Avoiding the Freshman Fifteen

It’s that time of year again. Students from all over the country are starting one of the most exciting, transformative and memorable times of their lives — college!

To drink? Or not, to drink? With so many delectable options- the decision is a tough one.

To drink? Or not to drink? With so many delectable options, the decision is a tough one.

By the end of their high school senior year, most people are ready for the dramatic change that awaits them in the fall. But are they really, truly prepared for it?

The truth is, most people aren’t. Most people underestimate how much of a lifestyle adjustment they have to make to successfully get used to college life.

So what are these changes that are so vital to consider when starting college? While academic and social changes are important to consider, health needs just as much attention, if not more.

What sort of image is painted in your mind when you hear the dreaded words “freshman fifteen”?

Do you see the prom queen slowly descending from her glory days after each subsequent shot taken at a party, the mixture of tequila, salt and lime slowly contributing to the muffin top she’ll have in December?

Do you see the valedictorian chugging coffee and scarfing down a lemon loaf while feverishly studying for that first chemistry exam, food calories being of the least importance when compared to memorizing how many calories are required to raise the temperature of 25 grams of water from zero degrees Celsius to 100?

The point is, we picture different things when it comes to the freshman fifteen, and we should, because there are an infinite amount of scenarios that can result in the freshman fifteen.

So booze? A major source of the freshman fifteen is alcohol abuse, and rightfully so, because most people are so enamored by the elusive “college party” experience. If you are going to drink, do yourself a favor and drink with moderation! You and your midsection will thank me later.

Free and unlimited food! There is free food everywhere. With the enticing free food at college events and a meal plan that satisfies your every need (unless you’re at Taylor Place … shhh), you’re bound to pack on few pounds if you don’t control yourself.

Sleep? Huh? If one thing is guaranteed to change in college, it’s your sleeping habits. College is literally a year-long slumber party with academics conveniently built in. While this may seem amazing (and it is), it’s a huge detriment to your metabolism. With less sleep, the metabolic breakdown processes in your body are affected and could sharply increase the number you read on the scale.

Shoot, I can’t eat like I used to! There comes a point somewhere in our late adolescence that marks the horrid change in our metabolisms. As we mature, metabolisms slow, even if food intake doesn’t change. So, essentially, if you don’t monitor the changes in your metabolism and adjust eating habits accordingly, the freshman fifteen could be heading your way.

With all the changes you will encounter your freshman year, it’s vital to remember this key piece of information: if you don’t work out and/or eat moderately healthily, you will gain weight. It might not be 15 pounds, but some weight gain will happen.

So, make good choices! But really — work out, control your drinking habits and eat a salad rather than a burger when you use your next meal plan.

All you need to know about calories

Calories. We all secretly pay attention to them, right? But did you know that they are not only important to losing weight, but also to maintaining and gaining weight?

Caloric intake levels are different for every person and lifestyle. If you’re inactive, your body does not need as many calories as someone who exercises a lot. Think of Michael Phelps when he was training; he needed more than 12,000 calories because he burned so many in the water. The average adult needs about 2,000 calories a day. Can you imagine what would happen to your body if you had a 12,000 calorie diet?! Let’s hope that never happens.

Photo from Seriouseats.com

Calorie basics

Calories are the amount of energy supplied by a food. Energy can come in many different forms such as protein, carbohydrates, fats and sugars. The goal is to find what your body needs in order to perform to its maximum capacity, whether that’s maintaining your weight, building muscle and gaining weight, or losing weight.

Tips and tricks

  • Low-fat and fat-free doesn’t mean that there are less calories in what you’re eating.
  • Be sure to watch out for extra sugars or sugar substitutes. They have calories too.
  • Low-calorie isn’t always what you need. A healthy diet has a mix of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins and dairy.

Exercise and calories

How much energy are you using when you exercise? It depends on the type, your body weight and composition and the level of intensity at which you are working out. Here are a few examples for someone 150 pounds:

  • Playing basketball for an hour on a half-court burns approx. 405 calories
  • Biking on flat land for an hour burns approx. 441 calories
  • Dancing (depending on the type) burns approx. 370 calories an hour
  • Jogging burns approx. 675 calories an hour
  • Sleeping burns approx. 45 calories an hour (who knew?!)
  • Playing soccer for an hour burns approx. 468 calories
  • Swimming burns approx. 608 calories per hour

Listen to your body and find out what it needs. If you’re starving after a workout, you’re allowed to eat! It’s encouraged. A great post-workout snack is a lean protein that will fill you up and help you build muscle. If you’re going to have a hard day at the gym, make sure you’ve gotten enough fuel and water before you head out. It’ll take a little time to figure out what’s going to work best for you, but be patient and have a little faith!