With dining halls and little time for sleep and exercise, it can feel like college is designed to make you put on weight and keep it there. (Image via Oregon Sports News)
College /// Thoughts x

Say goodbye to the freshman 15.

College is one of the hardest places to maintain your physical health. You seem to have no time to yourself, and when you do, you must fight the urge to catch up on sleep. Heading to the gym can seem like a waste of precious time and energy.

Going into college, you also have to learn how to feed yourself. This could mean cooking your own meals or making the right choices at the dining hall. Most campus dining halls give people more access to sugary drinks, high-calorie meals and desserts than living at home ever did.

For this reason, many students have pizza and pasta on a daily basis, but the consequences don’t show themselves until months later when they step on the scale. The question is, once you gain the freshman 15, where do you find the time to work it off?

The answer lies in your hands. There is an app for everything these days, and an app for weight loss is no exception. The success of these apps lies in their convenience. You no longer have to go out of your way to keep track of your meals, exercise and other factors that contribute to weight loss or weight gain. Excuses go out the window because your accountability tool is always on you. When you log in to Twitter, you’ll have to actively ignore the notifications urging you to continue to lose weight in college.

Taking advantage of weight-loss apps helped me to lose over 100 pounds while being a full-time undergraduate student. If you’re ready to lose weight in college, try out one of these five apps.

1. MyFitnessPal

Maintaining a caloric deficit is without a doubt the most important component to losing weight. Almost all weight-loss programs require you to track your food, and MyFitnessPal is a free and easy way to do so. MyFitnessPal has apps for Android and iOS and can also be accessed on your desktop.

When you sign up for MyFitnessPal, you’ll be asked to put in your age, height and weight, as well as your activity level (sedentary, lightly active or active). Then, it will ask you to choose how much weight you want to lose per week: 0.5 lbs., 1 lb. or 2 lbs. Based on this information, the app will tell you how many calories you should eat in a day.

The app makes keeping track of your calories easy by giving you access to over 300 million foods in their database. To count the calories of what you are eating, you can search for the item you want to record or you can scan its barcode. Likewise, many restaurants also have their entire menus on MyFitnessPal, so eating out is easy to track too.

The food database also allows you to input your own recipes, and it will calculate the calories per serving for you. You can also make your own food listings if you cannot find what you’re looking for. A lot of homemade foods are put into the database already because of this feature.

In addition to all of this, the app will remember foods that you frequently track and make them easier to log. The ease that MyFitnessPal brings to calorie counting is the best thing you could use to lose weight in college.

2. My Water Balance

It’s important to stay on top of your water consumption if you want to lose weight, because hydration is a natural appetite suppressant. Many don’t know that when your stomach growls, it can actually be because your body is thirsty. Being hydrated also helps your metabolism and your muscles to run at their best, all of which aid weight loss.

The My Water Balance app tells you how much you should be drinking every day based on your weight and activity level and helps you keep track of it. As you go throughout your day, the app fills up like a glass of water and will tell you what percentage of your water goal you’ve met so far. You can also set notifications to remind you to keep drinking more.

While MyFitnessPal does have a water-tracking feature, I prefer to use this app to track water intake, because it also allows you to add other types of beverages and records the water content in those beverages as well. The free version allows you to record water, coffee and tea. The full version of the app, which costs $4.99, lets you track soda, milk, smoothies and even alcohol (which detracts from your total hydration). This allows you to get a more accurate look at your water consumption.

My Water Balance can be incredibly useful for weight loss in college, but it’s also a tool that any person could benefit from.

3. Fitbit

This is the most expensive option of the apps I will recommend, but it is with good reason. The Fitbit app itself is free and can be used without a Fitbit bracelet if you cannot afford one. Your phone will keep track of your steps for you. If you can afford a bracelet, with the cheapest ones being around $100, you can reap the full benefits of the app.

The Fitbit app helped me to lose weight in college by exposing how sedentary I was. Besides walking to and from classes, my lifestyle was inactive. To combat this, the bracelet gives you messages of encouragement throughout the day and also reminds you if you’ve been still for a prolonged period of time. The new awareness I had of my activity levels inspired me to make small changes in my daily life that any student can do, such as taking the stairs and walking to the store instead of getting a ride.

Another key feature of the Fitbit app that helps you lose weight in college is the sleep-tracking feature. Unfortunately, this feature only works if you have a bracelet. If you’re interested in sleep tracking but can’t afford a Fitbit, I would suggest another app, Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker, with which you can record your sleep habits by placing your phone on your nightstand while you sleep. I used this app before I got my Fitbit, and it works just as well. These apps will help you know and keep track of how much sleep you are getting.

It’s important to get enough sleep if you want to lose weight in college because sleep deprivation negatively impacts many of the bodily functions that play a role in weight loss and weight gain. Some of these impacts include elevated hunger hormones, slower metabolism, increased insulin levels and upregulation of your brain’s food reward center. Sleep is scarce in college, and the Fitbit app can enhance your weight loss by helping you get enough of it.

4. College Dining Apps

This is by far the best way to get on top of your pizza and pasta problem. My college contracts an outside food service company to run the various dining spots on campus. If your school also does this, that company probably has an app with nutritional information on what they’re serving each day.

I don’t think I could have lost weight in college without using my college’s dining app. Using Sodexo’s app, Bite, gave me access to information that wasn’t provided on the cafeteria’s physical menus and labels. Without access to the calorie count on the food they were serving, I could not have made sure I was staying within my deficit goals.

If your college dining center doesn’t have their own app, I would suggest seeing if the food service company they use has listings on MyFitnessPal. If your cafeteria gives you immediate access to the necessary nutritional information, then an app like this isn’t necessary at all.

5. Achievement

This app is much different than the other four because it focuses more on motivation than tracking. Achievement can link up with your other health apps, including MyFitnessPal, Fitbit and Apple Health. When you record healthy behaviors on these apps, they will also be recorded on Achievement, where they will then be converted into points.

Once you reach 10,000 points, you can get $10 sent straight to your bank account. The points take a while to add up, but if you keep the app on your phone and check it every couple of months, you’ll be surprised by your progress.

So far, I have received $20 from the app by simply recording habits that I would have tracked anyway. Achievement isn’t essential to lose weight in college, but assigning monetary values to your healthy activities can be incredibly motivating. Plus, the extra money you receive from the app serves as a small reward for your dedication. You can treat yourself to some iced coffee; you’ll more than deserve it.

Even with the limited time and energy that college leaves you with, weight loss is not impossible. Apps such as these minimize the time you have to spend recording food, water and sleep, which are all essential components to weight loss. They also hold you accountable through notifications and by always being on your person. If you used to think losing weight in college was an unachievable goal, it’s time to download these apps and prove yourself wrong.

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