Avoiding the Freshman Fifteen: health tips for college

As the school year draws to a close, high school seniors all over the country are preparing for their new lives in college. Some are ready to jump in headfirst, while others are plagued by fears of being completely independent for the first time. There are so many things college students have to worry about: trying to keep up their grades while having a social life, getting enough sleep, spending money wisely, and … eating healthy. Many college freshmen experience the dreaded “Freshman 15,” when they gain around 15 pounds by the end of their freshman year. While weight gain isn’t always bad, the extra pounds can be caused by habits that are injurious to health.

The Freshman 15 is caused by a variety of different things, like skipping breakfast, eating an excess of junk food, and not exercising frequently. It can be difficult to juggle all these different factors while also dealing with the difficulties of college life. However, with a few small changes in lifestyle, it will be much easier to combat the Freshman 15, and more importantly, to stay healthy.

With classes and studying taking up most of their time, many students can’t spare time to focus on eating a healthy meal. Instead, they rely on fast food restaurants, packaged snacks, and sometimes even skip meals. While these may seem like great options when cramming for a major test, they will lead to serious complications in health. Eating a balanced, healthy diet will be better for you in the long run and cutting out artificial sugars can help you concentrate better in your classes. Try swapping out that package of Doritos for carrot sticks, which give you better eyesight and prevent cancer. Additionally, never skip meals, especially not breakfast. UW- Madison freshman Amritha Jayashankar says, “When I skip breakfast, I find that I’m too tired and hungry to focus on anything.” Starting your day with a healthy breakfast keeps you from being constantly hungry, and it prevents you from overeating later.

A healthy diet is the first step to preventing the Freshman 15, but there’s also another important part. Exercising frequently plays a key role in staying healthy. Many college students may find themselves sitting in front of a textbook or laptop all day, studying. Sitting for long periods of time is extremely detrimental to the health, and studying without breaks is not efficient. Instead, take short, 15-minute breaks to walk around or have a dance party, anything that gets your blood flowing. Exercise doesn’t have to mean spending three hours at the gym everyday. It can be as simple as walking or biking to class rather than taking the bus. Exercising a little bit each day will help you focus better and make you happier!

While the Freshman 15 may seem unavoidable, it turns out that there are many different steps you can incorporate into your lifestyle to stay healthy during your first year at college. Avoid the McDonald’s Big Mac and instead go for a quinoa salad. Take walks while listening to a song or naming all the elements on the periodic table. Most important of all, enjoy yourself as you take on this new journey through college!