It’s the first day of your freshman year in college, you’ve finally gotten through hours of Common App applications where you over-hyped your role in the 9th grade bake sale! It’s around 12 p.m. and your stomach is saying that it’s food time. You head into the dining hall anxiously wondering if it’s socially acceptable to eat alone (p.s. it’s the most normal thing ever, don’t even bother worrying) and you are left in amazement. It’s like an all-you-can-eat, Royal Caribbean buffet situation going on. Can this be? There’s even a fry station!! Here are a few tips on how to avoid going too crazy and forego the Freshman 15.
You look to your right and you spot three different kinds of pizza laid out so attractively, you can swear one just winked at you. You catch a whiff of Betty Crocker and to your left you see a long table filled with enough pastries to give you diabetes in one sitting. Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, red velvet cake, they even decided to include oatmeal raisin cookies (yuck). A glint of light shines off a metal machine blinding you, and it’s…the ice cream machine!
Okay hold up. Let’s relax. Sure this is every person’s dream regardless if you’re a food enthusiast or not. I mean you basically paid for unlimited food and could technically eat four plates of fries followed by TEN cookies. The best part is you can grab whatever you want and no one can tell you anything. So…now do you see where the Freshman 15 comes in?
The majority of incoming freshmen are always asking upperclassmen one important question, “how do I not get the Freshman 15”. It’s every incoming freshmen’s worst nightmare to have to buy new jeans halfway into the semester when those blueberry muffins turn into an actual muffin top. The college budget doesn’t really allow for a trip to Levi’s, so it would be ideal to, well, NOT go up two pant sizes. However accidents do happen, and by accidents I mean creating your very own ice cream sandwich, with the warm cookies which taste like Betty Crocker’s and that soft serve vanilla ice cream.
There are ways to avoid the Freshman 15, but it’s important to stress that it’s completely okay and normal to gain weight your freshman year! Your mom is no longer cooking for you and you probably won’t eat a fruit until you return home, and that’s fine! Don’t let the fear of gaining a little more weight prevent you from living your first year to the most, balance people.
1. Salads? Think again
Every dining hall has a salad bar section and in the first week you’ll find a mass of girls wearing Lululemon leggings clogging it up. If you clicked on this article you’re probably interested in preserving your size, and hence, will probably end up here, so here’s what you have to keep in mind.
Be careful with the dressings, sure you may have five different vegetables on your plate but that doesn’t mean you can drown them in ranch sauce until it’s basically ranch with a side of veggies. Most of the dressings are packed with calories and sugars, so beware the sneaky pounds that are hiding in there. Instead try to see if there’s a little bit of olive oil or soy sauce that you can add for flavor. This may be pushing it, but if you can get your hands on some lime or lemon then you may just be golden.
Don’t go too crazy with the croutons and the feta cheese, just because you have spinach on your plate doesn’t mean it justifies a mountain of cheese. Even though feta cheese is absolutely delicious and deserves to be eaten in mountain portions.
2. The “healthiest” foods may not be the healthiest choice
Obviously when you’re trying to stay fit your mind thinks of salads, fruits, etc. When choosing your meals you may go for what you think is the healthiest option, but is it actually the best choice you can make? Take granola for example, sure it’s full of energy and tastes quite good, but it’s very calorie dense and incredibly easy to overeat. The key is to keep an eye on your serving, just because it’s “healthy” doesn’t mean you should down two bowls of it. I used to eat strawberry yogurt and dump a whole lot of granola in it, when in reality I could have eaten a bagel for the same amount of calories.
Another “healthy” food that can easily turn unhealthy is peanut butter. My wannabe fit buddies and I ate whole wheat toast topped with peanut butter and bananas for a while and man did it feel healthy. Peanut butter gives you healthy fats and banana is a fruit, so technically you’re all good. However portion control can be quite difficult when you’re just slathering on that PB like its completely calorie free. Serve yourself some peanut butter on your plate and then add it to your toast in spoonfuls. You shouldn’t be obsessing over the calorie count, but being more aware of how much you’re eating will help you realize you may be eating way more than the suggested serving.
Don’t avoid healthy foods such as peanut butter or granola, but don’t lie to yourself about the portions and overeat them just because they are healthier than other foods.
3. Don’t try to cross out the delicious treats and sweets
At first I completely evaded the dessert section because I knew I would feel guilty for eating sweets. Don’t! It’s absolutely fine to satisfy your sweet tooth every now and then, but just make sure it’s not every day. If you’re the person that’s bound to overdo it with the sweets then maybe set away just three days in the week for desserts. I had a month where I ate ice cream with a rude amount of toppings everyday, and it didn’t lead to much success, and frankly made it harder to breathe in my jeans. Allow yourself to have the foods you love without overindulging, this will make you avoid the freshman 15.
4. Beware the “shared” plate
When I would meet up with my friends to eat at night it was quite the event. We liked to set a time and meet each other for dinner to relax and take a break from studying. What would happen quite often, however, is that one of us would bring a sneaky meal such as a plate of fries and a DIY “spicy mayo” sauce. No one really wants to eat these dishes by themselves so we’d would put them in the middle and would all agree to “have a little bite”. One bite turns to twelve and suddenly you’ve eaten your weight in chocolate chip waffles. It’s very easy to assume that you’re not eating much if you’re sharing a plate. You may feel less guilty since others are eating the food as well but the calories won’t spare you because of your teamwork. Try to put the food from the shared plate onto your plate, this way you can have an idea of how much you are actually eating.
5. Try not to make multiple trips
As mentioned before, it can be quite tempting to go for endless amounts of servings when you have unlimited food at the swipe of your student ID. For me, I would always tell myself that I’d have a single plate but then would head over to “explore” other dishes and end up eating at least two more. Often the first meal would not satisfy me, which would lead me to go in search of more food. Try to make one trip where you get a portion that you think will actually fill you up.
From my experience, you’re more likely to go through the freshman 15 phase when you are unaware of how much you’re actually eating. Don’t go crazy over your diet and remember that college is supposed to be the four best years of your life. You don’t want to be obsessing over the ice cream you ate for lunch when there’s so many other things you could be doing. Just be aware of how much you’re eating and try to follow your instinct with portion sizes and ingredients. Listen to your body and eat because you want to, not because the food is there. If you’re mindful of your food and keep active then you can have a guilt free year REGARDLESS if you gain pounds or not! The scale does not indicate your happiness, remember that.