College students are notorious for that Freshman 15 — with busy schedules and bad food, sometimes nutrition and fitness fall off the radar. With half the semester gone, we’re in that midterm slump, and grabbing fast food to-go or skipping a workout (or two) is starting to sound more tempting than keeping up with a super healthy lifestyle. But with advice from a panel of experts, nutritionists, doctors, and girls who have been there before, here are 15 ways to make beating that Freshman 15 a piece of cake.
Whether you’re spending long nights out with your friends or you’re in the library studying, a lot of girls don’t get the recommended amount of sleep necessary for their health. Dr. James O’Brien, the medical director of the Boston SleepCare Center in Boston, Massachusettes says, “sleep is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for optimal functioning.” While you sleep, your body releases hormones that regulate energy, mood and mental acuity. Jackie Keller, nutrition expert, professional wellness coach, Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and Founding Director of NutriFit agrees. “Lack of sleep causes your brain to release less serotonin. Because serotonin is the calming, happy neurotransmitter that helps us relax, our body compensates by encouraging us to get our serotonin through other means like eating sugary, salty or fatty foods. If we’re serotonin deprived, we often eat more, and have more meals overall.” You need 7 to 8 hours of sleep for your body to function properly, so get yourself into a routine where you’re in bed by a decent hour and won’t end up sleeping all day and staying up all night.
2. Beware of the Sweats!
Sweatpants are your best friend and your worst enemy. After all, there’s nothing better to roll out of bed and head to your morning lecture in and let’s be real, who dresses up to go to the library? Laura, a recent graduate of Western Illinois remembers getting a little too comfy in her sweatpants. “I never realized I was gaining weight because my stretchy pants allowed for a ton of wiggle room. Until I put my jeans back on, I had no idea I had gained a few extra pounds.” Make sure to throw your jeans on for class every once in a while. Not only are they cuter, they’ll also keep you in check.
3. Watch Your Stock!
Although it can be tempting to pick up bags of Cheetos and a box of macaroni and cheese at the store, remember that filling your dorm or apartment with junk food makes it a lot harder to eat healthy. Try fruit or granola (granola barscan sometimes be just as unhealthy as candy bars!) and stock your room with healthy food options so you can snack guilt-free. Kelly Klaczkiewicz CSP, registered dietician and nutritionist, suggests choosing one fruit or veggie with every meal and snack. “Load up on veggies; you can never eat too many!” Klaczkiewicz says.
4. Drink Water!
According to Keller, nutritionist to A-List celebs like Reese Witherspoon, Channing Tatum and Penelope Cruz, it’s important to drink water throughout the day because “water helps everything move along through your digestive tract and aids your metabolism. Since your body is made up of about 70 percent water, being dehydrated affects everything in your body.” So how much water should a collegiette be drinking each day? Calculate the amount by dividing your body weight in pounds in half — this is the number of ounces of water you should have every day. In addition, water helps us stay full, Keller says, so drinking up will help you avoid overeating! Try carrying a water bottle to class — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’ll help you drink more water throughout the day!
5. Don’t Order Takeout!
According to Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a typical Chinese takeout meal can have up to 1,300 calories — well over half of the 2,000 suggested caloric intake per day. Italian and Mexican food can be the same, or worse, because it’s higher in saturated fat. Instead of ordering that late-night takeout, start a “Jeans Fund” and put ten dollars in that fund every time you’re tempted to grab a meal after a night out. Monitoring the times you eat out will puff up your wallet and not your waist.
6. Shimmy It Off!
The easiest way to stay fit is to sign up for classes at the local gym or rec center — when you’re in a class setting, you’re more likely to stay on task. Most university gyms offer classes like Zumba, hot yoga, and hip-hop as part of the gym membership or for discounted prices to students, so ditch the treadmill and check out the class schedule instead — and once you’re going to class regularly and make it part of your routine, it’s easy to keep up with. It’s also a great place to meet new friends, who can be your best fitness motivators!
7. Watch the Booze & Be Choosy With the Chaser!
One shot (1.5 oz) of 40 percent vodka has around 60 calories. Take a second and mentally add up how many shots you have in a night with the calories in your chasers — and don’t forget the late-night food! A lot of girls think they’re avoiding extra calories by choosing hard alcohol over beer, but the truth is, shots of hard alcohol, especially when paired with chasers, add up quickly too. “Alcohol interferes with the body's ability to burn other substances that we consume. While our body is dealing with the alcohol we've consumed, the other food, like chips, soda, or even healthful foods are not being burned, they’re being stored. The calories from alcohol have no nutritional value (with the exception of a few benefits of red wine) so those calories take the place of good, quality calories from healthy food,” Keller explains. Still planning on partying? To steer clear of those unwanted calories, order drinks without soda or sugary chasers and mixers. Grace, a junior at the University of Illinois, says she sticks with the bare minimum when it comes to chasers. “My friends and I make a pitcher of Crystal Light if we’re pre-gaming before going out. It’s flavorful enough to cut the alcohol and the To-Go packs are only 10 calories each!”