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Move these tips to the top of your to-do list and you’ll never have to worry about college’s scariest monster.

5 Easy Ways to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen

The One College Experience You’ll Want to Skip

Move these tips to the top of your to-do list and you’ll never have to worry about college’s scariest monster.

By Amy Garcia, Johns Hopkins University


Since the moment summer started, you’ve heard the warnings from everyone who gets sadistic pleasure in telling you about the frightening things that will happen freshman year.

Your dad just wants to make you groan and brush it off, your older brother wants to frighten you, your uncles and aunts just laugh reminiscently of the good old days and your older friends try to give you advice. They promise you they know what will happen to you your first semester, that there is no escaping it. You simply have to accept the inevitable and meet your fate with dignity and minimal tears.

The Freshman Fifteen. The problem with this dreaded phenomenon is that you don’t realize that it’s happening to you until it has already happened.

As you wear your flexible summer clothes that descend into baggy pants and sweaters for the fall, you don’t notice that your cheeks are swollen, your thighs are hitting each other more roughly when you walk and your stomach is constantly rumbling to the point where you need to hit the unlimited cafeteria at least six times a day.

And how can you ever avoid it?! With parties raging from Thursday to Saturday all over campus, and your friends insisting to turn every weeknight into a Margarita Monday, Tipsy Tuesday and Wine Wednesday, the opportunities for beer, tequila and Pink Moscato are too tempting to pass up. Then you sit in the library all of Sunday, miserable with yourself for your week of follies, eating comfort food from the café in order to cheer yourself. Not to mention the amount of times you spend eating in the freshman cafeteria, sitting in the same table for three hours with your friends and taking advantage of the opportunity to chow down on ice cream and Buffalo wings at the same time.

Self-control does not exist the first semester of freshman year, so how can you ever hope to avoid the Freshman Fifteen? But it happens, and you do not notice until you arrive home and your grandmother tips her head when she sees you and says, “You’re looking full!” (Maybe that’s just my grandmother).

Miserably depressed, next semester you do your best to make it back to the weight you were before school started, but as easy as it is to gain fifteen pounds, it’s almost impossible to lose it, especially under college stress.

So, when you have a million other things to worry about, how the hell do you avoid this dreaded evil that everyone and their mother has warned you about? Here are five ways to avoid the Freshman Fifteen.

1. Limit Your Time in the Dining Hall

It’s difficult to do as a freshman. Most schools offer unlimited dining plans for your first year, so you have no reason not to go to the cafeteria at least fourteen times a day with your friends. Since the food isn’t usually that great, you feel like you have to get a little bit of everything in order to make it worthwhile. And by “a little bit,” I mean fourteen bowls of cereal, twenty-six plates of pasta and thirty-five chicken nuggets.

5 Easy Ways to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen
Image via The Situationist

But, if you promise yourself to spend (for example, it depends on how fast you usually eat) only thirty-five minutes at a time in the cafeteria with only three trips there a day, you will have plenty of time to sit with your friends and eat a good meal, but far from enough to go for fourth helpings.

2. Three Days a Week Go to the Gym for an Hour

This is even harder to do than the dining hall tip, because unless you’re a budding serial killer, no one is excited to go to the gym, especially when there’s a lot more fun things to do with your time like eating, sleeping and going out. But if you can force yourself to go for a run a couple of times a week, it will make you feel better mentally, as well as physically.

As you’re stressing from your forty-two exams in the next three days, hopping on the elliptical or lifting weights will provide you with both the mental strength you need to keep going and the physical stamina you’ll require to keep your body healthy, even with the difficult life of a freshman.

3. Avoid Drunchies

This is also pretty hard. You have your Taco Bells, Subways and Dominos ready to cater to anyone who needs food at four in the morning, and sometimes you just really have to have an entire buffalo chicken pizza or you are convinced that you will die. My school has a 24-hour market that you can stumble into after a frat party and order twenty mozzarella sticks, so that definitely contributed to my Freshman Fifteen.

5 Easy Ways to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen
Image via Spoon University

As difficult as it is, don’t allow yourself to do it. If your destination for the night is just the street from your dorm, there’s no need to bring cash or your credit card at all. Usually, it’s not a great idea to eat this stuff anyway since it’ll probably make you throw up. If you’re really that hungry, eat some crackers in your room. Definitely healthier than a burrito.

4. Track Your Drinks

This is more of a safety tip than a way to avoid the Freshman Fifteen, but it accomplishes both. Beer is definitely the main way people gain weight in college—the token beer belly—but those sugary mixed drinks definitely don’t help either.

If you do your best to stick to one type of drink a night and attempt to limit yourself, you’ll stay safe and healthy. Get your friends in on it too; you might not be able to convince yourself that another game of beer pong probably isn’t the best idea.

5. Remember What You Eat

As the dining hall often isn’t the best food, you’ll probably be tempted to venture out into off-campus eateries that are even less healthy. There’s no reason to diet yourself, but if you know you usually have six slices of pizza from the dining hall or eat nine helpings of sushi from the restaurant around the corner, do your best to curb it.

The best plan is to make your own food. Cooking healthy meals is a lot easier than trying to convince yourself to get a salad instead of French fries at the dining hall.

Even with all these tips, you may not be able to avoid the Freshman Fifteen. But in the end, it’s really not a big deal. The main goal is to stay healthy during college, and as long as you do your best at that, then you’ll be just fine.

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