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The Simple Steps to Avoid the "Freshman 15"

Brian Calkins - NSCA-CPT, ACE | Cincinnati, Ohio

As we move into a brand new school year, many college students fall prey to adding a little weight in undesirable areas. Although there has been little scientific validity to back up the “Freshman-15,” the supposed amount of weight the average college freshman gains in her first year of school, many students do add to their waistlines during their college years.

In fact, yours truly put on a whopping 40 pounds of excess body fat between graduating high school and my second year of college. That’s a story for another day, but it was an adventure that ultimately led me down the path of becoming a personal trainer.

Below are the steps to help you (or your son or daughter) avoid and undesirable body weight changes.

1. Get Educated! After all, that’s what college is all about. In addition to your core curriculum, get educated on how to make healthy choices in the cafeteria or when eating on campus. This is likely the first time you (or your son or daughter) are completely independent and making decisions without the watchful eye of a parent. A little education on nutrition goes a long way to creating healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime! A school counselor can help you find the appropriate resources for nutrition information…and many colleges offer this service free of charge.

2. Join a Team! If you played sports in high school, continue your sport of choice by joining an intramural league at school. It’s a great way to get some exercise and meet new friends who share your passion.

3. Get to the campus recreational facility on a regular basis! It’s free at most colleges and oftentimes it is packed with the latest equipment, programs and fitness classes. Remember, along with keep your weight down, exercise stimulates brain activity allowing you to be better prepared, more productive and energized for your college assignments!

4. Keep Moving!  You can effortlessly add 30 minutes of exercise each day by walking or riding your bike to classes instead of driving or taking the bus. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. If you live in a dorm on the 15th floor you’ll get an awesome workout heading home! Every little bit counts.

5. Get enough sleep. Studies clearly demonstrate the correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain. Avoid late night cramming sessions to keep your body on a regular pattern of sleep, allowing for reduced stress and subsequent overeating. Sufficient sleep is also important for academic success!!

6. Eat Small Meals Frequently! Skipping meals increases your chances of overeating later. Strive to eat 4 or 5 small meals per day to keep cravings in check. This will also allow your energy to be constant while giving your brain the glucose it needs to function at peak levels.

7. Be Wary of Unhealthy Snacking! Choose wholesome snacks instead candy or high fat ones. Bring an apple, banana or whole grain lower fat snacks to help you avoid a trip to the vending machine between classes.

Remember that you don’t have to be perfect with your nutrition and exercise - it’s consistency over the long haul that counts. As you review the list above, realize too that the same steps to help you avoid gaining weight in college are the same steps that will put your intellectual and mental capacities in high gear for academic success! Here’s to a healthy and productive college experience…