How to avoid Freshman 15 in a clever way?

“15” is a bit of a misnomer. According to an Ohio State study, only about 10 percent of college freshmen actually gain 15 or more pounds. Depending on what source you consult, the average weight gained by first-year students is between two and six pounds.
So what causes the Freshman 15? There’s pretty much a perfect storm of reasons to consider.
For the first time in your life, you’re determining your own diet. You’re more likely to lean hard into the junk food that first year, and healthy food options aren’t always going to be available. Not only that, but you’re also not getting as much time to exercise regularly.
Further, it’s not only what you eat, but when you eat. Do you tend to snack when it’s 2 a.m. and you’re two papers and three Red Bulls into an all-nighter? A Northwestern study found that eating at night leads to twice as much weight gain as eating during the day, regardless of calories. Your metabolism slows down when your body thinks it’s time for bed, so you pack those calories away instead of burning them.
One final factor to consider: College can be stressful. Leaving home, taking harder classes, meeting new people—it’s an overwhelming time. Stress has a chemical relationship to weight gain; when a body is stressed out, it releases cortisol, a hormone that slows metabolism. Not only that, but stress can cause you to run to the greasy, outstretched arms of comfort food.
Time to start shedding those pounds. Pause and print this WellCast worksheet.
One: Stick to a strict schedule. On your WellCast worksheet, pencil in your classes and extracurricular activities for the week. Now, plan when you’re going to eat every day based on this schedule. Try to space these meals out every three-to-four hours, and plan your last meal of the day at least three hours before bedtime. Don’t even think about foregoing food in favor of alcohol, either. Even if you’re planning to go to a kegger on Friday, stick to your three scheduled meals—you’ll be less likely to stop by Del Taco on the way back to your dorm.
Better yet, stock your dorm fridge with healthier snacks—such as blueberries or carrot sticks—for when you get late-night cravings.
Two: The two-thirds rule. Navigating your dining hall is one of the trickiest obstacles to maintaining a healthy weight. Follow this simple rule for filling your tray as you go through the buffet. Two-thirds of your plate is reserved for grains, vegetables, and fruits. That way, you fill up on fiber, not empty calories, but you don’t totally cut yourself off from your favorite foods.
Three: The 20-minute rule. After you’ve eaten your first round, make yourself wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds. Odds are, you won’t be hungry anymore. 20 minutes is about how long it takes for your brain to realize your stomach is full and stop sending those annoying hunger pangs.
Four: Get active. Find a way to work some fun exercise into your routine. Join a campus group or club—ultimate frisbee, anyone?—or find out if your school offers a free or discounted membership to the gym. If you have to, just make a conscious effort to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Five: Address that stress. Keeping a healthy weight isn’t just about eating and exercising. You also need to be on top of your mental and emotional health. If you’re overwhelmed or too stressed—and if you’re parlaying that stress into bad eating habits—your campus most likely has resources such as advisors or counselors that can help you.
To recap: Avoid the dreaded Freshman 15 with our six steps. When you’re in the dining hall, make sure two-thirds of your plate is taken up by grains, veggies, and fruit. After you eat, wait 20 minutes before going to get seconds. Stick to as strict an eating schedule as you can manage, and plant healthy snacks in your dorm for when you have cravings. Find a campus activity you can join where you’ll be able to get some exercise. Most importantly, find healthy outlets for your stress.
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