Avoiding gaining the freshman 15

Venturing off to university and living on your own for the first time ever is exciting. But while you may tempted to eat all sorts of junk food and lie about on the couch all the time (that is, everything your parents frowned upon) you might enjoy it at first — until you notice your unhealthy habits catching up with you in the form of weight gain.

college female freshmen moving into dorms

When you’re living on your own for the first time, making your own schedule and in charge of what you eat, it’s easy to fall into a trap of eating poorly and not getting enough exercise. Yes, we’re talking about the dreaded freshman 15. Poor lifestyle habits can quickly translate into your clothes feeling uncomfortably snug, and you may even find you need to invest in bigger-size clothing.

Now, if you’re eating only pizza and ramen, you probably already know you need to start eating a more balanced diet. But here are some other lifestyle changes you can make to prevent gaining those 15 pounds.

Make fitness part of your social life

Don’t just hang out at the campus pub. “Socialize through exercise!” says Sammie Kennedy, founder of Booty Camp Fitness. “A great way to meet new people and make new friends is to get involved in some recreational activities! Join a dance class, fitness class, running group or sports team to stay active, and have lots of fun doing it.”

Don’t drink your calories

While you’re aiming to get more vegetables and less fatty foods into your diet, don’t forget to watch your booze consumption. “A major contributor to the freshman 15 is often the social life!” says Kennedy, which, as we all know, often includes drinking. “But keep in mind that not only are you consuming an excess of empty calories on the weekends, but the effects of alcohol also slow down your metabolism and cut into a lot of valuable time during the day that you can be spending getting to know your new friends!” She suggests limiting your alcohol consumption to a couple of beverages each week.

Find ways to commit to getting active

Find it difficult to commit to working out? Kennedy points out that exercise has been shown to increase brain power and mental awareness — so a fitness routine may help you ace your studies (and we all want better grades, after all)! “So schedule in your exercise session daily to excel in all areas of your life — what university student doesn’t want to get their homework done faster so they can have fun?” she says.

And of course you’ll want to find an activity you enjoy; that way it won’t feel like a chore to exercise. “If working out feels as daunting as a thesis assignment, you are not going to do it!” says Kennedy. “Find something that speaks to you, whether it be boot camp, high-intensity interval training workouts that take less time, yoga, dance or sports. The key to avoiding that weight gain and staying fit is to actually crave your workout because it’s so much fun!” she says.

More on exercise and health

Timing exercise right: How exercise affects sleep
Is indulging in fast food OK?
Best low-impact workouts

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