How to avoid the Freshman 15

It’s move in week at college and you’re wearing form-fitting shorts and tees while hauling plastic totes up three flights of stairs to your dorm room. You’ve got plenty of energy and stamina to unpack the whole car. By the time you head home for your first break you’re sporting yoga pants, a baggy sweatshirt and panting after walking up the first flight of stairs. How did this happen? After all, you’ve been walking everywhere, skipping breakfast and sleeping in every weekend. How can you be this out of shape and overweight?


For the first time in your life you’re totally free to make your own choices. No one to nag you about staying out late and sleeping in or eating your veggies. You can write a 200-word paper in your own time! Heck, wait ‘till the last minute and pig out on chips and pop because you missed the dining hall hours again. Being independent is great. Let freedom ring! So why do you feel tired, bloated, stressed out and maybe even a little homesick? Freedom is liberating but making the healthy choices will make your freshman year much more fun and enjoyable.

Try it. You’ll like it.

“College is a great place to spread your wings,” says Jared Johnson, coordinator for Michigan Technological University Outdoor Adventure Program. Johnson says this is especially true if your college offers opportunities you wouldn’t have had in your hometown.

For example, many of the students at Michigan Tech haven’t had the opportunity to experience skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or kayaking. Check out your student groups as early as possible and get involved. If you’re not one that usually participates in sports there is still plenty to choose from on most campuses. Hope College in Holland, Mich., offers a Yoga Club, Swing Club (dance), Sailing Club, Quidditch League (Harry Potter fans will know what this is!) and Ultimate Frisbee.

Besides being fun and active, these activities will help you relieve stress while making new friends.

Pizza, Ramen Noodles and Monster

Contrary to popular belief there is a culinary world for you to explore when you get to college that includes more than pizza, Ramen Noodles and Monster drinks. Most cafeterias have a pretty decent variety of foods. No one is going to make you eat your broccoli but you can try other veggies that weren’t offered at home. Stay away from fried foods and choose whole wheat varieties of pasta and breads. Try a vegetarian option once a week. Desserts are tempting but save those for once a week and choose fruit instead. All-you-can-drink pop will add pounds fast. Chug low-fat chocolate milk instead, especially after a workout. Green tea is a great alternative to sugary coffee drinks. It contains healthy anti-oxidants and will keep you alert without the jitters and can even boost your metabolism.

Phil Black, creator of FitDecks has these additional suggestions:

  • Follow the 1:1:1 Rule – 1 trip through the food line, 1 plate and 1 beverage
  • Don’t eat after 9 p.m.
  • Don’t eat your stress – use workouts, not late night pig outs to help relieve the stress of exams, deadlines and papers.
  • Beer is not your friend – Besides being illegal if you’re underage, beer is high in empty calories.
  • Pick your friends wisely – friends who get drunk and stay out late regularly often fall prey to poor eating, sleeping and health habits. Hang out with people who play sports or are physically active.

Black was a college student when he was inspired to create FitDeck ( It’s a deck of 56 playing cards containing illustrations and instructions describing over 50 exercises, stretches and movements.

Tasty Care Packages From Home

Jackie Keller, mom of 3 college kids and Founder and Executive Chef of Nutrifit ( suggests these items:

  • Popcorn
  • Harvest trail mix
  • Soy crisps
  • All natural peanut butter
  • Oriental rice crackers
  • NutriFit High Energy Bars and Mighty Mixes
  • All natural turkey jerky
  • Whole wheat peanut butter pretzels
  • Natural (no sugar added) dried fruits
  • Dry roasted edamame and wasabi peas
  • Plantain chips
  • Home-baked healthy versions of cookies and brownies ( for recipes)

Photo caption: Students who participate in extra-curricular activities and clubs, like Michigan Tech’s Outdoor Adventure Program, will have a hard time putting on the Freshman 15. Check your campus for groups who offer students a chance to stay physcially active.


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