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Top ways to fight the freshman 15

09.05.2013 | By:
An image of the cardio machines in the Morton Fitness Center.

Starting college is tough. Staying in shape is tough. With a schedule that changes daily, it's hard to get in a healthy routine. Below are five tips on how to keep from gaining weight your first semester in college. And even if this isn’t your first semester, they’re still great tips on staying healthy in an environment where it’s easy to put off healthy decision making.

Make sleep a priority

This may be the most important tip. Getting enough rest has a domino effect on your healthy habits. If you feel tired, you might decide to skip your workout and reach for a coffee or energy drink to keep you alert in class. Then, after pumping yourself with sugar (read: calories) and caffeine just to get through the day, you struggle to fall asleep and the cycle repeats.

Even worse, lack of sleep can disrupt a number of your body’s hormones, including leptin, which helps regulate appetite, as well as cortisol and insulin. For more thoughts on the subject, read this WebMD article.

Manage stress, don't let it manage you

Stress-induced weight gain really does exist, like it or not. While stress can temporarily suppress your appetite, eventually it comes back. When it does, those feelings of extreme hunger can lead to overeating, which is a great way to put on some unwanted pounds. If you’re stressed about finding a job or studying for tests, don’t forget about all of the departments here to help you, including Career Services and the Academic Success Center. Some people even exercise to help get rid of stress.

Exercise, even if it's only 15 minutes a day

If LMFAO can do it, you can too. Workout! Not only does exercising make you look good, it makes you feel good. Legally Blonde got it right, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Looking for another source? Here’s an article from The New York Times.

And working out doesn’t have to be lifting weights or running sprints. The Morton Fitness Center has a plethora of group fitness classes including: Insanity, Yoga, Zumba, Let’s Have a Ball, CHAOS and more. You can also do simple things, like take the stairs or go for a brisk walk in the morning.

If you eat junk, you'll feel like junk

Eating healthy, even just not eating junk food, can make a big difference in how you feel. Some boil weight gain to one simple question - did you burn more calories today or take in more calories? While that may be an over-simplified way to look at it, having a balanced diet will go far in keeping you healthy.

Take advantage of the fruits and vegetables at Dora’s more often than the pizza, and watch the liquid calories. Sodas (even diet ones) and iced coffee drinks taste great, but can be loaded with sugar and other less-than-stellar ingredients that don't do you any favors. 

Get a buddy

Having someone to workout with, talk to, and keep you accountable is key. If you’re meeting someone to workout, you’re less likely to cancel your plan to exercise. If you tell someone your goal and ask him or her to check on you every now and then, you’ll have more motivation to reach your goal. Even better, have someone who has a similar goal and keep each other accountable.