Going to College? Beat the "Freshman Fifteen" before You Even Set Foot on Campus

The "freshman fifteen" is not just a myth. Nearly one in four incoming college freshmen gain weight during the first semester, tacking on anything from a few pounds to ten pounds or more. There are countless reasons why freshmen gain weight during the first semester. In this transitional period, freshmen face new stresses, carve out new schedules, have little access to nutritious home-cooked meals, and often slip into bad habits. 

Thankfully, if you have recently received your college acceptance letter, you can do things now so that once school starts you can more successfully fight off the freshman fifteen monster.

Learn about Food and Nutrition

Let's face it, in high school, you probably thought little about your food's nutritional value. If you have always relied on a parent for your dietary needs, you likely have little knowledge of how to maneuver through the college dining facility, much less the grocery store. If you want to avoid the dreaded freshman weight gain, then now is the time to learn—before you set foot on campus. 

Do not let this intimidate you, however. If you can remember even just a few key things, then your odds of success will spike.

  • Know your caloric needs. Your body requires a certain amount of calories to sustain itself. Young females typically require between 1,800 and 2,400 calories per day, and young men need between 2,400 and 3,000 calories per day. The number of calories that you need personally will depend on your height and current weight, whether or not you need to lose any weight, and your activity level, so adjust accordingly.
  • Learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods. Calories are only the beginning of the equation. You also need to learn the differences between healthy calories, like those derived from proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fats—yes, even fats—and those derived from "empty" calories, like sugars and solid fats. If you limit the amount of empty calories that you consume, then you are well on your way to maintaining your weight. Just beware of the sneaky empty calories that you may assume are healthy. For example, trading beef for chicken may seem like a low-fat option, but if you switch to fried chicken, you just may be eating even more calories, especially empty ones. 

Start Good Habits Now 

Another way that you can avoid gaining weight in your first semester is by establishing good habits now. It is much harder to establish good habits when you are under stress, so if you establish them now, then these habits will already be automatic when the going gets tough. As a result, you will be less likely to fall into bad habits that can lead to weight gain and stress eating

Realize that you must initially work to establish good habits and they do not always come easy. It can take two or three weeks for you to get in the routine of these new habits. Establish good habits now, like finding an athletic activity that you enjoy, quitting smoking if you have started, and getting on a routine bedtime schedule, before you are faced with the stresses of college. If you need further help, get in touch with a nutritionist from a facility like the Martin Medical Center.