Course 103
How to Avoid the Freshman 15

Prevent the Freshman 15 with the following strategies designed to manage the

Top 10 causes of college weight gain.

Make a commitment to follow one eating strategy below for each factor that contributes to the Freshman 15.

That way you'll have a minimum of 10 strategies in place to combat the common weight gain in college freshman.

If you need to review any of the Frosh 15 weight gain factors, click on any of the letters in the following acronym:

Beat the "Frosh 15:"
The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

F is for: Friends

Remember it's their influence on your food choices that make your (new) friends one of the causes of Freshman Fifteen weight gain. Therefore you need to keep your social eating under control:

  • Resolve NOT to share dorm room food.
  • Eat only when you’re physically hungry, never when you're "mentally" hungry.
  • Create "defined endings" to mealtime, especially if you're hanging out for extended periods of time in the cafeteria or a coffee shop, etc. (It's kind of like turning the lights off in the kitchen...a signal that eating time is OVER!):
    • Get up and remove your plate/tray.
    • Suck on a breath mint.
    • Chew gum.
    • Get up and go brush your teeth (carry a portable size toothbrush in your backpack).

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Beat the Freshman 15:
The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

I is for: Increase in Access to Food and Increase Variety of Foods

Don't let mass quantities of readily available food get the best of you:

  • Eat at regularly planned and scheduled mealtimes.
  • If you choose to eat in the cafeteria, skip using a tray (it's too easy to load too many things on it!) and stick with a plate only.
  • Review your plate before checking out and ask yourself, "would Mom or Dad approve?"
  • Decide what healthy choice you're going to eat before you get to the cafeteria and make a beeline for what you've decided on, avoiding other temptations.
  • Decide what healthy choice you're going to eat before going to a restaurant and avoid opening the menu.
  • Allow yourself one "free day" per week to indulge, but stick to eating a handful of the same healthy foods otherwise:
    • turkey sandwich
    • grilled/baked chicken
    • salad (watch the dressing)
    • vegetables
    • fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, fruit cups, etc.)
    • yogurt
    • soup (bean or vegetable based)

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Beat the Freshman 15:
The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

F is for: Fast Food

If your limited budget and tight schedule send you running for fast food:

  • Order like a child. Think KIDS menu.
  • Order only 1 item, not a meal, and definitely avoid "value" meals.
  • Choose items that are grilled vs. fried.
  • Think simple. Example: order a hamburger vs. cheeseburger and you'll save 100 calories.
  • Arm yourself with information. Determine (ahead of time) how many calories are in the fast foods you eat. You can access nutrition information via a fast food restaurant's website or product brochures that are (supposed to be) available in the restaurant.
    See my Fast Food Nutrition Guide.
  • Decide in advance what (reasonable option) you'll order. Avoid looking at the menu which may persuade you to order something higher in calories or a bigger portion size than you had planned.
  • Know in advance how often you'll frequent fast food restaurants. Make a fast food "rule," that you'll only go X number of days per week.

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Beat the Freshman 15:
The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

T if for: Tequila (and ANY alcohol)

Remember, drinking your excess calories can produce the same amount of freshman weight gain as chewing them:

  • At parties, keep a cup/glass (of diet soda or water) in your hand at all times. Walking around empty handed is just asking for someone to offer you a drink.
  • If you choose to drink, displace some calories by alternating each alcoholic beverage with water or seltzer.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach.
  • Be mindful of those "double whammy" calories that come from the "munchies:" Choose portion controlled munchies (mini boxes of cereal, individual portion sizes of chips, etc.) or order from the kids menu if you find yourself in a restaurant after the party.
  • Arm yourself with information. Know how many calories are in the alcoholic beverages you choose. Review calories here and/or visit calorie king.
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Beat the Freshman 15:
The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

E is for: Eating While Studying

While eating is certainly more fun than studying, don't let mindless munching lead to the Freshman Fifteen:

  • Plan A: Eat only when you're physically hungry, never when you're mentally hungry.
  • Plan B: Have low calorie "finger food" munchies on hand:
    • grapes
    • cherry tomatoes
    • baby carrots
    • snap peas
    • air popper and popcorn
    • berries
    • sliced apples
  • Buy single serving packages of snacks.
  • Use your dining card to buy portion controlled snacks from the cafeteria:
    • mini boxes of cereal
    • individual packets of instant oatmeal
    • string cheese
    • hard boiled eggs
    • yogurt
    • mini packages of crackers/graham crackers
    • individual packets of peanut butter and jelly: spread on individual packets of crackers
    • fresh fruit: bananas, apples
    • individual cartons of skim milk
  • Avoid eating directly from (multi-serving) packages. Always portion snack food into small (1/2 cup) bowls.

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Beat the Freshman 15: The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

E is for: Emotional Eating

Getting in habit of comforting yourself with food is a one way ticket to the Freshman Fifteen:

  • Become aware of the non-hunger cues that motivate you to eat. (Use my Mindful Eating Journal: Raisin Awareness.)
  • Make a list of 3 things you can do instead of eating when you're bored and keep it taped to your refrigerator.
    • surf the internet
    • read
    • sudoku puzzle
    • call a friend
    • etc., etc., etc.
  • Wear a rubber band on your wrist. Snap it (lightly) when you want to eat in order to bring awareness to what you're doing. Ask yourself: "Am I physically hungry or "mentally" hungry?"
  • Read more about emotional eating.
  • Read more about mindful eating.

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Beat the Freshman 15:
The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

N is for: Nobody’s watching

Don't let your new found freedom lead to college weight gain:

  • Weigh yourself once a week or try on your favorite pair of jeans/shorts once a week. The "Frosh 15" doesn't happen overnight. You'll gain 1 pound before you gain 5 pounds, and you'll gain 5 before you gain....
  • Establish accountability with a friend.

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Beat the Freshman 15:
The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

L is for: Lack of Structure

Haphazard, random, irrational eating is a sure way to pack on the Freshman 15:

  • Eat at regular, planned meal times (times probably will vary day to day based on your class schedule).
  • Plan to eat within 1 hour of waking and every 3-4 hours thereafter.
  • SCHEDULE the times you'll eat on a calendar in the same way you do for your class schedule. In fact, LOOK at your class schedule and plan your meal times around it:
    • For example, on a "9-5" type class day you might PLAN to eat at 8am, 12pm, 3:30pm, 7pm, and 10pm.
    • On a weekend when you sleep in later you might eat at 11am, 3pm, 6pm, and 10pm.
    • Have a general idea in mind of the times you plan to eat!

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Beat the Freshman 15: The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

B is for: Beverages

A habit of seemingly innocent coffee, coffee drinks and soda coupled with inadequate water intake can all lead to the Freshman 15:

  • Consider drinking hot (green) tea instead of coffee (you probably won't need to douse it in cream and sugar the way you do so for coffee.
  • Reconsider how much cream and sugar you need to add to coffee.
  • Use whole milk in place of (equal amounts of) cream to save calories.
  • Arm yourself with information. Know how many calories are in the beverages you drink. Read more on Starbucks nutrition.
  • Think small. A "tall" drink has fewer calories than a "grande" beverage.
  • PLAN how you will drink enough water:
    • Carry a water bottle with you at all times.
    • Stock your dorm room fridge with bottled water.
    • Drink a large glass of water with every meal.

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Beat the Freshman 15: The Solution F-I-F-T-E-E-N L-B-S

S is for: Sleep

There's a direct correlation between inadequate sleep and weight gain:

  • Get at least 7 hours sleep/night.
  • Consider modifying habits that interfere with sleep:
    • caffeine
    • nicotine
    • alcohol
    • eating too close to bedtime
    • eating a large meal before bedtime

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Calorie management is definitely a skill! And like any other skill, you first learn about it, and then practice it to get good at it.

This brings you to the end of Course 103: How to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen.

You can go on to
Course 104: Prevent College Weight Gain: Staying Active

or go back and review:

Understanding HOW and WHY the Freshman Fifteen happens is half the battle in keeping it from squeezing into your jeans with you. However, to pass this "course," what you know is not nearly as important as what you do.

You actually have to eat (and drink) differently so those extra Freshman 15 pounds don’t have a chance of graduating with you!

Free weight loss help.

Your Personal Nutrition Guide Home Page.