The “freshman 15” is not a myth. Poor eating habits, not enough exercise and excess consumption of high-calorie alcoholic beverages contribute to college weight gain, and these pitfalls are around every campus corner. If your waistline is expanding at the same rate as your mind, you can still lose weight in a dorm setting. You just need to get smart when it comes to your food choices and pass the temptation test.
Avoid overdoing it in the dining hall. Dorm cafeteria food isn’t unhealthful by nature, but with so many choices, you might be tempted to head straight for the food that causes you to pack on the pounds or overeat. Steer clear of fried and sugary foods as much as possible, and opt for a balanced plate. Fill up on fruits and vegetables and choose whole grain breads when you can. Grab a chicken breast from the hot buffet and slice it up to top a salad. Daphne Oz, author of “The Dorm Room Diet,” recommends whipping up your own dressings at the salad bar to avoid the added fat and sugar that premixed versions contain. Blend olive oil and vinegar, and add mustard for flavor.
Stock a healthy dorm refrigerator. Keep nutritious options on hand for those late-night study breaks. Plan ahead while you’re in the cafeteria, and fill to-go containers with fruits and vegetables from the salad bar. Carry out cartons of skim milk and low-fat yogurt, packets of plain instant oatmeal and fiber rich breakfast cereals or bars so you’re ready for a quick breakfast in your room. Head to the campus convenience store for handy packages of lean lunch meats, reduced-fat cheeses and roasted nuts. You’ll have everything you need to fuel up without bulking up.
Get your metabolism on track. Skipping meals and eating late at night are sure ways to screw up your metabolism. Personal trainer Diana Keuilian stresses the importance of taking time for breakfast, which kick-starts your metabolism for the day. Instead of skipping meals and giving in to a feeding frenzy later, eat smaller meals throughout the day to encourage a strong, steady metabolism.
Keep moving. Walking from class to class is part of campus life, so don’t get lazy and take the bus. When you’re headed to the third floor lecture room, take the stairs instead of the elevator. A long, scenic bike ride on the weekend gets your heart pumping and reduces your stress level. If there’s a gym room in your dorm building, or one nearby, take advantage of it regularly. Pick up a workout DVD you enjoy so you can burn a few calories without leaving your room.
Have fun responsibly. The campus social scene can sabotage your weight loss efforts if you don’t stay mindful. Set personal limits regarding your calorie intake at pizza joints, coffee shops and keg parties, but don’t deprive yourself completely.
Stay hydrated. Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day to counteract the dehydrating effects of caffeine-laden beverages. You’ll feel less hungry, more energetic and you’ll flush away excess bloat. Stashing healthful, portable snacks in your backpack each morning gives you something to nibble on while you’re running from class to class. If you keep your tummy from grumbling, you’ll stay more focused on your studies and be less likely to gorge yourself or reach for a convenient, but fattening treat that gives you an instant energy boost.
The stress of school and living away from home for the first time can trigger eating disorders in some students. If your college dieting habits become obsessive or dangerous, speak to a campus counselor.