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Fighting Off The Freshman 15

by Erin Johnson Slippery Rock University Freshman - Special for eDietsFrom eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

EDITOR'S NOTE: The dreaded Freshman 15 isn't merely an old wife's tale. Studies show the average weight gain for a college freshman is almost 11 times more than 17- and 18-year-olds should normally gain. The first-year students eat an estimated 174 more calories than they burn in a day's time. The main culprit: the all-you-can-eat campus dining halls.

When you signed the endless forms needed to enroll in college, you might not have realized you were signing up for an extra 15 pounds! But packing on the infamous Freshman 15 is all too common.

Almost every undergrad will struggle with his or her weight. It seems to be as much a part of student life as studying and partying!

As if the first-year student doesn’t have enough to worry about. But never fear. There is a way to enjoy dining hall buffets, late night munchies and even the ever-present alcoholic beverages without sacrificing your slim high school figure!

Before I start dishing out the lessons I've learned here at Slippery Rock, let me share what a few other freshman are blaming for their weight gain.

Kat Laskowski of the University of Central Florida says, “The late night parties are killer -- most of the drinks are high in calories. Plus I eat a lot more when I’m drinking."

Michelle McClellan of Slippery Rock University admits, “I feel the biggest factor is not having motivation to work out or do anything in an athletic manner. It is too easy to sit at your computer and go online all evening, or just sit and watch TV or a movie. All the junk food and soda we have in our rooms does not help either.”

I agree. Strapped-for-cash college students are definitely going to opt for the dime-a-pack Ramen noodles over a pricey Lean Cuisine dinner any day!

Amidst figuring out how to deal with overwhelming new responsibilities and pressures -- as well as learning to navigate the unfamiliar environment we have suddenly been thrown into -- we freshmen often look forward to relaxing at the convenient all-you-can-eat dining halls at least twice a day. Whether we are on the go between classes or sitting down for an hour, a simple swipe of our student ID card presents us with limitless dining options. Tempting our stressed-out, hungry bellies is fresh-from-the-oven pizza, pasta in a variety of hot sauces, hearty cheeseburgers, and many homestyle offerings like meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and juicy red meats.

But an educated dieter can bypass these artery clogging choices and find some pretty healthy options that I certainly wouldn’t mind adding to my tray! While catching naps during my morning classes, I often dream about the heaping, colorful salad I’m going to indulge in at lunch. I pile my plate high with green lettuce, topped with crisp, fresh veggies and beans. Because I simply cannot avoid sweets, I always add some type of fresh fruit or some frozen yogurt for a treat.

I've found that other smart options include lean, white meats like grilled chicken or turkey on wheat bread, or fish with steamed vegetables. Most dining halls will offer an impressive selection of super-healthy foods like organic fruits and vegetables, veggie burgers, vegetable pizza, and hummus. Be open-minded. Include a variety of great tasting, good-for-you foods.

Nervous snacking, midnight pizzas and beer binges are the norm on campus. Indulge and it won’t take long for those calories to add up. September’s 15 extra pounds might balloon into December's 30 if you lose control.

I've found that successfully managing stress by getting enough sleep, the right nutrition, and keeping up with schoolwork is essential for helping me avoid the mindless munching that often accompanies the pressure and tension of an all-night cramming session. When the girls on my dorm floor order pizzas in the middle of the night, I’m not about to be the odd one out. But instead of pigging out, I’ll allow myself a small slice and make it last through my friend’s four!

I’m also sure to keep plenty of fruits, veggies, crackers and yogurt in my dorm room to stave off junk food binges. And for those weekend tailgate parties, I allow myself a few light beers. I've found it’s a good idea to mix in a few healthy snacks to spread out the calories from my cocktails.

Because everyone’s going to slip up every once in a while (and that's perfectly okay) no matter how busy your schedule, there’s always time to sweat a little so you don’t gain a lot! Most colleges provide fitness facilities with high-tech, modern cardio and strength-training equipment. The machines are usually free for students and available when you need it.

I've found that exercise is crucial during these hectic college years. It helps you shape up while it improves your mood. And it’s a great way to meet other like-minded students at your school!

So there ya have it -- the Freshman 15 can be avoided. Stay active, eat right, and have FUN!

Buckle up freshmen... it’s gonna be quite a ride!

Erin Johnson is an 18-year-old freshman at Slippery Rock University, where she's majoring in Resort Management and minoring in Business Management. With a BMI of 19 and a body fat reading of 16%, she's successfully sidestepping
the dreaded Freshman 15.

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