Off to School: Keep Off that Freshman 15

Monday, 03 September 2012 22:13 Written by  Dana Weems

The first year of college is all about gaining: a new found freedom, new friends and a new sense of responsibility. Unfortunately for some, these may be accompanied by a few pounds.

We've all heard of the forbidden "freshman 15" right? You know those 15 or more pounds people gain after entering college during the first semester. Some argue it’s not real, but if you’d compare Facebook prom photos to winter break photos, you’d see. You may say it won't happen to you, but it's really not that hard to do when health is one of your last concerns. With the jitters of taking your first classes, preparing for college-level work, and not having moms and pops remind you that chips and candy shouldn’t be eaten for breakfast, health gets put on the back burner.

It’s no secret that Americans struggle with maintaining healthy lifestyles. It’s proven that the struggle often starts young, which prompted First Lady Michelle Obama to launch the Let’s Move initiative to combat child obesity. Even if you don’t fall into the number of overweight youth, it’s important to consider the facts and how it could affect you. According to the American College Health Association, overweight and obese American college students increased from 27.4 percent in the fall of 2006, to 29.2 percent in the fall of 2011. With many growing health risks such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, health is to be taken a bit more seriously, especially with college-aged students––and it’s better to get a hold on it now.

So, here are a few tips to keep off that freshman 15 and maintain a healthy eating regimen on-the-go:

Get to know the food groups. There are certain foods we need for certain things. You may need to incorporate more protein into your diet, but how can you do that if you don’t know which foods are high in protein? Get to know the food groups and the wonderful food guide pyramid so you’ll consume what you need to, as well as the amount you need to.

Eat breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day! Be smart about what you eat though. Eating French toast smothered in powdered sugar every morning isn’t the best option. Eating a balanced breakfast is a great way to boost your energy and prepare you for your day.

Snack smart. Don’t use late study nights and movie nights as your excuses to pig-out on junk food. Choose raw fruits and veggies instead. Need a day-time snack? Grab an apple or fruit of your choice. There are all natural dips, creams and butters you can make too, just look them up! Eat your veggies. Green foods are especially good for you. The cafeteria has them, but you have to put them on your plate. Choose salads with oil and vinegar over dairy based dressings.

Don’t drink your calories. Cut out juice, pop and sweetened drinks entirely. Make water your best friend. If you have to have a little flavor, add lemon or lime. We heard cucumbers can be a refreshing spin, as well.

Walk to class. Take advantage of your college campus, walk every day and everywhere. You may have to leave your dorm a few minutes early to get to your destination on time, but you’ll be walking in the right direction. Choose stairs instead of elevators. And if you have a hill on your campus, use it.

Take your vitamins. Take vitamins daily. Certain supplements do certain things: boost energy, help the immune system, give nutrients, etc. If you can’t stomach swallowing a pill, try chewable ones.

Stay active. Take advantage of the free or discounted gym membership your school offers. Workout at least 30 minutes a day if you can. Some institutions offer free aerobics, yoga, kick-boxing and hip-hop classes and sometimes offer them as courses for credit. Look into it.

Get plenty of sleep. Staying up all night cramming or partying is detrimental to your well-being. It may seem fun at the moment, but when you’re tired all the time and your grades start to suffer, it won’t be. Getting adequate sleep gives you energy to be more active physically and mentally. So, cut off your TV a little early and get some shut eye.

Keep your stress level down. Stress can lead to a lot of things, one of them being overeating. Learning how to manage your time is a key factor in being a college student, so if you manage your time, you’ll be sure to eliminate some stresses. And don’t stress out trying to work out! Figure out a schedule that works for you and try your best to stick to it.

Create a schedule. You know what time your body wakes up, when you’re least likely to do something and when you work best. Tailor a workout schedule around those times so you’ll succeed at getting fit. With a busy course load, you may not have a 30-minute lunch every day, so figure out when you’ll take your lunch and write down what you eat.

Stay motivated. Switch your workout routine and try something different if your regular routine is boring. Have fun and enjoy what you’re doing so that when it’s time to exercise, you won't dread it. If you set realistic goals for yourself, achieve them, and track your progress, you’ll be more inclined to keep at it.

For the non-traditional freshmen—drink less alcohol. Drinking and college goes hand-in-hand for some, but you have to control your intake. You will soon see a shift in your weight if drinking five or more beers every other night is routine. Studies show red wines and aged spirits like whiskey and scotch are nutritionally better than beer and vodka. The latter tends to have a higher calorie count and carbohydrate content.

Eat in moderation. Eat to be content, not to be full. Don’t stuff your plate or your mouth. Chew slowly. Smaller plates and cups mean your portions will be smaller. Try to make seconds a no-no.

We hope these tips helps!

Dana Weems

Dana Weems

Dana Weems is a contributing writer and a fashion/beauty columnist for GMO. A Chicago native, Dana earned a MA in journalism from Columbia College Chicago and a BA in broadcasting with an emphasis in broadcast news from Grand Valley State University. She’s interned and worked at WLS-TV; ABC 7 Chicago’s entertainment show Windy City LIVE. Still freelancing, Dana has written for news sites, public affairs-based publications, fashion websites and other organizations.

She can be contacted at and