If it’s your first year at Concordia, you’ve probably been warned about the dreaded “freshman 15”. But while long hours in class, late nights at the library and even later nights on the social scene can lead to speedy and significant weight-gain, it needn’t be your fate.
Fending off first-year fat boils down to a simple science: calories in versus calories out. If you take in more than you burn off, you’re going to gain weight. And while it may seem impossible to focus on diet and exercise while juggling a full course load, part-time job and some semblance of a social life, I’m here to assure you it is possible. Follow these tips to fight the “freshman 15” and remain healthy throughout your college years:
Maintain a balanced diet. Mom may not be around to make you eat your veggies, but that doesn’t mean you should give ’em up completely. In fact, you should aim to eat 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. They’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which help decrease risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and full of fiber, which will help fill you up without filling you out. Complex carbs should be another mainstay, with an emphasis on whole grains, pastas and cereals.
Lean meats and low-fat dairy products are key sources of protein, but if their cost proves prohibitive, consider alternative sources, such as eggs, nuts and legumes. Limit your intake of fats, sweets and heavily processed fare, as it’s usually more expensive and void of nutritional value.
A balanced, healthy diet can actually help stave off cravings by promoting variety and preventing boredom from eating the same foods every day. It also provides a wider range of nutrients beneficial to your body.
Brown-bag it. The frenzied pace of University life means eating on the run– and thus eating out— a lot! But by relying on restaurants or the school cafeteria to furnish your meals, you’re not doing your waistline or your wallet any favours. Commercially prepared foods are costly, and often laden with extra salt, fat and sugar to compensate for shoddy ingredients.
Instead of becoming diner-dependent, opt to tote your own healthy meals to school. Keep an assortment of fresh fruits and chopped veggies on hand, as well as nuts, trail mix, low-fat cheeses and whole-grain crackers for easy grab-and-go snacks. Also, when preparing evening meals, consider cooking extra and packing leftovers for lunch the next day.
Move your body. You’ve learned how to limit the calories coming in, but you’ve still gotta make an effort to burn some of them off. No fancy gym membership is required, you just have to stay focused on how much energy you’re expending each day. Aim for 30 minutes of cumulative cardio (an early-morning jog, a brisk walk between classes, opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator) seven days a week, throw in 20-30 minutes of strength training (good ‘ol pushups, sit-ups, dips, squats and lunges can be done at home with zero equipment) 2-3 days a week and you’ll have no trouble maintaining a fit physique.
Practice party control. Contrary to popular belief, beer is NOT a food group! In fact, each brown bottle contains a whopping 150 empty calories which, if you’re studying all day and partying all night, will probably settle somewhere around your midsection. And while you’re certainly not expected to abstain from alcohol, imbibing in moderation is key. A few drinks with your buddies on the weekend does not a massive beer-belly make, but party daily and your diet is doomed.
Oh, and one last thing-: Head straight home from the bar. Ninety-nine cent pizza at 3 a.m. never did anyone’s thighs any favours.
Keeping the “freshman 15” off your frame shouldn’t take focus away from your studies this fall. Eat right, exercise and keep your inner party-animal under control, and you’re sure to be one of the fittest freshman on campus.