The second most stressful part of starting freshman year -- next to rush week -- is adjusting to the change in diet and lifestyle that tends to pack on the pounds. It’s a perfect storm: the college mealplan that provides nightly buffets, the late-night eating to fuel study sessions or post-party munchies, the lack of sleep, the additional stress. Then, add thousands of additional calories your body never previously consumed in the form of booze, and it's not surprise it's not the Freshman 30.
So how can you adjust your daily habits to keep the extra weight gain at bay? Think ahead, be prepared, and get active.
Optimize your mealplan.
Figure out how you can enjoy your mealplan, inclusive of the pizza, sushi, frappuccinos and breakfast buffets, without hurting your diet. That might mean halving portions, and saving the other half for dinner, picking out the healthier options at the buffet with an emphasis on vegetables, or simply opting for a smaller mealplan so you don’t feel like you have to capitalize on all of the food.
Seriously. You won’t notice that much of a difference in your social life if you decide to skip that last bar and those last couple of drinks.
With a new courseload and countless hours of studying ahead of you, it’s important to take the time you need to rest. That means aiming to get a consistent and sufficient number of hours of sleep a night, as well as taking time to simply breathe and zen out. Try to find a balance between work and play or you’ll find yourself burning out.
Never get hungry.
Avoid cravings but staying full. Use whatever’s left of your mealplan dollars to keep filling and healthy snacks on hand. Think nuts, fruit, yogurt or wholegrain, fiber-rich options.
What you likely don’t need to be reminded about is the importance of hydration. Don’t let you body mistake thirst for hunger by carrying a water bottle around. Try not to indulge on the Lacroix and carbonated beverages to avoid bloat and stomach pains -- and a tendency to drink less. Pinch your skin -- if it snaps back, you're well-hydrated. If it take seconds to return to its natural elastic state, you need more water.
Find an accountability partner.
It’s harder to cheat and eat pizza and pie, or skip the gym, when someone’s holding you accountable. Find a workout buddy or a regular dining hall date who will keep you in track with the intentions and goals you originally laid out. No one leaves the gym until you hit the thirty minute marker, or hit a new record high with your heart rate.
Make exercise enjoyable.
Not a big cardio fan, but you love wandering and taking in surrounding sites? Incorporate a 30-minute walk into your evening routine. Adventurous and always looking for something new? Try a club, like mountaineering, cycling or climbing, and you won’t even notice you’re working out. Find ways to making working out fun, and you’ve gotten through half the battle.
But don’t forget a cheat day.
Real issues can arise when you find you become solely focused on what you’re eating, how you look, and how often you’re exercising. Avoid becoming susceptible to an eating disorder by never letting yourself feel too guilty, shameful, or bad for having a cheat day.