Mexican Tortilla Salad. (Linda Gassenheimer/TNS)
Mexican Tortilla Salad. (Linda Gassenheimer/TNS)

How to avoid the dreaded “Freshman 15”

One of the biggest worries of every incoming college student is the infamous “Freshman 15.” The Freshman 15 has earned quite a reputation on college campuses over the years, and for good reason.

As we get older, our metabolisms are not nearly as fast as they once were in our early teens, making it very easy to fall victim to weight gain during your first semester away from your parent’s cooking, especially if you aren’t careful and don’t take care of yourself.  But have no fear, because here are some valuable tips to help you stay healthy and fit during your first semester.

Stay Active

The first semester of college can be a very hectic transition that  can cause you to  often lose sight of the need to take care of yourself and your body. To do so, I recommend building  an hour or two dedicated to exercise into your schedule each day.

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Yet, exercise can take many different forms. Especially with the newly renovated Reynolds Gym, there are so many ways to exercise and be healthy as a Wake Forest student. If lifting weights is your thing, take advantage of the brand new fitness center. It is worlds better than the Miller Center the rest of us started our Wake Forest careers with. If you are more into cardio, there are endless opportunities for running on campus. You can keep it simple by just running on the treadmill in the gym, or you can make things more interesting by running on campus or exploring the beautiful trails around the perimeter of campus.

Also, Campus Recreation offers many fitness classes and personal training options, such as yoga, spin and Zumba.

Additionally, if it is hard for you to get inspired to go to the gym a few days a week, there are many great ways to get out your competitive edge here as a Demon Deacon. Any day of the week, you can go to the Sutton Center and find a pick-up basketball game. Also, Campus Rec puts on intramural sports throughout the year, and I highly recommend finding some friends from your freshman hall and making an intramural team. It is both a great way to stay active and make new friends during  your freshman year.

Eat Well

Diet and exercise go hand in hand, so it’s important to also be conscientious of the foods you are choosing.  Instead of eating Chick-fil-a and hamburgers at the Pit for lunch, opt for a salad and fruit. Over the past year or so, the Pit has added many dietary and health-conscious options including the Vegan station, the Chobani bar and gluten-free alternatives, so look out for those.

Additionally, instead of putting your sandwich on white or ciabatta bread, consider having whole wheat. The Pit offers a great variety of fresh local fruits and vegetables that serve as a healthy and delicious side to your meal instead of those fries or chips. Simple choices in your diet can go a long way in preventing weight gain.

Finally, let’s address one of the quickest ways students put on pounds: not monitoring what they are drinking. Drinking empty calories can sneak up on you quickly and can oftentimes be the source of those unwanted pounds. The easiest way to fix this is to stop drinking. But as experimentation is a part of many freshmen students’ experience, we can’t ignore these calories.

Yet, there are a couple tricks to be mindful of when consuming alcohol. The first is to look for the lighter options. If you are a beer drinker, there are many “light” beers that do not have  as many calories as some heavier beers. If you are drinking hard alcohol, stay away from some of the darker and flavored alcohols. They tend to have more sugars and calories. Another thing students often neglect is the calories from the other drinks they consume while drinking alcohol. Drinking the calories from a can of Coca Cola along with the calories from hard liquor can quickly add up, especially when you add a Gatorade in the morning to help cure your hangover. Be conscientious of these calories  and don’t forget to factor them into your diet and exercise plans. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for underage drinking, but if we ignore it as a factor we are missing a huge source of the “Freshman 15.” So my advice is to be safe about it, and also try to stay “healthy” while doing so.

By building a fitness routine into your schedule, maintaining a healthy diet and monitoring the calories you are drinking, you are sure to reduce your risk of the dreaded Freshman 15. Yet if you gain a couple pounds, or even lose a couple pounds, don’t beat yourself up about it either way. Remember that college is a transition and it takes students a while to figure it out. Each person’s body is different and what works for some people doesn’t work for others. Ultimately, you have to figure out what works best for you, make a plan and stick to it.

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