Protect Your Physique From The Freshman 15

It's common for college students adjusting to life away from home to put on a few pounds. Their new-found freedom, and emphasis on fun often leads to poor food choices. But the new lifestyle doesn’t have to mean unhealthy. Strategies and knowledge are key to avoiding the freshman 15 or any weight gain throughout your life.

The NBC Chicago Fitness coaches weigh in with their tips:

Andrea Metcalf, Author of Naked Fitness


Here are five tips to help fight off the freshman fifteen.

1. Walking is key to maintaining a healthy weight, so choose to walk to the library instead of your dorm room to study. The healthy, active habit will help keep you away from snacking, too.

2. Another key is to stretch often. When we sit for hours at end, our connective tissues shorten. One of the best stretches is the IT band stretch.  Start standing and cross one leg behind the other. Lean down towards the back leg and stretch elbow towards ceiling.  Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.  

3. If you can only do one move to stay in shape, try a plank with rotation.  This builds your core, shoulders and hip stabilizers.  Start in a plank position with feet shoulder width apart.  Rotate weight into one hand and reach towards the ceiling.  Return to center and repeat on the other side.  Try for 1-2 minutes of continuous plank rotations each morning.  

4. Sleep or workouts?  Sleep is probably more important for a college student or someone trying to maintain a healthy weight than a workout in the morning.  When we miss sleep, we tend to crave sweets and caffeine which creates a cycle of over-eating.  Sleep in, and workout in the afternoon; that’s when your body needs movement more anyway due to the circadian rhythms of your body.  

5. Eat your meat!  Although cafe lines are notorious for high fat foods, it's important to stabilize blood sugar by eating protein at every meal.  This will help curb hunger cravings from drops in blood sugar caused by high carb eating.  Start with a full plate of veggies and fruits and balance it out with meats, beans or legumes.

Sergio Rojas, Owner Redefined Fitness & Phys. Therapy


Heading off to college is exciting (and stressful) enough, without thinking about the ‘Freshman 15’ -- those nagging extra pounds that show up before midterms.  

Here are some easy tips that won’t take much energy or cause much stress, but can really help keep those fatty pounds off your body.

1.  Fast food is a reality in college, so get in the habit of making smarter choices like baked instead of fried foods. Order salads and skipping on fries and sodas (See Below for more healthy eating tips.)
2.  Long study hours, and a few parties may call for some energy drinks to get you through class, or to finish a paper.   Make sure you select the low-calorie, low-sugar versions, as these drinks can add on the pounds and cause other health issues.  Limit the amount of caffeine to 1-3 cups of coffee per day.
3.  Stay active by electing to take an exercise class.  Many colleges and universities offer sports, like swimming, tennis, etc.  as an elective.   


Fast food is a reality in college, so the ‘Freshman 15’ is a real issue students face.  Here are 3 quick tips to help you make better choices and avoid the extra pounds many students gain after going away to college.

1.  CHICKEN:  Get in the habit of ordering “Baked” instead of fried or breaded chicken.  Even a fried ‘skinless’ breast carries only 140 calories and 2g of fat compared to fried & breaded, which has 450 calories and 9g of fat.

2. SALADS:  Many fast food restaurants now offer salads as an option. Get into the habit of ordering a salad at least half the time you go to fast food restaurants.  Make sure to ask for low-cal dressing.

3.  SUBS:  Skip white bread and wraps.  Most people think of wraps as a healthy version, but those 12” tortillas have 350 calories and 60g of carbs, without counting the fillings.  Try whole grain breads and open-faced (half the bread) whenever possible.

4.  MEXICAN:  Black beans are much healthier than refried beans.  Ordering grilled fajitas or tacos are a fairly good choice, but skipping the sour cream and cheese can go a long way in keeping you lean.  Make sure to avoid cheese sauces and tortilla chips, which carry 15 calories for each chip.

Making better choices will not only help you keep the extra pounds off, it will also help you do better academically.  High fat and high sodium diets have shown to diminish brain function.

 Saran Dunmore, Trainer on MTV’s I Use to Be Fat


Freshman have plenty to remember when hitting school, so here’s a way to keep healthy living simple. Think F.R.E.S.H.

F-find a workout buddy. Studies have shown that if you have a workout partner you will keep working out on a regular and consistent basis.  You’ll also have someone there to help you get motivated when your energy level is almost on empty.

R-Relieve stress.  Stress is an element that if not released can actually cause you to gain weight.  Take up a yoga class or boxing to get that stress out of your system so it doesn’t add to your waistline.

E-Exercise.  Ideally you should try to exercise 2 to 3 times a week.  You need to find time during your week to get that blood pumping and those muscles working.  There’s always time to work out, even though you might not feel like it getting out of your dorm room and into the weight room might just be the study break you need.   Try to schedule your workouts between your classes if you have the time or immediately after your last class for the day.  If you wait too long after your last class you might lose the motivation to get a workout in.

S- Set mini goals each week.  At the beginning of your week write down a healthy goal that you can physically achieve.  One goal for instance might be to stay away from fast food for the entire week.  Another goal could be to take a 20 minute walk or run a day.

H- Hop to it.  Jumping rope is a great and inexpensive way to get in shape and burn loads of calories.  You can burn up to 300 calories in a half hour plus you’ll be working on your cardio and coordination at the same time.  Start off by doing a standard jump, once you get the timing down try to increase your speed and see how long you can jump at the accelerated pace.  From there you can work on side to side jumps, high knee skips, crossing the rope over and double jumps- the possibilities are endless in you use your imagination.

My second set of tips deals with your eating habits.  Try to avoid buffet style eating or at least narrow it down to once a month.  The problem with the unlimited food serving is that you typically over-eat. That can lead to a heavy weight gain.   Make sure you exercise portion control -- don’t feel the need to fill your plate up so that you can’t see the bottom of it.  

Lastly limit the amount of carbohydrates that you take in.  You can eat pizza and pasta but try not to eat them on a daily basis.  These foods are high in carbohydrates and if you don’t burn them off through exercise they will eventually turn into fat.  Instead increase the amount of foods that have a high fiber content like apples and broccoli.  Eating foods high in fiber will make your stomach feel full for a much longer time and also aids in digestion.

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