If this is your first year of college, you often hear the absolute statements that "everyone gains weight" and "even if you exercise, the pounds will still come on." While in many cases, people do gain weight, if you're smart you can keep it off without starving yourself or only snacking on bags of lettuce. However, many people are not wary of the secret ways the pounds are coming on that people are less likely to discuss. So, after two years of college, I've determined seven ways the freshman 15 (or sophomore 30) can appear without you even realizing it.
1. Eating out — even at "healthy" places
Surprise! Just because you aren't ordering a pizza at 2 a.m. every night or eating Chik-fil-A all the time does NOT mean you're eating healthy. In fact, eating out at all isn't really healthy. Eating smoothie bowls every day is not a one-way ticket to weight loss when Acai bowls, at some places, are nearly 600 calories. They also can contain more sugar than a Grande Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino. You shouldn't stay in and never ever eat out, but it's safe to say that eating out shouldn't be an everyday thing.
2. Relying on campus buses
Ok, no, it's not a good idea to risk your life crossing a highway to get from one part of campus to another. But replacing walking with campus buses out of laziness is not a good idea — it becomes a less-than-healthy habit that's hard to break. I actually lost weight my first few months of college from walking everywhere, including a class that was over a mile away. If the gym isn't an option, maximizing the number of steps you take around campus is a great way to get in your activity and keep those pounds off.
3. Shots. Shots. Shots!
We seem to all know that beer is rich in calories but it seems to be a common misconception that shots have fewer calories because there's less liquid in the cup. However, because shots are denser in alcohol, they are also denser in calories. A can of beer has around 100-200 calories and a shot of vodka has 100 calories (and let's face it, you'll never do just one). The amount of calories you're consuming here is pretty similar and one option is less likely to leave you puking in the bathroom by 2 a.m. Use your best judgment.
4. Doing your own grocery shopping
This one is one of the trickiest (for me at least). When I'm home, my mom does the grocery shopping and she will tend to choose healthier food items that I may or may not like and therefore may or may not eat. When I'm shopping for myself, I'm only going to choose what I like the best and by default, it's food that is somewhat less healthy and food that I definitely want to eat. At first, a 100-calorie cereal versus a 150-calorie cereal may not seem like much but a 150-calorie cereal is likely one that I will like better, finish faster, and eat more in one sitting. I try to think "healthy" when I buy food but even with that mindset, I will tend to choose slightly less healthy options.
Hold on before you get mad at me for this one. Coffee alone has very few calories, so you CAN get your daily dose of energy without a daily dose of excess fat. But with large sizes, milks, creams, syrups, and added sugars, you're looking at more of a dessert than a morning beverage. This fall, a large pumpkin spice coffee with whole milk from Dunkin' Donuts is nearly 400 calories. However, if you get a small and replace whole milk with skim, you're only taking in 150 calories.
6. Rushing to your 8 a.m. (and forgetting the most important meal of the day)
Once again, it may be hard without mom or dad encouraging you to eat but please remember to eat in the morning, even if it's an ungodly hour. Each time you skip breakfast, you incrementally slow down your metabolism and your body is more likely to hold onto that extra fat you're trying to lose in an effort to save energy. Some (or most) mornings you won't have time to prepare an egg white omelet with toast and home fries but having SOMETHING (besides coffee) in the morning will kickstart your metabolism.
Fun fact: if you have an early lecture, most professors won't care if you're eating in class unless they tell you otherwise.
7. Being too busy to work out
Most days, it seems very tough to get in your exercise (and some days, you're just not able to). However, if you get creative, you can squeeze it in. You should look ahead of time and plan how you'll discipline yourself to get up early to go for a run or maybe use the gym late at night (the gyms at my school are open until midnight). If there's a will, there's a way so if you're willing to keep off those 15 (or 20 or 30 pounds), you can make it work.