, find another outlet for your stress by grabbing a friend and going to the gym, throw the football around on the quad to expel some nervous energy, go for a walk around campus with a friend, or take a shower. Additionally, aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. With these tips to get you started, work on accomplishing each goal one step at a time. Combined, all of these actions are key in keeping your busy schedule under control, while enjoying your freedom and lifestyle as a college student. They will also help you to form better lifestyle habits that will be beneficial to your health in the long run.
Revised for accuracy by Amanda Newell, RD, Bradley Dietetic Internship
Director and Assistant Professor in Family and Consumer Sciences.