Thursday, September 13, 2012

Avoiding the "Freshman Fifteen"

The summer leading up to your big debut as a college student, you were probably forced into having the same monotonous conversation with every friend and relative about your plans for college. Along with the amount of times someone thought you said "Harvard," even more frustrating are the amount of jokes made about the dreaded "Freshman 15." Before long, people have you thinking it's not only an epidemic, but that it's completely unavoidable.

The truth is, switching to a college lifestyle is a shock to the system in many ways. Sleep patterns are thrown through a loop, stress is at an all-time high, and you're left to fend for yourself. So while people are quick to blame dining services for their unintended weight gain, it's not so much the quality of the food as it is the change in habits and lack of good choices. If you're adamant about proving your relatives wrong and coming back for the holidays looking better than ever, there's just a few things you need to avoid.

First off, rid your dorm room of any unhealthy snacks. Procrastinating and eating go hand-in-hand, and it can be pretty impossible to focus on work when you know there's a full bag of Chips Ahoy under your bed. Instead, try keeping healthy snacks in your room. All natural foods like raw nuts and granola can satisfy that mid-study craving without sending you into a sugar rush and throwing your mind off track even more.

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes college students make is eating late at night. Irregular sleeping patterns cause the body stress alone, and when the metabolic cycles are also thrown off it just makes sleep patterns more irregular. But while it's not always so much what time you eat that makes a difference, it's the types of food we're likely to eat late at night that are the problem. Next time you're feeling that itch to go get a Konover sandwich at 1 in the morning, try to distract yourself. Better yet, avoid the late-night hunger pangs by adding more protein and fiber into your dinner. An extra helping of chicken or beans are likely to keep you satisfied longer.

While eating healthier is a challenge in itself, it's also important to stay active. Even though you might think the hike to Auerbach and back is more than enough exercise for one day, it's not enough to keep off the pounds. Besides, exercise has great benefits that might even boost your GPA while lowering your BMI. Exercise releases endorphins, which are known fighters of stress. Going for a short run every day can be enough to melt away the stress, keep off the fat, and leave you feeling energized and ready to work.

Back to those jokes you're hearing about the "Freshman 15." It's likely Uncle Johnny wasn't referring to all the over-eating you'd be doing, but rather all the over-drinking. Thus we have the culprit in so many cases of the Freshman 15: Alcohol. If the risk of slipping grades and getting written up isn't enough to sway you from drinking three nights a week, let it be the risk of the slowly developing "beer gut."

It's not so bad. All you have to do is avoid unhealthy snacks, late night eating, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking. It may seem like a challenge, but you'll be well on your way to having the last laugh at the family holiday party.

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