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Avoiding weight gain in your first year of university

Maclaine Chadwick | Fulcrum Staff

THE FRESHMAN 15: a dreaded phenomenon you have probably often heard associated with first-year college or university students. Many sources say it’s a myth and that first years tend to gain closer to five pounds, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious about your diet and exercise habits in first year. Kyle den Bak, a certified personal trainer at Executive Fitness Leaders, explains it can be easy to develop bad habits and gain weight, potentially even more than 15 pounds. Here are some unhealthy habits to avoid and tricks to fight the fat.

Careful at the cafeteria
If you have purchased a meal plan, you may feel obligated to eat solely at the cafeteria. The cafeteria’s lineup of pizza, sushi, and burgers is certainly tempting, but eating that food every day will leave you feeling gross.

“When people are going away to university, they have that freedom for the first time really,” says den Bak. “They now can choose the things they want to eat, and more often than not they choose the things that they wouldn’t have chosen when they were living with their parents.”

Remember, the cafeteria doesn’t have to be your only option if you have committed to a meal plan. Opt for the salad or stir fry bar whenever you can, and keep some simple breakfast foods—like fruits and healthy cereal—in your dorm so that you can skip Coyote Jack’s greasy breakfast altogether.

Liquid calories still count
Welcome to university, where alcohol is pivotal to nearly every social gathering you are going to attend for the next four years.

“Alcohol really is a multi-pronged attack on the human body,” den Bak explains. If you choose to drink up, keep in mind that the average alcoholic drink has 150 calories, and with each gulp you are increasing the likelihood of stumbling downtown to find some fast food.

“[Alcohol] actually stimulates appetite … and when you are out consuming alcohol and you’re hungry, you get whatever is open which is usually greasy food,” said den Bak.

Oh, and puking it up the next day does NOT reverse things. It’s okay to have fun with your friends, but be cautious about drinking too much. It’s not only bad for your waistline, but for your wallet and wisdom as well.

Stress eating
You might not be feeling it yet, but come midterm season your mind and body will need to cope with loads of stress. Many students fall into the habit of overeating the wrong foods when trying to deal with the pressures of school, but bear in mind that there are other options.

“If you know that you eat a lot when you’re stressed, you need to find a new way of coping,” suggests den Bak. “Try some breathing exercises to keep yourself calm, plan breaks in your workload if you have a lot to do, or take a nap if you need it.”

If you really feel the cravings calling, make a smart choice about what you consume. “It’s not necessarily about the volume, it’s about the things that are going in,” explains den Bak. Choose to snack on whole foods such as raw veggies to keep you going.

Lack of exercise
University often means you no longer have any scheduled physical activity, such as gym class or an after-school sport, so it’s extra important to make time for exercise.

“Realistically speaking, workouts do not have to be long. They should be vigorous and intense, but they don’t have to be long,” says den Bak. If you are intimidated by the gym, you can work out in your dorm room, with “simple movements like squats, lunges, pushups [and] sit-ups,” says den Bak. These exercises are effective in keeping away unwanted weight gain and don’t require any equipment.