How to avoid the ‘Freshman 15′

Alcohol, ramen, and stress - the cornerstones of Freshman year. The weight gain seems inevitable, but here’s my guide to staying healthy, and more importantly, staying sane. 

Disclaimer: This is not a guide on how to lose weight, nor does this guide aim to ‘fat shame’ anybody. This is about maintaining a healthy lifestyle to avoid unhealthy weight gain in college based off my personal experiences. By no means am I trying to claim that this lifestyle is superior to others.

Now let’s get to it. 


  • Join a club or a team. These are usually much more demanding than working out by yourself, and being in a group environment will really encourage you to push yourself. Regular workouts keep you from going off the rails. Bonus: you don’t even have to have done the sport before to join a club.
  • Build muscle. This will increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is basically a measure of the rate at which your body uses energy to maintain the basic functions of life (i.e. the rate at which you burn calories doing absolutely nothing).
  • Join your school’s gym. They’re so much cheaper than regular gyms. Try going at least once a week.
  • Squeeze in at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday. You don’t have to go on a hardcore run everyday, but move around. Go for a walk, try the 7-minute workout, do some yoga. Set a time of day at which you want to accomplish this, and it’ll become a habit. It’s also a great way to ward off stress.
  • Take some rest. Don’t work out every single day of the week. Your muscles need these rest days to repair and grow back stronger.
  • Think about how you’re moving. This study from Harvard has shown that people who are aware of how many calories they’re burning generally manage to keep off the weight more so than those who aren’t aware. Next time you’re out and about, think about your glutes contracting when you’re walking uphill, or your biceps contracting when you’re carrying your heavy groceries back to your dorm.
  • Do it once. If you’re really not feeling motivated, make a promise to yourself to do whatever you’re set on doing just once. For example, if you want to do 10 pushups, but you really cannot be bothered, just do one. After doing one you’re much more likely to want to continue. If not, don’t beat yourself up about it too much. One is still greater than zero.


  • Eat when you’re hungry. You don’t have to stick with the traditional ‘3-meals-a-day’ plan, or even follow the hype of the ‘6-meals-a-day’ plan (it was only based on a single study…these findings need to be interpreted with circumspection). This will ensure that you’re only taking in as much as you need. Just make sure you stop when you’re satisfied.
  • Only keep healthy snacks around. E.g. fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. These foods generally have a lower energy density, meaning that there are less calories per 100g, so you can eat more of them. Chips and other sugary foods have what’s known as ‘empty calories’, meaning that you don’t really eat them for energy. Plus, they’re not filling, so you can easily devour an entire bag of chips.
  • Be wary of alcohol. I’m not saying to cut it out completely, because this is something I definitely do not do (but if you want to for whatever reason, then go for it!). Just be aware of how many calories you’re consuming.
    • Beer: 154 kcal
    • Vodka: 47 kcal
    • Absinthe: 103 kcal
    • Jagermeister: 103 kcal
    • Tequila: 69 kcal
    • Rum: 97 kcal
    • Baileys: 130 kcal
    • Gin: 110 kcal
    • Whisky: 105 kcal
    • Red wine: 85 kcal
    • White wine: 82 kcal
    • Champagne: 95 kcal 
    • Red Bull: 110 kcal
  • Be wary of a hangover. Chances are, you’ll feel like absolute shit the next day, so hitting the gym will probably be the last thing you want to do. Normally, I’ll force myself to go in the afternoon when my hangover’s died down a bit, but if I’m really not up for it, I’ll make sure to work extra hard at the gym before going out.
  • Don’t skip meals to ‘save up’ your calories (guilty). Doing this will make you more likely to binge later on in the day, because you’ll feel so deprived! The same goes for alcohol. Don’t skip out on meals just so you can drink more. The alcohol will get absorbed into your bloodstream faster, making you drunker a lot faster. Plus, you’ll get so hungry later on in the night that you’ll binge eat everything, and you’ll have no control over it, since you’re completely sloshed!
  • Practice mindful eating. Try to focus only on your food during meals. Not doing so will make you more likely to overeat. Read: How to curb hunger pangs with your mind. 
  • Portion control. I like to fill half my plate up with vegetables, ¼ with protein and ¼ with carbs of some sort. However, if you’re in a buffet setting (e.g. catered halls), use a big plate and load up on that. You’ll probably feel full by the end of that one plate and won’t be tempted to go back for seconds.
  • Reflect. Before grabbing something to eat, take a quick moment to think about whether you’re truly hungry, or whether you’re just bored/tired/procrastinating/sad, etc.
  • Don’t give in. If you’re in a social setting and everyone’s eating a lot, but you’re not hungry, don’t feel like you have to join in.
  • Drink more water. We all know that water has no calories, but it also helps you feel fuller. Drink a glass before and after each meal to help you feel more satisfied.
  • If you’re still not convinced about eating completely healthy, don’t go completely crazy. You’re in college, temptation’s all around you! If you really can’t help it, eat in moderation. Have one cookie, have half a  slice of cake, whatever. Only you can use your judgment to decide what’s right.
  • If you’re really craving something but don’t want to face the guilt of eating it, then think about it. Think about what you want to eat. Imagine yourself eating it and your emotions associated with it. A study has shown that this mental exercise is enough to satisfy your craving, but if you’re still not happy, then go crazy (in moderation, of course).
  • Drink your coffee black. If you’re the type who really only drinks coffee for its effects, try taking it black. This only packs 10 calories, as opposed to adding cream and sugar, which raises it to around 70 calories. If you can’t stomach it, try green tea instead.
  • Careful with your catering. Try choosing something that’s poached, baked, steamed, boiled, grilled or roasted. These generally use less or no oil in cooking. Also, head for the salad bar for some vegetables, just don’t be too heavy-handed with the high-calorie dressings (hello, thousand island sauce!), bacon and croutons. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar is one of the lower calorie options. Also, instead of having a traditional dessert every night, you could try having a piece of fruit.
  • Keep a food journal. You don’t have to count calories (but you can if you want to). You can simply log everything you eat. You’ll see how much mindless snacking really adds up! 
  • If you’re down in the dumps and want to eat your feelings away…Skip out on the chocolate. Go crazy on some carrot sticks, or something.

Other Tips:

  • Be active. Walk/bike everywhere. Take the stairs.
  • If you’re monitoring your weight, don’t feel guilty if you don’t like what you see. A 3-pound weight gain doesn’t necessarily mean you got fatter, the 3 pounds could represent muscle gain.
  • Find a friend or two with similar goals. Keep each other in check.
A grocery list for healthy meals and food and stuff.

Ground Chicken ( I like to make chicken patties for breakfast or for a sandwich)
Ground Turkey (same as chicken, I also like to use it for making turkey meatloaf muffins)
Lamb & Bison (Only when On sale.. personally)
Salmon (awesome easy dinners)
Tilapia (easy lunch)
Tuna (canned for an easy lunch, or get a tuna steak- awesome grilled)
Shrimp - sometimes, not the most filling/highest in protein. 
Ground Beef (awesome for homemade burgers or stews or chilis)

-Zuchinni (I buy a bunch of these I love them, they are so quick)
-Kale (I like to make my smoothies with this or make kale chips)
-Brussels Sprouts
-Green Beans
-All bell peppers
-All normal spicy peppers
-Cucumber (Salads) 
-Avocado ( I know this is a fruit.. but it is green so I believe it to be a veggie :P this is good for healthy fats. I am not a huge fan but some people are crazy about their cados) 

Just get what you like. I enjoy Almond Butter & Apples as a treat. 

-Cantelope (if I can tell it is fresh and awesome
-Grapes (I like to freeze them for desserts)
-Strawberries & other berries
-Frozen Strawberries & Blueberries for Smoothies
(there are tons of fruit though! I just like these)

‘Higher’ carb Foods :
-Sweet Potato
-Acorn Squash
-Spaghetti Squash

Random Other Things:
-Coconut Milk
-Almond Milk
-Nuts (I like cashews, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin)
-Almonds (Buy more if you want to make almond flour from scratch)
-Nut Butters (Artisia has a lot of different types but I like Almond and -Cashew butter the most)
-Spices (I have tons of spices, I wish I had more.. Im a spiceoholic)
-Coconut Aminos (it is like soy sauce, but made from fermented coconut, it is great for going out for sashimi or making stir frys)
-Coconut and Olive Oil for cooking. 
-Canned Tomatoes (for chili and sauces!) 

I try and go with what is on sale/cheaper. I also try and make a really rough ‘meal plan list’ so I only buy what I know I will be using (in the produce/meat sections)

This was my grocery list for a ‘paleo’ type lifestyle. When I am not eating paleo, I add in GF oats (normal oats are fine if you don’t have celiac), brown rice (occasionally.. but not super often because I don’t like it much)

I don’t buy it all at once either! I usually find 3-4 different proteins to eat throughout the week pick a few fruits and then just get a crap ton of veggies. LIKE THE ENTIRE FRICKEN PAIL IS FULL OF VEGETABLES.