How to avoid the Freshman 15 (using science!)

When the dining hall food is TOO good...

In a perfect world, I could eat twenty pints of ice cream without any repercussions on my physical health. Imagine the possibilities of rainbow sprinkles, chocolate syrup, and marshmallow condiments that I would indulge in. Indeed, in that realm of perfection I would even lose weight and grow angel wings (which are awarded to those with positive body image). Significantly, the one question I have for college students is “Is it possible to eat freely without adding on unnecessary weight during your freshman year of college?” Sure, some may argue that the “Freshman 15 “ is just an old wives tale, told by upperclassmen to scare the incoming underclassmen. In many ways, however, there are certainly conditions that disable students’ confidence and sense of direction in life that can encourage unhealthy eating and sleeping habits in their first year. So, with that, here are 15 tips and tricks to avoid the fabled “Freshman 15”.

1. Meal plan

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Before the week starts, I like to prepare food beforehand in case my college activities, such as homework or volunteer work gets in the way of squeezing in lunchtime. Who doesn’t enjoy the satisfaction that results from cooking one’s food and knowing exactly what you put in it? One benefit one can receive from meal planning is counting calories and controlling portions of food that is desired to be consumed. For a multitude of college students, time is of the essence as the majority are working part-time jobs and continue to struggle balancing their school life with extracurricular activities and having a social life as well. Altogether, investing a decent amount of time on the weekend to grocery shop and create your own meal will greatly reduce the stress that comes along with eating out.

Buying groceries versus purchasing meals from restaurants or fast-food places, which will be quick to empty your wallet and make it cry.

An article published from Harvard’s School of Public Health, “Meal Prep: A Helpful Healthy Eating Strategy,” articulates that “A busy schedule is one of the top reasons why people choose quick takeout meals, which are often calorie-laden and a contributor to expanding waistlines (Strategy 1).

Unfortunately, the majority of college students lead busy lives with little time to prepare meals beforehand, yet that excuse leads to a chain of negative consequences on one’s health and wallet, such as unintentional weight gain and spending more than desired.

Critically, the author emphasizes the notable role of cooking home meals towards time management. The statement reads that “If you already food shop once a week and have basic cooking skills, your goal may be to choose one day a week to do most of the cooking, or try a new recipe (Strategy 4)."

Reportedly, meal planning is beneficial in how it “Can help with weight control, as you decide the ingredients and portions served (Strategy 8)." Food preparation also reduces stress for last-minute decisions or rushed preparation.

2. Workout routine

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Likewise, supplementing your morning coffee with a run is proven to have the same positive effects on your mind and body as the caffeine found in a morning cup of Joe. As college students are known for being coffee-addicted, sleep-deprived individuals, the solution is fairly simple, yet effective. For instance, exercise is known to release dopamine, (the feel-good chemical that lights up the reward center of the brain) and endorphins, which stimulate the neurons in the brain. This mental stimulation is the best substitute for those aiming to reduce their caffeine intake and find a more natural alternative to curing the morning blues. My tip for those new to working out is to begin implementing a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as running, biking, or playing tennis. Once you are able to perform these exercises at least three times a week, your body will experience an incredible transformation in metabolism and waistline reduction. Some advantages are mood stability and heightened energy levels, easier to manage sleep/wake schedules.

Joining sports teams or other social clubs, especially it is recommended that you attempt something new. Investing in a new hobby increases productivity and introduces new experiences for the individual. You learn more about yourself and can discover new interests and ways of expression.

3. HIIT Workouts

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Performing high-intensity interval training maintains metabolic rates throughout the day, extending the duration of time it takes to digest food. Furthermore, researchers found that those choosing HIIT exercises over other forms of exercise, such as cardio or aerobic activities were shown to have increased muscle growth. Following this workout plan, people are able to achieve an improved level of fitness without the unnecessary release of the stress hormone, cortisol, on the human body. Significantly, when the stress hormone, cortisol is released the body undergoes cravings and submits to eating more caloric-dense foods. Unfortunately, excessive cardio results in reduction of muscle mass and fixates pressure on the body’s joints and limbs. Therefore, engaging in high-intensity interval training promotes elevated sports performance while requiring half the time of another alternative high-intensity exercise.

4. Food Psychology

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In order to manipulate the mind’s way of interpreting fullness and taste satisfaction, use the small plate trick to lose weight. In addition, slowing the pace at which you consume food reduces the body's’ ability to sense fullness. Remember to savor the food instead of rushing.

According to Natalina Zlatevska, the author of the educational report titled “Use Small Plates To Lose Weight: Small Plates Can Help Us Lose Weight When We Self-Serve”, “Combining all the studies showed that halving the plate size led to a 30% reduction in amount of food consumed on average. In the case of plates, reducing the diameter by 30% halves the area of the plate and reduces consumption by 30% (Self-serve 5)." Implementing a fairly simple psychology trick on the brain, one has the ability to decrease their total food consumption by a quarter of the original amount to be eaten. To exemplify the science behind this trick, researchers have claimed that by integrating this trick, you are also practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness initiates autocratic behavior and surpassing impulse control on the mind and body. Eating smaller portions of food promotes weight loss and control of overall caloric consumption.

5. Early bird

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Although you may not be a morning person or the early bird, remember that Benjamin Franklin declared that, "Early to bed and Early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise". Adjusting to a regular sleep schedule enforces time management as a priority in one’s life and recalibrates the body’s metabolic rate to balance the amount of food eaten.

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