7 Tips to Fight the Freshman 15

Among all the traditions of going off to college and starting adulthood, gaining weight is one of the most common (and unwanted.)

A study at Auburn University followed 131 students for four years and discovered that 70% of them gained between 12 and 37 pounds by graduation.  Yikes!

Why, oh why, does this happen?  Lots of reasons.  I’m sure you’re busy, so I’ll consolidate here, answering not only why, but more importantly how you can fix it.

7 Reasons for the freshman 15 (and how to fight them!)

1.Rebellion/New Freedom.  For many students it is their first time living away from home so there mom isn’t there to cook a well balanced meal or offer reminders to eat salad.  This newfound freedom can lead to some poor nutrition choices.  Give me all the ice cream!  Give me all the bacon and eggs you have!

The first few weeks, sure, go out and discover your junk food limits.  When it’s suddenly difficult for you to button your jeans for pull them over your thighs (jeans don’t lie), it’s time to put your inner child in check, even if you don’t want to adult today.

If you were babysitting, would you let the child eat six candy bars and potato chips for dinner?  Probably not.  So don’t let yourself do that either.

2.  Less physical activity.  In high school you probably had to take PE and possibly were involved in extracurricular sports.  In college the competition is more intense for a spot on the team, and if you get cut there may not be a recreational club for that sport on campus.

The good news is that many campuses have fitness centers you can use for free or for a nominal rate. You could run on a football track, trails in nearby parks, or sign up for a fun run for a good cause.

Pub run in Austin

While you’re in the process of making friends, why not find a gym buddy?  It’s easier to stay on track when you’ve got a friend who helps hold you accountable.  Plus there are tons of fitness apps and YouTube videos to help you mix up your workouts so you won’t get bored.

3.  Skipping meals.  Let’s face it – you’re busy!  Workload is intense and studying for a chemistry exam or being involved in a lot of extracurricular activities may suck up a lot of your free time.  Want to do your own little experiment?  Eat breakfast every days at 7 a.m. in the cafeteria.  Notice how many people eat there at the start of the semester versus the end.

Make it a point to eat breakfast that has a mix of protein, carbs and healthy fats.  Even if you keep some food in your room, it will get your metabolism working and help you focus better in class.  Aim to eat something like eggs, whole wheat toast and some avocado in the cafeteria, or keep some nonfat Greek yogurt, fruit and whole roasted almonds in your room if you oversleep and have to dash to class.

4.  Eating at weird times.  Along with skipping breakfast, and eating vending machine food for dinner seven hours later, you might decide to make a 2 a.m. Taco Bell run.

Photo: Business Insider

This confuses the hell out of your body, which coincidentally is designed for cavemen, so with a feeding schedule like the one above your body might think it’s approaching a famine and will horde energy by converting the carbs you eat into fat storage.  To counter this I recommend to my clients to eat six small meals throughout the day, spaced out every 3 hours.  This keeps your blood sugar level happy and chance are like that the energy will be used up and not linger on your hips.

5. Lattes, soda and booze.  You can easily drink 500 calories before even taking your first bite of breakfast.  Sugar in coffee, soda and energy drinks will pack on calories and also spike your blood sugar, making you crash when you’re off the sugar high.  Alcohol, often mixed with these other drinks just makes everything more calorie laden.


How do you counter all this?  Try drinking water flavored with fresh fruit, green tea and coffee flavored with Stevia and vanilla almond milk.  If you are drinking alcohol, drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks.  If you want to skip alcohol all together without the drama of peer pressure, order one cocktail and hold it all night.  Most people won’t even notice.

6.  No Sleep.  When you pull an all knighted to write that term paper, you will feel tired which isn’t major, but if this lack of sleep happens consistently you could be putting on extra pounds.

According to WebMD, when you are sleep deprived it effects two hormones called ghrelin and leptin.  Ghrelin tells your body it’s time to eat.  When you’re sleepy your body makes more of it, causing you to be hungry.  Leptin tells your body when it’s time to stop eating.  When you’re tired your leptin levels plummet, causing you to eat more.  But when you get enough sleep, these hormones balance out.

Weight loss aside, getting enough sleep (at least 7 hours) has benefits any student would want.  In a study by the BBC, researchers found that participants who gained just one hour of sleep were able to better concentrate.  While you are sleeping your brain is working, shifting items from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.  This allows more space for new short-term memory items, so you can decorate your dorm with posters instead of post-it notes filled with little reminders for yourself.

7.  Stress!!!!!  It’s your first time living on your own, you miss your family and friends, have five exams on the same day, and the cute guy in your Western Civ class is talking smack about you on Snapchat.  Of course you’re stressed out!

Stress increases your cortisol levels, which is the hormone that regulates satiety.  When this happens not only are you hungry, you crave the foods that can pack on the most pounds (like sugar and carbohydrates.)

Photo: Women on the Fence

Instead of reaching for chocolate, reach for your phone and call a friend or family member to vent.  Is a class freaking you out?  Find a study partner.  Feeling negative?  Talk a walk to clear your mind.  Now would be a great time to exercise, even just 20 minutes to let those endorphins help you feel better.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t look at everything that needs to be done, just focus on one task at a time.  Finish it and move on.  Sometimes it helps to set a timer to force yourself to focus in small increments.  You’d be surprised how much calmer you feel when you realize how much progress is being made.

College should be a time to gain knowledge and friends – not weight!  Hope these tips help.  Know a college student?  Feel free to share this article with them.

Carpe diem.

Lisa 🙂

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My client after winning teen bikini award


Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!!!





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