Food & Fitness

Guest post: helpful tips for avoiding the freshman 15

“The Freshman 15” refers to the weight often gained by first year college students. Why do some students gain weight? A major factor is dining at all-you-can-eat college cafeterias, which typically serve fatty foods and foods rich in carbohydrates. Drinking too much alcohol makes college students plump, as alcohol contains a large amount of calories in a small quantity of liquid. Other contributing causes to weight gain are stress, lack of sleep, and not getting enough exercise.

Calorie Control

Don’t make eating a hobby. Set boundaries on how much food you’re going to eat for each meal and stick to it. Establish a meal schedule and don’t eat just because you’re in the mood to eat. Don’t have a fourth meal! Avoid high calorie desserts and fried food. Obviously, you should stay away from junk food. They call it that for a reason! Also, eating in the morning gets your metabolism going for the day, so have some instant oatmeal or fruit for breakfast.

Low calorie salads, filled with dark leafy lettuces and vegetables, are healthy until you pour on the creamy dressing. Choose a low calorie dressing such as a vinaigrette. No, vinaigrettes are not for wimps! Put a little on at a time and mix it with the salad until most of the salad is lightly covered with dressing.


Alcohol is packed with calories. One beer, for example, contains about 150 calories. If you’re going to drink beer, at least have a light one. Besides the calories, alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns to make energy. Instead of being stored as fat, most of the alcohol gets converted to a substance called acetate. When acetate levels rise your body burns more acetate and less fat. Abstain from alcohol, or at least stick to an occasional beer or glass of wine (as long as you’re of age).

Binge Drinking

Don’t binge drink. Your liver will thank you and so will your parents! Find a reason or two to tell your friends why you don’t want to binge drink. There are many reasons to give: it’s unhealthy; it may damage the brain; hanging out with friends makes you happy, not being in a drunken stupor; you hate hangovers; you don’t want to damage your liver, etc. Their initial reaction may be slightly negative, but later they’ll respect you for not succumbing to peer pressure, and maybe you’ll inspire them not to binge drink.


Try to do a little bit of exercise everyday. Go jogging, lift weights, go for long walks, or play pick-up sports with your friends. Dancing is also a great aerobic exercise. Have an exercise routine and find a friend to work out with. You’re far more likely to stick to a program if you have an exercise partner. So do what it takes to be active; don’t just sit around for most of the day.

Unhealthy Snacks

Here’s a great tip for avoiding unhealthy snacks: Don’t buy them! Snacking out of an open box of cookies or crackers can easily add up to 500 to 800 empty calories in one snack session. If you’re going to eat an unhealthy snack, it’s best to take out a small portion and put the container away. Don’t eat out of an open box because it will be empty before you know it. An even better idea is to snack on healthier options like fresh fruit, pretzels, rice cakes, or whole wheat crackers.


Drink eight glasses of water a day. If you drink all the water you need you’ll probably notice a decrease in your appetite. Drinking water with a meal will help you feel full sooner. The process of burning calories needs an adequate supply of water to function efficiently. Dehydration slows down the fat burning process.


Studies have connected getting enough sleep to maintaining a healthy weight. Sleep is also a good way to manage stress, which can prompt overeating. Get seven or eight hours of sleep per night. Don’t stay up all night reading and sending text messages!

Hunger, Boredom and Stress

Learn to recognize when you’re actually hungry or if you’re actually tempted to eat due to boredom or stress. Take some time to think about it before grabbing a snack. Drinking a glass of water can often prevent you from being enticed by snacks. If hunger isn’t the real issue then get involved in an activity to get your mind occupied on something else.

Late Night Eating

A study performed in 2005 indicated that eating between 8 pm and 4 am was a leading contributor to weight gain, so try to avoid midnight snacks.

If you follow these tips, it’s possible to do well in college, have fun, and maintain a healthy weight.

Brian Jenkins writes about a variety of different college and education topics for BrainTrack.


  1. Dr. J

    This excellent list would apply to everyone when it comes to being healthy and fit, no matter where they were at! I noticed when I first went into medicine that although there were many diseases, living a healthy lifestyle seemed to help with all of them.

    My roommate during my freshman year of college, because we had an “all-you-can-eat” dining plan went way beyond the usual 15 pounds!

  2. Vered

    “Here’s a great tip for avoiding unhealthy snacks: Don’t buy them!” So true. I find that if I have junk in the house, it’s difficult to resist.

    By the way, these tips are great in general, for any age.

  3. The Bird Cage

    I once read that the Freshman 15 was strongly related to the increase in alcohol consumption. See, I never drank a day in my life, and still managed to pack on a good 10 lbs. For me it had to do lots with my new-found freedom to make every single food choice. When faced with options, I would always go for the calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods and ignored the potential health and weight consecuences. The thing is, when you’ve eaten healthfully at home all your life, you don’t really understand the effect of bad food on you… until you SEE it!

    Great post Sagan!

  4. charlotte

    Great roundup! My fave tip for staying healthy in college (we’ll ignore for the time being the years in college I spent being anorexic) was to learn how to cook! Meager budgets and fresh produce goes a lot farther when you figure out a few easy healthy meals to prepare. The Internet saved me with this one!

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