Avoiding the Freshman Fifteen

Anna Nguyen/New University

By Taylor Weik

No matter which college you attend, there are always horror stories that you learn of after you move in as a freshman; murderers hiding in the closets of school buildings and haunted dorm halls, for instance. However, there is one story we freshmen are constantly warned of; a story that is even more terrifying and gruesome than all the rest because it can actually happen to us. Yes, this threat is the “freshman 15.” Cue the frightening screams and the piercing shrieks.

The freshman 15 has been a common phrase added to the college student’s vocabulary. This term refers to the 15 pounds that first-years gain, whether they’re grubbing at their dorm commons or snacking off-campus. Mom isn’t here to cook us nutritious food or criticize our eating habits anymore. We have the option to eat anything, at any time of the day and any portion we desire. With this new freedom comes new responsibilities.

The freshman 15 creeps upon you without you ever realizing it. First your stomach starts to bulge through your shirt, then your favorite pair of jeans feels more snug than usual and soon enough, you’re feeling slow and exhausted from just walking from Middle Earth to the engineering building, and your stomach and love handles are spilling over your pants. This might be a slight exaggeration, but the reality is that weight gain is a slow process, so gradual that you don’t realize you’re getting fat until you look in the mirror one day and notice the changes.

This brings us to the pressing question: what is a freshman to do? We can’t stop eating at our dining halls, because our parents have already paid for our coveted meal plans. And we don’t want to give up social time with friends over boba and crispy chicken at Cha for Tea.

But what we can do is make subtle changes to our eating habits and revamp our lifestyles. If we make the right decisions, we can still eat as much as we did before, and keep off the fat. Offered to you here are various good habits you can dig into to prevent the freshman 15 from haunting you and your body.

Make healthy substitutions. Instead of making a beeline for the pizza and bread, opt for something healthier like protein-filled chicken and some fruits and vegetables. Starches are good for you, but not for every meal. It’s essential for your well-being that you not only focus on one group in the food pyramid.  And the great thing about substituting is that you can eat as much as you did before. Sandwich and salad, not burger and fries.

Cut back on the midnight snacks. I know this a stretch for college students, since we’re always up into the wee hours of the morning studying and need substances to make it through the night. But research (and wise words from my mother) proves that though eating late alone won’t cause weight gain, midnight snacking adds to your daily intake of calories. And it’s too late to go to the gym. If you absolutely need to eat something, opt for some fruit or string cheese.

Exercise. This solution to weight gain might seem the most simple and practical, but the reality is that many college students can’t find the time to work off the calories. We’re always so busy that it takes great effort to squeeze in a little time at the ARC. But there are many other things we freshmen can do. Go for a jog around Mesa. Workout in Helm’s Deep in Middle Earth. Or, my personal favorite, take some free dance workshops that UCI’s various dance teams offer throughout the year.

Become a cheapskate. Try to not buy food for as long as you can. One of the reasons why college students are so poor is because they spend all their money on food. Think about how much money you spend on food on and off campus and how much you can save by eating in the dining halls or in your room. Hopefully the images of your hard-earned cash flying out of your pocket and disappearing forever will motivate you to stop spending so much, and thus, not eating as much.

Staying fit while being surrounded by delicious Pippin cakes and Brandywine cookies is definitely a challenge. But if you make those small adaptations in your diet, your precautions will soon become habits, you’ll soon find that the scale will tip in your favor. Don’t become a part of the horror story that is the freshman 15. Become the person who conquers it.