Food Topics Health Trends

Back (to College) in Black: Tips for Avoiding the “Freshman 15” During College

Some senior student gives food advice to incoming freshman

Well, summer has come and gone.  It went by really fast, partially due to the fact that I took a nutrition class over the summer because I thought it would be interesting.  I was right.  But now I am entering my senior year part-one.  As opposed to several of the new students on campus, who are still lost as to what they want to do, or where to go, or any other questions that lead to an existential depression.

Any incoming freshman approaching me with these questions are going to have me give them a roundabout answer, while I think in my head “Fuck, I don’t even know that.”  But what I do know is food.  And, as such, I can help people out with that.

For those out there who don’t know what the freshman fifteen is, or are too damn old to recall, essentially it’s the term given to the weight gained during the first year away from your parents, typically during the first year of college, due to a change in lifestyle factors.  So, here are some of my pieces of advice to at least try and help avoid some of this weight gain.

  1. Watch the desserts: One thing apparent when I lived in the dorms was the overall abundance of fatty and sugary snack foods on campus.  A lot of it was deep fried, and covered in sugar.  While you might have had these foods once in a while living at home, now that you’re in control of your meals, the temptation is there to eat nothing but donuts and cookies during the year.  Try to not eat so many of these, as they provide A LOT of excess Calories, which can lead to weight gain.
  2. Be mindful of beverages: My caffeine fix is black coffee.  If I had a dollar for every scrunched face I’ve seen when I mention that, I could afford a nice coffee maker, with one of those fancy coffee grinders.  However, things like sweetened coffees and teas, as well as sodas, energy drinks, etc. are loaded with Calories.  One serving can be in the 100-200 Calorie mark from what I’ve seen, but the bottle might have two or three servings.  These empty Calories from drinks can really add up, if you are not paying attention.
  3. Remember to eat your fruits and vegetables: My experience with the dorm food was way more pizza, burgers, and fries than I care to admit.  Or even remember.  I ate quite a bit of energy-dense foods, but less nutrient-dense foods.  It wasn’t until I started to feel like shit that I made the change to a slightly more healthful diet.  Sure, I still ate pizzas and burgers, but instead of cakes and cookies, on occasion, I would get a banana or an apple for dessert.  Maybe even get a salad and soup for dinner rather than the pizza and burgers.  While this might not save a whole lot of Calories long term, there’s still higher quality nutrients coming in.
  4. Be sure to exercise: Depending on how you look at it, my dorm was pretty far from the buildings my classes were held in, which is either a good or bad thing.  Good because I was getting out and exercising, rather than sitting and “studying” (aka studying YouTube or Facebook), but bad because that meant more walking.  However, walking is only one part of being well.  I did not do many stretching exercises, or strength training.  Had I exercised more, I would probably have been more toned than I am today, as my muscles, and cardiovascular system would have been made more efficient then, aiding me now.
  5. Be sure to stay positive about it all: Now, my advice given here probably won’t prevent ALL potential weight gain; there’s still a plethora of garbage food served in the dorms, whether it is labelled as healthy or not.  Now, here is a question I pose; is it better to try to avoid gaining weight or eating healthy but being miserable, or to gain some weight but have some fun doing it?  I would probably argue if you are getting out, and socializing with friends, and getting enough micronutrients to not suffer from severe deficiencies, then it’s fine to gain some weight.  Dorm food is trash, and it is extremely difficult to avoid the temptations.  And this is coming from someone who LIKES his produce.  Plus, with college you have better things to worry about than getting some extra belly.  Like grades.  And possibly work.  So I would argue here that focusing on LIVING is more important than on maintaining or gaining weight, so long as an adverse health effect is not going to happen.

So there are some of my tips.  I decided to write this post as a way to help alleviate the stress of some of the incoming freshman in college, because that shit is stressful, yo.  Keep in mind, I am not a doctor, and I still don’t play one on TV (the casting crews keep refusing my proposal to play a doctor on the show “Sesame Street.”  They are probably worried that I will “educate” the children on too many new words), so my advice is some psychotic senior student putting in his two cents, before realizing those pennies were better spent on my college debt.

So, what are some tips you have for incoming college freshman who are worried about their weight?  Any college freshman feeling less stressed to avoid the freshman fifteen?

By The Nutrition Punk

I am a dietitian living in Portland, Oregon. I write about a variety of nutrition and heath topics, with the goal of improving people's understanding of food and nutrition so they may be empowered against all the misinformation that is out there.

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