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How to avoid the ‘Freshman 15’

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(CNN) It’s hard to think back to a time in life where you could eat what you want, when you wanted, how you wanted and whatever you wanted and not gain a pound. But in today’s society of reaching epidemic obesity rates as early as elementary school, it’s easy to see why our incoming college freshmen are struggling with the dreaded “Freshman 15”.

Freshman 15 is the roughly 15 pounds that many incoming freshmen tend to gain during their first year of college. While this number may have earned its staple, truthfully, that number could be closer to twenty or twenty five pounds of pure fat.

Let’s take a look at the lifestyle that has earned this notorious title and explore the alternatives that could change the course of how one can graduate with honors in health and fitness vs. failing by the end of freshman year.

Stress – There is no denying the first year of college brings major life changes and this can be very stressful. It’s usually the first time most students are away from home. In addition, they are getting their first taste of real life without all the safety nets, juggling hundreds of new classmates, getting classes straight and let’s not forget the new roommate. All of this can equal a lot of stress.

Solution: Students need to learn quickly how to manage their time and prioritize their day. Use physical activity as a daily outlet for stress and schedule it for an hour of self-dedicated time just like one of their classes.

New Eating Habits – The days of mom’s home cooking are now gone and students are relegated to hallway vending machines, hot plates in the dorm, crockpots, 3am pizza runs, chips, power bars, Starbucks for breakfast, on campus fast-food chains and lets not forget the favorite starving student meal – roman noodle soup.

Solution: While it may initial seem like a challenge, students can make better choices even when eating out. One can actually plan their meals and stock better snack options in their dorm. Choosing fruits and raw veggies, as snacks will beat Skittles any day. Choosing a protein shake over $5.00 iced coffee, egg whites and oatmeal for breakfast is a protein power punch vs. McDonalds’ McGriddle and believe it or not evening juicing would be a better option than choosing sugar filled soda vending machines.

Drinking – While we would like to think the angle that left home will never partake in the many freshmen rituals, it is a known fact alcoholic drinks are a direct influence to the Freshman 15 in a few ways. First, alcoholic drinks are very high in calories, even the skinny versions. They are high in sugary content and they lower the metabolism greatly. This would be another factor to the “hang-over effect” and no one feels like doing anything physical the day after a hang over. Second, alcoholic beverages also breakdown muscle tissue and thus makes the body look soft, skin sag and look unhealthy and even leads to dehydration.

Solution: While no one can make students stay away from the many college parties, fraternity and sorority offerings or Saturday night toga parties, students do have the power of choice. Choose to stay away from the binge drinking parties and determine what their real priorities are for long term and not just that event. Everything is ok in moderation, but outside of the health factors, there are long term consequences that could be more than students care to chew later.

Overall, weight gain is an individual issue throughout life. Our genetics determine how we gain weight, where we gain weight and how much we gain. Most students find there will be various factors that contribute to their Freshman year and much of what they will encounter has everything to do with self motivation, self discipline and determine lifestyle factors.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about nutrition but if students take control of their thoughts, their life and desire to make their college years the best experience of their life, it is critical that they take care of their physical health as much as their academic output so they can beat the odds of “Freshman 15” with honors.

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