The dreaded freshman 15 is something we all face when heading to college for the first time. A combination of new places, new parties and new schedules can really run us through the ringer in terms of self care and healthy habits. But it turns out the freshman 15 is not just for co-eds; for any of us, a change of pace or a celebratory spirit can lead us down a path of loosened resolve, leading to a packing on of pounds pretty quickly. Fall is a season that brings with it all of those things: new schedules for many, and the launch of holiday parties and stress. The truth is, those pounds don't show up all at once, they sneak up on you over a period of time when we are making questionable nutrition choices in the face of change. With a few simple resolutions, we can all be well on our way to avoiding the freshman 15 this fall, whether we are in school or out.
Set a schedule
When school starts, whether for you or for your kids, a regular schedule for ourselves is often the first thing out the window as we work to incorporate these new agenda requirements into our daily life. Schedules, however, keep our bodies as well as our minds on track. When our eating schedules get thrown out of whack - if we start skipping meals or end up eating late at night - our bodies can get confused and go into survival mode, holding on to fats and calories in self-defense. Eating at relatively the same times each day, and at the same intervals, reassures our bodies that proper nutrition is available. Our bodies will respond by processing our food efficiently, and not sending us signals that we are hungry or "snacky" when we are actually not needing to eat. This helps prevent us from consuming unneeded calories that end up settling around our middle as a spare tire. Also helpful is making sure to schedule in excercise time at least four times a week. Group fitness classes are an easy add, since the time is already blocked out. If it's on the calendar, you are more likely to stay committed.
Portion control is Key
Dorm cafeterias are often an abundance of riches - almost anything you could want to eat at anytime, and no one to tell you to stop piling it on your plate. The same with holiday parties - passed appetizers, buffet style settings, dessert trays and cookie platters everywhere you look. The only one holding you accountable for how much you eat is you. So set some rules for yourself. For example, only use the smallest plates available to serve yourself, which can help cut down on quantity. Choose healthy substitutes for more common comfort foods you might grab first. Allow yourself only one "splurge" item per meal or event, and do your best to keep it small. Also, be strong and say no to seconds; often one time around is plenty for anyone, and even though it was absolutely delicious, allow yourself to enjoy the benefits of cutting back even more and avoiding the weight gain woes.
Swap out the snacks
When we are non-stop on the go from one place to the next, we inevitably find ourselves in need of food at an unplanned moment - which means we reach for whatever is most convenient. Unfortunately for us, the most readily available options are most often fast food or sugar-packed processed junk food. In the moment we often justify by saying "It's just this once. What's the harm?" The problem with that is we end up using that justification more often than we intend, and those calorie laden junk snacks add up quickly. So save yourself the strife by planning ahead. Throw a piece of fruit or some baby carrots in your bag every morning to have on hand for when the snack monster hits. Or if you are making a purchase and reaching for the chips or candy bar, take a breath and count to ten, and then ask yourself if there is something healthier within reach that you can select instead. Small steps like these are huge victories in the long run for preventing weight gain and staying healthy.
Cut back on the alcohol, amp up the agua
The number one culprit for the freshman 15 weight gain. Whether it's our newfound liberation and independence, or our holiday spirit in social settings, we often find ourselves imbibing more frequently in the Fall. The empty calories from alcohol intake add up so much faster than we care to admit, or even realize. Not only that, but the idea of replacing food calories with alcohol calories - something that has crossed many of our minds as an option - is not actually a viable solution because our bodies process alcohol calories differently than food calories. Our bodies will burn calories from alcohol for energy first before using already existing carbohydrate and fat calories, meaning that those latent carbohydrate and fat stores are more likely to turn into added poundage on us. The best way to avoid gaining pounds from alcohol is to not drink it, but for us festively minded folks who want to have a little fun, there are a couple of things we can do to help mitigate the issue. The best course of action is to always drink one 8oz glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume. Not only does this help us to drink slower and therefore drink less, it also gives us much needed H2O to combat the dehydration effects of alcohol and keep our bodies' metabolism boosted. You can also opt to bring your own non-alcoholic beverages to the party, like a 6 pack of deliciously flavored sparkling water. And of course limiting yourself to no more than one or two drinks per event is a great idea. This may be a challenge for some, but so worth it when you are the one who avoided the freshman 15 gain while everyone around you is starting to lament their lackadaisical ways.