The Freshman 15: 15 Ways to Avoid It
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Health and Wellness

The Freshman 15: 15 Ways to Avoid It

The Freshman 15: 15 Ways to Avoid It

"There's nooo way I'm gonna gain the Freshman 15; I'm never gonna let it happen."

These were my exact words before I left for college. Determined? Yes. Prepared? Yes. Overoptimistic? Perhaps. There were many factors in college that I had not anticipated: free food (SO MUCH), academic stress, all-nighters, social events, etc. etc. that all contributed to the change in my physique. I never hit the 15 but I had definitely put on a couple pounds. My clothes were much more snug, my face appeared rounder in photos, and my family subtly hinted at my weight gain whenever I was home.

So whether you're an incoming college student, an upperclassmen who's still trying to lose the remainder of the 15, or someone who's trying to get healthier, here are 15 tips I wished I had known prior to freshman year:

**Transform these 15 tips into habits and most importantly, find the lifestyle that works best for YOU. These definitely helped me get back in shape this summer and I hope you find them useful! :D**

1. Sweat happy, eat happy.

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Find exercise that you truly enjoy and look forward to each day. Don't spend hours slaving away on the treadmill if you hate it. Join intramural sports, take a weight lifting class, do yoga, run, try martial arts, there are infinite ways to stay active. Same goes with food. Find nutritionally-dense foods that satisfy your palate and your appetite. If spinach isn't your thing, there are thousands of other vegetables with similar health benefits. Think different: sweat happy and eat happy.

2. Get 10,000.

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If you can walk there, do it. It may seem like a hassle, but 10,000 steps definitely add up (walking counts as LISS -- Low Intensity Steady State -- cardio!). It's also a great excuse to play Pokemon Go. So get your FitBit on, get your Pokeballs ready; it's time for you to become a Pokemon master!

3. Beware of booze (and post-booze snacks).

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This one is HUGEEE. Alcohol is 7 calories per gram, one drink usually contains 100 calories (at the very least), and many college students don't stop at just one. Let's just say that the "beer belly" is a very real thing. Drunk snacking doesn't help either; intoxicated people rarely reach for apples or salads. Advice from a girl who goes out on a regular basis: have fun, drink responsibly, and choose your alcohol wisely (mixed drinks usually contain more sugars and calories than drinks that aren't; the plethora of different ingredients also makes it difficult to predict level of alcohol content).

4. Get yo drankkkk on.

I promise I'm not giving you contradictory advice! :) I'm talking about water, agua, the majority of our bodily contents. We often mistaken thirst for hunger. Even though '8 cups a day' isn't essential for human survival, it does make a world of a difference: hair, skin, how you feel, alertness, the list goes on and on. I highly recommend Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pool (Drank)" when you're getting your water drank on. *cues music in background*

5. "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

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Free food is the best marketing strategy to bribe college students! "Come to the Neuroscience meeting; we'll provide Insomnia cookies and Mission Tacos!" Who doesn't love free food?? But no club ever gives out free fruit or protein bars; it's always some type of junk food. Just keep that in mind when you're going to a club meeting solely for the food with no intent of joining.

6. De-stress diligently.

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Not only does stress result in excessive glycogen storage (making it harder to burn fat), but it also causes many people to turn to food for comfort. Double negative. The seemingly-sympathetic cheese fries may seem like a great idea at the moment, however, it often leaves the victim feeling guilty and worse off than before. Food is meant for nourishing our bodies with energy, not as a medium to cope with emotions. If you are prone to stress-eating, remove yourself from the environment and get busy with an activity that relaxes you. Personally, my favorite ways to de-stress and decompress are journaling, hitting the weight room, listening to and making music.

7. Indulge for taste.

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I love ice cream, chocolate cake, mac and cheese, pita chips; need I go on? Everyone has their fave unhealthy foods, and it is perfectly okay to give into your cravings sometimes: everything in moderation! This year, I often found myself mindlessly digging through a Party-Size bag of chips or going HAM on the Haagen-Dazs without even realizing what I was eating. If you're gonna indulge, lovingly scoop a serving size into your most aesthetic bowl, take an Instagram photo if you must, and savor EVERY. SINGLE. BITE.

8. The smaller, the better.

I don't know what you're thinking but I'm talking about goals... Measure and recognize your smallest possible victory, whether it be staying soda-free for a day, hitting a new deadlift PR, or fitting into an old pair of jeans. Speaking of which...

9. Be your own Pavlov's dog.

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Yes, positive reinforcement works on humans, too! Reward yourself every time you hit a fitness or health goal. Make it something (new workout clothes, for example) that will provide you mental momentum, further motivating you to continue grinding towards your goals.

10. Get on the level of #SquadGoals.

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Find a buddy who will hold you accountable for your goals. Check in with each other to update each other on progress, The best part is the mutual morale support and encouragement you provide one another when times get tough. (Shoutout to my girl Lindsay, you're the best <3)! And speaking of friends...

11. MyFitnessPal is YourNewBestPal.

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If you aren't seeing progress, tracking your food intake (even the two bites of cake you stole from a friend) will make consciously aware of what you are consuming. No fad diets, no 1200-calories a day BS: just get in the proper macronutrients and micronutrients that your body needs by eating the foods you enjoy. Keeping a food journal is a non-electronic alternative to using MFP.

12. Clock in your zzz's.

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When it's 3:30am and the last time you had food was dinner at 6pm, it's hard not to snack late into the night, or even early into the morning. Ms. Pam's midnight crepes don't help either (though they are absolutely heavenly). Sleeping enough -- 7 hours minimum is recommended -- allows your body to repair itself and also suppress your appetite. Am I the only who gets unusually hangry, aka hungry + angry, after pulling an all-nighter?

13. How you feelin'?

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The number on the scale is not a proper indicator of progress. Focus on how you feel, rather than the number on the scale. Do you feel more energized or confident? Are you happier as a result of your lifestyle change? If you prefer a more tangible, statistical route, you can also take 'before' and 'after' photos or bi-weekly body measurements.

14. Mental gainz > Physical gainz

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You could be the most shredded person in the world but if you aren't mentally sound, nothing on the exterior matters. College can be an extremely challenging transition and amongst all the fun and chaos, it's easy to forget to take care of yourself. Remember to schedule in time for yourself and don't be afraid to reach out to someone you trust if you need it. Mental health is so incredibly crucial to one's wellbeing and there are many resources available for students on campus if you take initiative to seek them out.

15. And most importantly, live your d@mn life!

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There is so much more to life than your weight, your appearance, and what foods you eat. None of these define your character, your values, or who you are as a person. Despite having gained weight, I wouldn't have traded any of my freshman college memories for the world, let alone the "lighter" version of myself 12 months ago. So go turn up with your friends and enjoy every moment that college has to offer because life is too short to worry about a number on a scale or the clothing size you wear.

What has your Freshman 15 experience been like and what advice would you add to this list? :)

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